Released: October 2014
Airy synths, warped guitars and disco drum beats hold together this debut offering from Emperor Yes, a London trio surfing the void and beaming psychedelic tunes and sonic odysseys into our ears. They’re releasing the record with a variety of quirky themes and colours, most notably a vinyl sleeve featuring the ‘sprinkled fragments of an asteroid’, and have set up art exhibitions to explore the nature of each of their single releases, making it known that this is no normal psych-rock outfit. With all this going on outside of the recording studio, Emperor Yes certainly boast plenty of extra-curricular allure, but do the actual songs live up to their intergalactic hype?
An Island Called Earth is littered with kooky sounds and unconventional grooves as sharp distorted basslines cross over with chiptune sequencer sounds and manic sound effects. The opening number It’s the End of the World pulls off its apocalyptic message in style, juxtaposing Ziggy Stardust era chords and lyrics with dramatic stabbing synth-brass sounds to create a kind of beauty out of the whole theme of endings and death. This sets up a theme that remains throughout the record as the unnatural tones of the electronic instruments are finely tuned into a style that creates something emotionally rousing and poetic out of harsh computerised sounds.
Vital to the human element of this universe traversing LP are the lead and backing vocals, that fuse emphatic melodies with psychedelic harmonies on tracks such as Cosmic Cat and Cosmos, songs that borrow from the likes of Tame Impala and Temples vocally as much as MGMT and Empire of the Sun instrumentally. The track Intergalactic Quarantine is not only a great Muse-style epic, with distorted riffs and eerie spoken word excerpts, but its title also summarises the band’s unstoppable range; their instrumental prowess and experimental vocals caged only by the walls of the entire universe itself.
An Island Called Earth is pretty consistent throughout; psychedelic moments interspersed with snappy choruses and vocal hooks make up the bulk of the record, the influence of synth-pop of the last decade or so clearly evident. There are plenty of sonic allusions to ‘60s and ‘70s prog rock, Pink Floyd can be heard on tracks such as Monkey King and Mirror, and plenty of the faster paced tracks borrow from electronic sounds of the 1980s. This is record that travels worlds and genres, a real symphony of eclecticism.
Their celestial melodies and psychedelic sounds may reach out to infinity and beyond, but when we hear the assuring words “You hold on to me / And I’ll hold on to you” on second track Wasps, it’s clear that Emperor Yes are with us on a human level as well. This London trio knows how to balance the drama and gravitas of their music with deeply personal vocal melodies and performances, serving up a record that takes the listener half way across the galaxy, yet resonates here on planet Earth.