ke Yard emerged from the post-no wave sprawl of early 80s New York fired up on the ideas of English Factory Records post-punk and German krautrock and neue deutsche welle. They were even successful enough at adding their own spin to these foreign ideas that the two records released during their lifespan were on key European independent labels of the time, the Belgian Disques du Crepuscle and the short lived Factory America (an attempt to replicate the UK label’s success in Ike Yard’s New York backyard (in characteristic Factory manner, Ike Yard were the label’s first vinyl release but got the second catalogue number, the first going to a New Order concert.)).
The groups earliest tracks, which became their Disques du Crepuscle EP Night After Night occupy the same psychogeographic space as early Sonic Youth; this is city music by a band that can only imagine, in the words of guitarist Michael Diekmann, “a harder, grimmer version of the future.” It’s ‘verbed out snare cracks, funkless revolving door basslines, and cockroach guitar chitter. Even the vocals sound like subway hobo versions of Lee Renaldo’s ‘beat’ blather and, dispiritingly, throughout the whole of the CD seem to be present due to obligation rather than inspiration. Not a song here wouldn’t be better instrumental.
The tracks from their Factory LP A Fact a Second evidence increasing use of synthesisers, analogue sequencers, and machine rhythm to contrast with the treated real drums, but the results are always stiff and slightly studio frozen—never quite noisy enough, never quite propulsive enough, never quite focused enough. At times—in stray moments and fragments—the rejection of pleasure can sound invigorating, but this is a seventy-nine minute CD. The constant monochrome, the unchanging sound palette (where’s the high end?), sounds like a failure of nerve and imagination, a fear of communication beyond its most basic.
Compared to their Transatlantic peers—Cabaret Voltaire, D.A.F., Joy Division—Ike Yard come off badly. They’re a band with an exceptional sense of space, of slapback echoed alleys and speeding taxis, but with no pop nous whatsoever—something that post-Ike Yard projects Death Comet Crew and Dominatrix would have in spades. A band that gestured toward something great, but never quite reached it.
Reviewed by: Patrick McNally
Reviewed on: 2006-08-28