How unexpected – a full concept album from YACHT that has no true or announced concept. First let me get the obligatory sentence/introduction that every review of YACHT has to tread over: YACHT is the solo project of Jona Bechtolt, formerly of The Blow, who hasn’t strayed too far from the sounds he made with Ms. Maricich on K Records. That was easy. Well, still fully combining forces with partner Claire L. Evans, Bechtolt’s production has stepped it up once again to provide the right sort of dystopian future shock dance party atmosphere to really get into Shangri-La. Still the question remains: the journey versus the destination – which will come out on top while electric sliding towards Bethlehem with YACHT?

Opener ‘Utopia’ is some crazed DFA funk on speed complete with octave bass and 303 touches, lead single ‘Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)’ comes off as the sort of thing that could logically come after Paper Television. Evans sounds equally lackadaisical and cautious about the end of the world, her vocals delivered with strength and digital help. “We don’t have no daughter, let the motherfucker burn,” says the chorus, and the laid back groove’s counterpoint underpins the seriousness of it all creating one head nodding paean to the end of the earth. As inherently troublesome as a loose plot about the destruction of the planet leading to the Promised Land may be, the slow burning Blondie meets Fear Of Music mood of ‘Love In The Dark’ that near stops the album dead in its track is more worrisome. By no means a bad track compositionally (or even sonically – Bechtolt’s synth choices are once again great), the breather space here feels too drastic compared to the previous hypermanic state of previous affairs. Similarly troublesome is ‘Holy Roller,’ a track that works well enough until a wobbling bass throws the entire song off kilter to detrimental ends until Auto Tune manages to make everything sound awkward. The placement of these slower songs works in the overall arch of the album, but taken independently the result is severely diminished with the mental response of entertained minor boredom – the sort of reaction that is near unexpected given previous outings from YACHT. Luckily everything until the titular closer ramps up the dance factor, letting the improved production shine next to the melodies rather than work as a catalyst for them and pulling Shangri-La up by its own proverbial bootstraps.

Worth noting is the production on Shangri-La, which sees YACHT fully embracing organic drum sounds and even tighter programming and stronger hooks. Drum sounds have always been a highlight of Bechtolt’s production (and a great addition to The Getty Address), and here the moods revolve equally around the tonal instruments and the drums to a degree never before utilized. Simple, effective ‘70s dance rhythms blend and canoodle with typical rock patterns, inorganic pulses and clacks highlighting the tension of percussion at key moments when cymbals don’t fulfill their needs. Similarly clean, the mix is clear and smooth, letting each layer breathe and combine as one might fold ingredients into egg white meringues. That isn’t to say that YACHT has ever been messy or overly cluttered – it hasn’t – but here the effect is marked and pronounced, the sound of restraint and intent as filtered through post-LCD DFA. Still fascinated with guitars and insistent forward motion, YACHT has been bumped up to the umpteenth degree now and has become true headphone music.

So the trip to Shangri-La is one worth taking, a night worth spending in the master’s bedroom if you will. The journey and the destination prove to be joys, marred only by their own slow footedness at times. Closing out the disc, ‘Shangri-La’ leaves one on an uplifting pop note and nicely rounds out Shangri-La’s arching theme. As bombs fall and cities burn, the good vessel YACHT forges onwards through inclemency and rough tides towards the gleaming sun of hope. Or something like that.

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