Yak Live – Britain’s Most Enthralling New Band Lose Their Destructive Streak But Are More Compelling Than Ever

Moth Club, London
November 17, 2015

Yak have spent most of 2015 cementing their place as one of the most invigorating new bands in the country, both live and on record. Early on, they gained a small reputation for frontman Oli Burslem destroying his organ on stage – either by bashing its keys to smithereens with his guitar or by hurling it into the drum kit, or some other force of obliteration.

But change is afoot for the London-based trio and, rather than become a very expensive one trick pony, they’ve developed a sense of performance that teeters on the brink of unhinged, but one that doesn’t replicate itself in carbon copy night after night. Tonight, Burslem is sober, but just as compelling as always. At one point, he takes off his guitar and places it over the head of a photographer in front of him before its passed like a baton around the front of the crowd. During ‘Smile’, he attempts to part the crowd to create an almighty collision of bodies after a tense build-up. Only the first half of the room responds accordingly, but the release of energy washes over the whole of the glittery-ceilinged venue.

Tonight sees the band playing a handful of new songs, but the more familiar ones – the tracks from latest EP ‘No’ and their previous singles – follow the ethos of keeping things fresh and unpredictable. ‘Alas Salvation’ is given added words – or word – Burslem screeching “gilded!” on repeat before beginning the song properly. ‘Plastic People’ follows an extended jam and reworking of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Cumberland Gap’; more ferocious, venomous and sprawling than on record.

The new songs, meanwhile, are thunderously exciting. ‘Pink Noise’ sounds as you’d expect from the title, segueing into ‘Harbour The Feeling’, an earth-shaking piece of spiky punk that whacks you round the ears and commands your attention. Later, a track with the working title ‘I Know What I Want’ slides along on an elastic bassline from Andy Jones and ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’, with hints of Velvet Underground’s wilder work, has Burslem barking maniacally into his microphone as the powerful, tight rhythm section of Jones and drummer Elliot Rawson underpin his piques of vigor perfectly.

In their current forms, these four fresh cuts are bullets of impossible to ignore, deranged brilliance that seem to give some clue as to what to expect from Yak in the coming 12 months. Knowing this band, though, they’ll continue to morph and adapt, leaving the future still very much unknown. And what could be more exciting than that?

Yak played:

‘Pink Noise (Intro)’
‘Harbour The Feeling’
‘Hungry Heart’
‘Smile’
‘Alas Salvation’
‘No’
‘I Know What I Want’
‘Victorious (National Anthem)’
‘Out On A Limb’
‘Cumberland Gap’
‘Plastic People’
‘Alas Salvation (Reprise)’