The Valley of Yessiree begins in dissonance – an eerie, messy drone which is soon brought into focus by a nagging snare drum, dialled down to somewhere around 25bpm. There are jags of electric guitar. Then the voice. A gothic, Nick Cave feel. There is almost a hint of vibrato, but it is more of a disconcerting wobble of tempo and timbre than a variation in pitch, an epiglottal drunkenness. A. Dyjecinski is no Sinatra, but this was never meant to be easy listening.
Artur Dyjecinski emerged from the Ontario woods a few years back, and has spent his recent past in London, fronting scuzzy garage-rockers Dracula Legs. The Valley Of Yessiree is his first solo record, and is a world away from the clatter and clamour of his band. That opening track – Goad By A Valley – establishes the pattern for the rest of the album: darkly enigmatic subject matter and wilfully introspective lyrics that hint at the paradoxical claustrophobia of open spaces and the harshness of nature. Dead Horses, the album’s second song, begins with the line, ‘Swear I found it slightly easier/at the bottom of the well.‘ Here is a narrator whose ambition is to achieve the acme of solitude, but he soon lets us know that with this achievement things don’t get much easier. Still, there is a note of positivity in the chorus. It’s the kind of veiled positivity you would expect to find in a William H. Gass story, but it’s positivity nonetheless. Dyjecinski’s voice is laced with soulfulness, and on Dead Horses it recalls Lampchop’s Kurt Wagner in wonky, breathy bar-room mode.
I’m The Woods continues on the theme of loneliness, creeping along glacially before peaking on a crescendo of electric guitar more fluid and maximal than anything that has gone before. It ends on a soft, unexpected bubble of brass, like spring shoots breaking through snowy ground. The Fight kicks off with the percussive sound of footsteps on a hard floor, echoing as if in an abandoned corridor. Dyjecinski sings of the necessity of giving in, the almost cathartic release offered by capitulation.
Dry Bread begins simply enough, then shards of discordant guitar begin to infiltrate the song like flurries of hail, and the appearance of the backing vocalist once again reminds us that Dyjecinski’s dream of loneliness is perhaps unobtainable. Yessiree is an instrumental led by an electric guitar that constantly seems on the verge of shattering into a million pieces, and The Resurrection might be the most extroverted song on the album, but with its cast of lonely ghosts and gnomic lyrics (Dyjecinski does a good line in aphorisms – ‘A spectacular failure is spectacular all the same’), it’s hardly a pop song.
Vocally, Dyjecinski ostensibly resembles fellow Canadians Casey Mercer and Timber Timbre singer Taylor Kirk. But his voice feels less affected, less worked on than either of those artists. There is a rough, bluesy edge to it that comes to the fore on songs like Grenades, and while the grungy crunch of instrumental Hunger proves that his vocal chords aren’t the album’s only selling point, they are the substrate on which the life of the music can grow. Closer Ivorm sees that voice at its most tender, as the song’s narrator finally (at a moment of apparently fatal crisis) lets his solipsism lapse and admits the existence of an Other with a simple kind act. It’s a great way to finish a spectacularly assured debut album that, for all its minimal aesthetic, is brimming with ideas.
Released April 29th 2016 via the Sideways Saloon Recording Company