London trio Yak, have followed up their acclaimed sophomore album ‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness’ released earlier this year, with an EP of four tracks recorded between Nashville and London over the summer. ‘Atlas Complex’ is the three-piece ploughing the furrows driven by Spiritualized all those years ago, with a sound pivoting on a soulful-gospel-psychedelic-rock bent. The EP’s moniker is derived from the notion of buckling under the pressures of life as frontman Oli Burslem puts it “the ‘atlas complex’ is centred around an idea of losing all sense of everything. It’s a state of mind in which a person believes that the world is on their shoulders and they’re unable to deal with what they perceive as endless problems and uncertainty”.
Given ‘Atlas Complex’s inspiration, you’d expect the EP to sound downtrodden and dejected; whilst lyrically Burslem can be heard doing some serious soul-searching and the occasional plunge into self-depreciation, sonically, Yak (largely) frame the four songs with a hue of carefree optimism. ‘Am I Good Man’ swoons and sways with a soulful stomp that glides and wafts in a dope fuelled haze. Burslem can he heard questioning himself right from the get-go “am I a good man or am I a fool/am I weak or am I just playing it cool?”. The EP’s eponymous track follows in a similar spaced out swampy arrangement; a languid glow envelopes ‘Atlas Complex’ as Yak’s vocalist notions on the feeling of carrying a weighty burden but resolutely declares it’s only you that can resolve this dire situation; “it’s a heavy load to pull by yourself/no-one’s going to help you/you have to help yourself” and the plaintive “you’ve got to pull yourself back together” typify this point. ‘Turtle Soup’ is where the EP takes a small dip; the band’s hazy leanings rise to the top but largely the song can be digested as an interlude or even a jam. Final track ‘They Come, They Go’ is where Yak turn a little darker, with brooding monochromatic tones absorbing the kaleidoscope swirl from the earlier moments on ‘Atlas Complex’; it’s here where the glimmers of optimism are snuffed out as Burslem takes a trip to the shadowy part of his persona “if the good die young/I guess I’m going to be here for a long time”. The EP is then capped off by a guttural groove, as if to really stomp out any remaining glowing embers of optimism.
Clearly Yak are a band inspired and unafraid to delve deep into the human condition from ‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness’ to ‘Atlas Complex’, they’re here to soundtrack the unpredictable pendulum swing of our emotions.
Words and Thought of Adam Williams
Atlas Complex by Yak is now available via Third Man Records