CS Yeh, "In the Blink of an Eye" b/w "Condo Stress"

cover imageIn one way, this 7" is a departure from C Spencer Yeh’s lovely, wild, textured, drone experiments as Burning Star Core and from his work with everyone from Comets on Fire and Tony Conrad to John Sinclair. Yet, these two engaging songs, with their satisfyingly oblique lyrics, also confirm his interest in the human voice and in the studio as a compositional tool.

De Stijl

Those familiar with some of CS Yeh’s previous music may refuse to believe that he has created this calm, light music. Yeh is very prolific and over the past few years has used a range of tools such as treated loops, computer patches and violin across a range of formats including radio, cassette, 8-track and vinyl. His Burning Star Core releases have received enormous praise from Julian Cope (a lover of sonic wildness) with Papercuts Theatre (edited by Yeh over several years from 60 live recordings) compared favorably to The Faust Tapes and Arc. Equally, Lunar Roulette by Sych (the new project with Yeh, Wally Shoup, Chris Corsano and Bill Horist) is awash in dense free-form improvisation.

So having such a renowned free-form sonic improviser put out "In The Blink Of An Eye" and "Condo Stress" is a bit like Jackson Pollock coming around to your house to build you a very nice wooden chair—and just as satisfying. I reckon, though, that roots of a more song-based venture are clear in Yeh's work; for a portion of it has explored the "most original and dangerous instrument"—the voice. Two examples: his lengthy contribution to a WFMU radio program (a fake morning radio car drive listen) leans heavily on voice, with ads, announcements and singalong hits. Also, his piece "Slow Sex in A Fast Economy" aims for hypnotic intensity from repetitions of treated voice.

This is Yeh’s first venture into something which could be classed as "songwriting" since three titles issued in 2002 and is quite an advance on the earlier songs; with a more coherent structure and a softer, brighter production. Both have accessible rhythm and melody as well as some of the undefinable magic which can transform mystical sketches into good pop music. Both are also very different and have an atmosphere similar to traces of Eno's earliest solo records. I am obsessed with these two songs. They possess quality which harks back to the last golden age of 7" vinyl singles; a lost time when A sides were played on the radio and (if any good) B sides heard often on jukeboxes and at home.

"Blink" seems layered like a sound collage and is an insistent foot-tapper vaguely suggestive of a much mellower version of spiky Gang of Fouresque funk. Yeh’s husky and falsetto vocals flipping between alluring images of fleeting happiness and warnings of regret. "Condo" is a lovely uncluttered piece which initially sounds like John Cale playing piano with one hand tied behind his back and his eyes closed. I am fascinated by the cryptic lyrics and ambiguous emotional atmosphere. The narrator appears to blur gender, lives, and scenes to such an extent that I am reminded of Julio Cortazar’s short story "The Night Face Up" which switches between a motorcycle accident in the 20th century and a victim of human sacrifice in Aztec civilization. In both cases my attempts to deduce which scenario is reality and which is a dream eventually just give way to pure enjoyment.