Yellow Ostrich’s third LP, Cosmos, was born out of two very different experiences. One of claustrophobic solitude and the other, exploratory endeavours. Firstly, vocalist/guitarist Alex Schaaf, spent 9 months discovering the complexities of the galaxy from a cramped room with no windows. The only light in said room was a synthetic arrangement that would simulate the passing of day into night. Michael Tapper, drums and percussion, had the polar opposite experience by living a life at sea for a month, on a voyage from Mexico to Hawaii. From these contrasting happenings, Cosmos was born. A record of lucid electronic flourishes, juxtaposed with vicious guitar tangents topped off by artificial and organic beats.
Upon the first foray into Cosmos, Yellow Ostrich might as well be a Local Natives covers band, the album has all the hallmarks of the LA band, down to the neo-folk rumblings from Tapper’s intricate drumming and even Schaaf’s sleek vocals are a dead ringer for Taylor Rice’s dulcet tones. To say each band are cut from the same cloth would be an understatement. However, after a few spins, Yellow Ostrich unfurls its extravagant feathers to parade like the proud animal it should be. Admittedly, opening track, ‘Terrors’ is a full Local Natives blueprint and it’s not until the malevolence of ‘Shades’ do you get the feeling the NYC band are starting to sound more like their own incarnation. The outfit’s folk meanderings are given added muscle that sneaks into the song with a dose of aggression. Guitars growl and slice, while Schaaf’s unwavering vocals provide an air of unsettling malice to proceedings. ‘My Moons’ follows, a document indebted to minimal electronic wafts coupled with processed beats. The step away from folk’s confines gives the band’s third outing an added dimension and one that pushes Yellow Ostrich into a different realm of aural quarters. Not unlike the album’s inception, in that it was born from two very different mindsets, ‘My Moons’ may commence digitally but Yellow Ostrich bring it to close with snarling waves of cacophony attributed to Schaaf’s venomous fretwork.
Schaaf’s isolation beholden to his quest of understanding outer space bleeds through into ‘You Are The Stars’, a tense, buzzing moment on the record that has the frontman recalling “you are the stars that run and run through my veins/and I’m reaching up to touch and feel on my face”. “What’s beyond my sea/what I’ll never know” is another instance on Cosmos that has the band asking questions of reality and exploration. It goes to show the human quest of challenging creation and being inquisitive hasn’t been lost on these New Yorkers. There’s the notion with the quartet’s latest LP that they are restless in the pursuit of answers and greater knowledge – none more so confirmed on the beat driven ‘How Do You Do It’ “how do you start when you know it’s gonna end?”
Conjured up from a duo of separate occurrences, Cosmos can be applauded for its lust to spread its wings far and wide in the expedition for greater endeavours.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams