yllwshrk – “And Let Them Glow” The debut single available today (on EOA Recordings)

Photo Credit Iona Wolff 2020

From the debut album ‘I Am Aladdin’ out October 16th

“And Let Them Glow” is the debut single by yllwshrk, a thrillingly original new band who fuse alt-rock and contemporary classical music on their debut album ‘I Am Aladdin’, due October 16th (on EOA Recordings).

‘I Am Aladdin’ features musical collaborations with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Berlin electronic duo Mouse on Mars’ Andi Toma, saxophone virtuoso Nick Roth, young Scottish jazz pianist Fergus McCreadie, contemporary classical composer Linda Buckley, and Scottish singer-songwriter Hannah Read, who guests on “And Let Them Glow” together with the Maxwell String Quartet, winners of the 2017 Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition.

Scored for the intimate line-up of acoustic guitar, string quartet, and male and female voices, “And Let Them Glow” is a very personal song for composer and guitarist Ian Anderson, the core individual behind the yllwshrk concept, who cites the likes of Mahler and Prokofiev as big influences as well as boundary-pushing contemporary artists such as Björk and Radiohead.

“The song is about my great aunt, the closest person I had to a grandparent, and my experience of watching her slowly fade to a pale shadow of her former self due to Alzheimer’s disease,” comments Anderson. “Once so vibrant and loving, she gradually became miserable, confused and paranoid, hallucinating due to the cocktail of drugs she was given to stay alive. Is this kindness? Is this what we really want for our loved ones? Is that what I would want for myself?”

In the accompanying video, directed by Lewis Landini, a dancer explores the crumbling remains of a derelict theatre in a moving film that echoes the song’s themes of memory, ageing, identity and loss.

Hailing from both sides of Hadrian’s Wall, members of yllwshrk have appeared on albums such as Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, ActressLAGEOS, Thom Yorke’s Anima, and FoalsHoly Fire as members of the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO). They have performed live with artists such as Little Simz, Goldfrapp, Ry X, Eric Clapton, Deltron 3030, and Elbow, as well as regularly giving classical chamber music recitals across the UK & Europe and performing and recording with many of the UK’s leading orchestras.

The balancing of musical genres from drastically different philosophies and traditions is reflected in the album’s title: ‘I Am Aladdin’ references BlackRock Inc.’s Aladdin programme, which appears in Adam Curtis’ darkly compelling film HyperNormalisation as an example of how modern technocrats attempt to manage the chaos and complications of the real world. This unease with much of the modern world is explored throughout I Am Aladdin, the tone and subject of the songs often taking inspiration from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror or Frankie Boyle’s old Guardian columns.

yllwshrk have summed up their spirit of experimentation — as well as the ethos of cross-genre and cross-art-form collaboration — in their band name, taken from ‘The Yellow Shark’, Frank Zappa’s foray into contemporary classical music alongside Ensemble Modern.

yllwshrk aren’t rock. They aren’t classical. They aren’t a series of algorithms either. They’re musical misfits who embrace the current blurring of genres and push that to the extreme. What other band uses tuning forks to create beats, has a saxophone hooked up to an amp so it can control feedback pitches, or chucks a vibrator into a Steinway piano just to see what happens?

yllwshrk: Sam West vocals, Matt Isaac lead guitars, Ian Anderson guitars/string arrangements, Dave Brown bass/synths, Feargus Brennan drums/percussion, David Donaldson electronics/audio manipulation

 yllwshrk’s debut album ‘I Am Aladdin’ will be released via EOA Recordings on October 16, 2020

www.yllwshrk.com

yllwshrk – BIOGRAPHY (2020)

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yllwshrk are an amalgamation. Hailing from both sides of Hadrian’s Wall, they are more at home in classical concert halls than the Camden dive bars, and more accustomed to bows and mallets than the amps and synths of the alt-rock scene. Yet their debut album I AM ALADDIN seems to have found a way to bring these distinct worlds together.

This balancing of musical genres from drastically different philosophies and traditions is reflected in the album’s title: I AM ALADDIN references BlackRock Inc.’s Aladdin programme, which appears in Adam Curtis’ darkly compelling film HyperNormalisation as an example of how modern technocrats attempt to manage the chaos and complications of the real world. This unease with much of the modern world is explored throughout I AM ALADDIN, the tone and subject of the songs often taking inspiration from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror or Frankie Boyle’s old Guardian columns.

However, the irony that part of yllwshrk’s lineup owes itself to a set of computer algorithms is not lost on the band. Vocalist Sam West responded to a long list of Gumtree adverts shortly after his arrival in London from Glasgow, and shortly afterwards found himself in a rehearsal room in less-than-familiar circumstances. We had full scores of the music printed out, and instead of running the chorus a few times like Im used to, it would be ‘lets take it from the upbeat into bar 66’ so there was quite a bit of adjusting to do.”

The core individual behind the yllwshrk concept is composer and guitarist Ian Anderson, who cites the likes of Mahler and Prokofiev as big influences amongst more contemporaries such as Björk and Radiohead. It was in fact working as a session viola player as part of the London Contemporary Orchestra on Radiohead’s latest album A Moon Shaped Pool that made Ian decided to approach the LCO to form the backbone of the album. It was also during a break in one of these A Moon Shaped Pool sessions that Ian asked LCO principal bassist Dave Brown to be a part of yllwshrk.

Knowing the LCO so well I knew they would be perfect for the album. Their distinctively dark, unsettling sounds involve many unusual playing techniques that I knew would match and enhance our music. However, its also always fun to shock people, so bringing in an entire twisted disco string score for them to play on our song Arsenik was fun. Theyre more known for their unsettling Jed Kurzel film scores or their fantastically dark Spitfire texture library, so it was fun to watch the session morph into Saturday Night Fever.”

yllwshrk’s full complement includes eclectic guitarist Matt Issac and drummer/percussionist Feargus Brennan, who bring drive and grit into such tracks as PUKI and Pyramids. They also bring to yllwshrk their vast personal collections of guitars, baritone guitars, pedals, and percussion instruments which appear throughout I AM ALADDIN. There’s a strangeness to the music, an implacable bizarreness to its quality which perfectly complements the subject that the songs tackle. If someone wrote a musical based on Black Mirror you’d start to come close to what the yllwshrk concept is. It’s a dark dive into our experiences of reality and the sheer chaos of its design. Songs such as opener Smudge attest to the pervasiveness of anxiety and isolation behind our carefully constructed social media personas, frozen online forever, while tracks like Arsenik offer a more Dr. Strangelove interpretation of the world.

yllwshrk members have appeared on albums such as Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Actress’ LAGEOS, Thom Yorke’s Anima, and Foals’ Holy Fire as members of the London Contemporary Orchestra. They have performed live with artists such as Little Simz, Goldfrapp, Ry X, Eric Clapton, Deltron 3030, and Elbow, as well as regularly giving classical chamber music recitals across the UK & Europe, as well as performing and recording with many of the UK’s leading orchestras.

yllwshrk aren’t rock. They aren’t classical. They aren’t a series of algorithms either. They’re musical misfits who embrace the current blurring of genres and push that to the extreme. What other band uses tuning forks to create beats, has a saxophone hooked up to an amp so it can control feedback pitches, or chucks a vibrator into a Steinway piano just to see what happens?

yllwshrks debut album I AM ALADDIN is available on EOA Recordings, October 2020.

yllwshrk are Sam West vocals / Matt Isaac lead guitars / Ian Anderson guitars/string arrangements / Dave Brown bass/synths / Feargus Brennan drums/percussion / David Donaldson electronics/audio manipulation

yllwshrk began after all the other members of Ian Anderson’s previous band Idle Kings left after a gig at the now defunct Good Ship in Kilburn in late 2014. It took over a year to find a new lineup and a new name, but eventually yllwshrk gave their first gig in January 2016, at the now also-defunct The Islington in Angel.

In March 2016 the band recorded their a 3-track EP at Woodworm Studios, Banbury. It was produced by long-term Radiohead engineer Graeme Stewart, who Dave Brown and Ian Anderson met through touring with Jonny Greenwood in 2014-15, performing his contemporary string music as part of the London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists. However due to personal circumstances, yllwshrk was then put on hold, until almost 2 years later they secured funding from Creative Scotland, Arts Council England and Help Musicians UK to record and release their debut album. The project gradually expanded, until it spanned music, dance, film and animation, comprising 29 musicians, 8 studio engineers, 4 dancers, 3 choreographers, 4 filmmakers, a drag queen, a contortionist, 4 actors, a visual artist, and a group of very angry Millwall fans on the train from Birmingham to London.

I AM ALADDIN features musical collaborations with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Berlin electronic duo Mouse on Mars’ Andi Toma, 1st Prizewinners of the 2017 Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition the Maxwell String Quartet, Scottish singer-songwriter Hannah Read, saxophone virtuoso Nick Roth, young Scottish jazz pianist Fergus McCreadie, and contemporary classical composer Linda Buckley.

In addition to music, the band wanted to explore different art forms to accompany and enhance the album. Since 2014, yllwshrk guitarist Ian Anderson has held the position of principal viola with the orchestra of Scottish Ballet, through which he has been exposed to cutting-edge contemporary dance (as well as all the old classics). As he explains, contemporary dance at its best is so compelling and beautiful, with the choreographers and dancers always looking for new ways for the body to be expressive. Ive wanted to collaborate with dancers for a long time, and we felt that their approach fits perfectly with our own, and so we decided to ask some of our favourite choreographers, dancers and filmmakers to create music videos to accompany our songs”. As a result, the album includes three music videos of contemporary dance, featuring former Scottish Ballet Principal Dancer Eve Mutso, current Scottish Ballet Soloist Nicholas Shoesmith, former Balletboyz dancer Andrea Carrucciu, and winner of 2019 BBC Greatest Dancer Ellie Fergusson.

Experimenting with sound production was another idea central to the album. We wanted the album to have the depth of sound that comes through the use of electronics and post-production, but we wanted as much of the record as possible to be derived from live sounds, to give the album as humana feel as possible, even in its strangest moments. We wanted to blur the lines between the analogue and the digital.” Ian Anderson plays in and writes for another group, contemporary classical string quintet Wooden Elephant, which reimagines classic electronic-based albums in their entirety. Part of the challenge and the theatre of Wooden Elephant is the recreation of electronic sounds on acoustic instruments. In order for them to achieve these often bizarre effects, they use a host of unusual playing techniques, as well as a variety of additional objects such as tuning forks, hand-held drills, plectrums, feathers, aluminium kitchen foil, and bathroom sink plug chains, which they use on or around their string instruments. yllwshrk brought this blurring of the electronic and the acoustic into the recording process of I AM ALADDIN, and so for their track Skin, they were all crowded around an open grand piano, using manual hand-held fans to sound the piano strings. The result is a series of mechanical sustained chords which flicker with energy, which were then sampled and used as the basis of the song. For the opening track of the album, Smudge, the pulsing beat was created by passing an activated tuning fork quickly across a microphone (the same sort of effect as passing anything that emits a sustained quiet sound quickly across your ear). For the sustained basslines in the same song, the cellos of the London Contemporary Orchestra were asked to loosen and detune their bottom strings by roughly the interval of a 5th (an idea ‘borrowed’ from Jonny Greenwood’s previous work with the LCO). The resulting sound is more daemonic, darker, less focussed, with the loose strings occasionally rattling against the fingerboard in the louder moments, and generally more like a driving synth bassline than the standard string sound.

yllwshrk have summed up this spirit of experimentation — as well as the ethos of cross-genre and cross-art-form collaboration — in their band name, taken from Frank Zappa’s foray into contemporary classical music alongside Ensemble Modern. The collaboration resulted in the ground-breaking album The Yellow Shark, full of experiments with acoustic sound manipulation and playing techniques, as musicians from differing backgrounds inspired each other with contrasting ways of approaching music, each with its own particular strength. It is a testament to what can be achieved when musicians of differing backgrounds and trainings come together to create music, and an ideal by which yllwshrk lives.