Yes We Mystic are purveyors of hopeful melancholy

By Julijana Capone
Left to right: Keegan Steele, Jordon Ottenson, Adam Fuhr, Jodi Plenert, and Eric Ross form Winnipeg art-pop outfit Yes We Mystic. Photo: Brian Van Wyk

Left to right: Keegan Steele, Jordon Ottenson, Adam Fuhr, Jodi Plenert, and Eric Ross form Winnipeg art-pop outfit Yes We Mystic.
Photo: Brian Van Wyk

CALGARY — The creative impulses of art-pop transformers Yes We Mystic are shaped and shifted into luminous form on debut full-length, Forgiver, or what the band has been referring to as their “sonic ‘Rosetta Stone.’”

The inventive collection of tracks are a culmination, and expansion, of 2013’s Floods and Fires EP and last year’s remix effort, Vestige. “When we say ‘sonic Rosetta Stone,’ all of the different things that we’ve tried and done, we try to unpack in this album. It’s kind of the whole map of what we want to accomplish and all of the different things that we want to touch on emotionally, sonically and lyrically,” says lead vocalist Adam Fuhr.

Merging dramatic orchestral indie-pop instrumentation with audacious experimental flourishes, Forgiver marks an early high-water mark in the group’s still-germinating catalogue.

Working with producer Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes, Patrick Watson, Wolf Parade) at his Breakglass Studios in Montreal, the five-piece brought bold ideas to the table and executed them with remarkable skill. A warped-pop aesthetic is exemplified with cuts such as “No Harm,” featuring electronic mandolin sounds awash in reverb, or the “Contest of Wit,” on which droning flutes are processed and distorted, before building into an unexpectedly dance-y crescendo.

While recording, Lasek’s wife and Besnard Lakes bandmate Olga Goreas was also in the studio. “We found out that Olga used to play the flute, so we begged her to bring it out for us,” says Fuhr. “That was the base from which we built the rest of the ‘Contest of Wit.’”

And a big part of how the band continues to distinguish their music is a careful focus on the structure of their songs, allowing them to go to “new and interesting places.”

While the band’s desire to push creative boundaries is audible on Forgiver, the album’s namesake was also a central theme. As Fuhr has previously noted in a press release, “It explores the different manifestations of forgiveness, and asks whether we can reconcile our capacity to forgive with our own self-respect.”

In the lead-up to the release, the band teased the album with a poster campaign, where they asked fans to text their replies to the question: ‘What have you been unable to forgive?’

“We received something like 130 different texts from across the country,” says Fuhr. “Trying to find connections between other people’s baggage and our own was very interesting…We found that the major strand that connected most people was someone had committed an act that changed how they viewed people…But there was a lot of instances of people recognizing that forgiveness was something they wanted to work on, or saying ‘This happened to me, but I was able to forgive.’”

That sort of hopeful melancholy is something that is certainly becoming a hallmark of YWM’s musical makeup.

“There are bands that we like that have done happy albums and we’ve liked them less,” jokes YWM’s chief lyrical contributor Keegan Steele (vocals, mandolin, synth). “I don’t necessarily believe in that cliché that you have to be miserable to make good art… I have written happy songs, but they haven’t felt right for the group.”

Yes We Mystic tour Western Canada this June and July. Select dates include June 25th at Local 510 (for Sled Island) in Calgary, July 1st at the Biltmore in Vancouver, July 7th at the Mercury Room in Edmonton and July 9th at Capitol Music Club in Saskatoon.

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