Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have a tradition that involves the Yellow6 Merry6mas series of releases. They are an important part of my holiday celebration as I anticipate them at the end of every year. Jon Attwood blesses the world with his yearly compositions that punctuate, for me, the year’s end with meaningful and expressive art. Attwood released his first pieces of music into the world as Yellow6 back in 1998. To say that he’s been prolific since then would be an understatement. Just a quick scroll of his work at Discogs demonstrates this and the quality of his work has gotten better with each passing year. Attwood works with mostly improvised compositions and embodies a punk sensibility, not in terms of sound, but in terms of the rebelliousness and angst associated with the ethos. The tilting, meandering, looped drones, in a way, contradict everything deemed accessible and its brilliant. Merry6mas 2016 is eight tracks, most of which fall around the ten-minute mark.
“Custom” begins the journey of this 74-minute disc. Attwood sets the tempo as he picks the guitar. Layers begin to be inserted into the composition as guitars play off one another, dancing in a orchestrated mix of bright and ever expanding drones. At about 4:34, the volume swells as fuzz and vibratory textures fill the speakers. The tone here is somber, replete with melancholy chords and a thumping vibration that recalls a dirge. The soundscape here is treacherous as a loud, prominent fuzzed out hum dominates the end of the composition. “DB” has a more hopeful tone with sparse percussion and full chords expressing a beautiful melody. As usual, the build here is patient as different guitars play different complimentary lines throughout the track, speaking to one another as if to build to a larger, more expressive conversation. It is in the subtle moments that Attwood really shows his prowess, placing beautiful guitar phrases in the cracks and crevasses of the larger grouping of the soundscape.
“Dry #1” begins with reverbed guitar picking and airy drones. Soft percussion thumps in the background and then becomes fuller, providing texture and structure. At the seven-minute mark, the track really reaches its fullness and it’s glorious. The bright textures of the prominent guitar really shine over the deep drones and percussion that are constants in the composition. Rough, deep throated pulses dot this soundscape, posing a brilliant juxtaposition to the scant structure of it all. “Dry #5” has a jazzy feel to it in the percussion work as vibrating guitars grow in volume. Hums, drones, and glistening guitar fill the speakers almost immediately in a rush of fullness. It’s the shortest track on the album but is spectacular in its brief lifespan. “Father” begins with carefully selected notes picked on a guitar hanging in a void until they are joined by prudently placed, bright chords. It is an introspective piece that gives off positive connotations. It is meditative and soothing, creating a rather different atmosphere from where the album begins.
“Passing Thoughts” has a plodding, syncopated guitar picking style that moves through the arrangement. A beautiful melody is picked amid the syncopation and creates an almost eerie feel. Blissed out guitars begin to be layered on top as they soar into magnificent walls of sound. Attwood builds occasional textures into the track with fuzz and spacier sounds playing off one another. It is true what is said of Attwood’s work. He constructs a post-rock feel without the rock and “Passing Thoughts” is a perfect example of this very description. “Window from the Grey” begins with shimmering percussion and sparing piano work. The piano here is a nice change up in tones. The guitars play wonderfully alongside the percussion and piano phrasings. It’s a stunning piece that leads the listener into the finale. “Zooday” concludes the disc with melancholy guitars beginning the track, perhaps evoking gloomy skies and the subtle anticipation of seeing animals that ought to be, in many respects, free. The guitar rumbles into the speakers eventually as drones beings to bring fullness to the piece. The track loses all structure near the end and gives way to the drones that have infiltrated the composition. It’s a beautiful ending to an incredible album.
Jon Attwood has produced another stunning collection of tracks that move in and out of structure and anti-structure. His anti-post-rock, post-rock sensibility proves to showcase his prowess in whatever genre you want to label Yellow6’s compositions. Merry6mas2016 displays Attwood’s maturity as an artist who can utilize soundscapes as a tool to evoke emotions and a vast array of imagery in the listener. I cannot wait to hear what Attwood comes up with next.
Get a digital copy of Merry6mas2016 here.