Since 2010, SquareSyntax (created by vocalist and producer Mike Wiley) has released 7 full length albums and garnered a full band for live shows and studio work, including Chris Black on guitar, Dylan Coates on drums, and Mason Brown on triggers. Depending on your personal view, maybe SquareSyntax have, or have not, invented anything new and groundbreaking with their latest album, “Yak The Magic Dragon” but one thing is certain beyond doubt, they have evolved in so many diverse ways while at the same time keeping their own hallmark sound as one of the most creative indie electronic bands around.
This means that, instead of limiting this album to a definite mood, “Yak The Magic Dragon” is their most varied album to date: it has deliciously twisting synth passages, definite melodic structures, great guitar-driven aggressiveness, as well as dark, sinister vocals; and all well done, superbly I would say. So there are ear-grinding, nightmarish electro-industrial sounds, but this is something new, something more complex, something greater. It’s not just aggressive and scathing, but dreamlike and hypnotic. Don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s not deep, in fact it’s almost like stepping onto a fake floor. Everything is introduced subtly and masterfully, pulling the listener into SquareSyntax’s world and the story of “Yak The Magic Dragon”.
The fear, the monsters, the nightmares, and the fantasies are all here. But it’s joined by a tranquil, spacy, yet haunting place in the middle of nowhere. Instead of just biting and holding you by the neck with gigantic pointy teeth, this album sucks you into a strange white light and transports you to a different world, one that scares you, but that you almost feel sad to leave at the end. As far as structure wise, everything falls within a fairly linear fashion, save the crazy movie-soundtrack-type intros and various noise orgasms that frequent this album.
Each song has little moments that make that track stand out, while there is no song that is forgettable, or skippable, not yet at least. There are obviously songs that are more memorable than others, due to the overtly melodic passages which make them more accessible to mainstream ears. “Goons in the Garden”, “Hunted”, “Reflection of Sunbeams on Wet Skin”, “Hold On”, “Severed”, “John’s Miracle Ale/Purgatory for Fish” and “Dream Child”, would fall into this category.
But there is plenty of experimental edginess with sparks of brilliance that totally ignore current trends in music. SquareSyntax often goes full throttle into left-field electronica, with prime examples like “Sour Blackberries”, “Cult of Vanity”, “Vile Corruption” and “Grandfather’s Weak Heart”, already being heard in the first half of this 17 track album. The impression is that SquareSyntax is not a group to be rushed; they make no artistic compromises to their vision no matter the circumstances, and they have injected enough change up and diversity to keep the album from ever growing stale. “Yak The Magic Dragon” is an album that requires time and thought, and is made even better when you are alone with plenty of time to think.