I don’t know why but I have developed this habit of writing a weird introduction on reviews of which, aren’t entirely off topic, but are pretty much pointless. Now trying to think of how on earth I am supposed to open a review of El Yunque’s Boxes, I was even more stumped on what meaningful text I can fumble together. Experimental? That definitely describes it. But no single paragraph can give Boxes justice.
One thing that jumps out to me; this is an album that is best listened to in a dark room with zero distractions. There is a great depth of atmosphere created around the fading in and out of the heavy repetition that plays out in each song. As opposed to changes in melodies and rhythms, El Yunque go for a constant alteration in the sound, where instruments roll in and out around free-formed drums, violin and clarinet segments.
Album opener, Scottie Pippen, gives you a full taste of what is in store, with a slow introduction of guitars played with palm mutes and feedback, and a closed hi-hat being tapped away on. This fades out and not-so-melodic violins take over for a while before the guitars and cymbals re-surface. After a few minutes, the beef of the songs kicks in. It is hard not to like what you hear, although in some sense it sounds simplistic, the structure and lack of normality creates something you just don’t hear every day.
Tired Of Dressing Like A Girl is the most “normal” and laid back piece, but is immediately followed by the obnoxious Nafi, which is purely all kinds of loud with squealing guitars and straight up shouting. This is part of a three-track piece, the second part being Deer, which opens with a simple guitar riff that rings out into a barely structured drum segment, before ending with pure guitar noise. The three tracks are closed with Cinder, a song built on a single riff in which changes the dynamics in so many ways that it is incredible to think how for a 6 minute song it can be so listenable and not even remotely tedious to sit through.
Title track, Boxes, gives you a brief piece with a solid guitar riff and bursts of distortion and guitar noisiness. A huge curveball is thrown in the way of a simple speech from pro NBA player, Michael Jordan, before Dog Park closes the show, which is the song you need to check out. If you like this one, buy the album!
I don’t like simply going into a song-by-song, but with Boxes, there is no way to describe the whole album without doing so. It is like a Sonic Youth album gone wrong, in the best way possible. Sometimes even sounding like Sonic Youth covering Pavement. El Yunque manage to make an entire album that doesn’t rely on catchy melodies in the slightest, and instead provides you with a multitude of sounds that you can zone out and get lost in. So much about the overall sound works, with the vocals and clean guitars sitting well around the huge explosions of noise, and despite 6 minutes of the same riff repeated over and over, everything else around it keeps Boxes a very interesting listen. That said, if you aren’t going to give the attention to the music, it will more than likely not do anything for you. El Yunque don’t just create a racket for the sake of it; their sound works very well, but if you don’t let the music take you, you will completely miss the whole dynamic and the album will be lost on you.
If you want something different, definitely give Boxes a chance. It deserves the attention of open-minded music listeners.
Jake Hancke – 14/01/2017
Boxes will be released on 16/01/2017 and is available to order now from their BandCamp page.
For more on El Yunque check out their Facebook page.