Yezda Urfa – Boris

4 out of 5

Label: Syn-Phonic

Produced by: Yezda Urfa

Yezda Urfa, the long lost prog band given re-release life by progressive label Syn-Phonic, are described on the wiki page as Yes meets Gentle Giant.  Whichever uncited source made that comparison was pretty spot on, as the group blends the guitar and keyboard mastery of the former with the folk and funk tinged rock of the latter.  But what’s exciting is how this melding of styles limits the ‘of the era’ sensibilities of both: with a bit more focus on showmanship and rocking out, Yezda Urfa – even while pursuing 10+ tracks – is without the fantastical whimsy of Yes, and the wandering open-endedness of Giant’s verses.  Note that I enjoy both bands, and that these attributes work well within the context of each group’s various releases, but imitators don’t necessarilly make the best use of them.  For YU, while unabashedly influenced by these groups (and other proggers, I’m sure), lucked on an approach that really sounds unique to them, for the betterment of our ears.

Boris, something of a demo offering, is certainly rough around the edges.  Occasionally timing flubs crop up – though these are part of the disc’s earnest charm, once you’re expecting them – and attempts at epic structures were probably better off as separate songs.  The lyrics are respectable but mostly vague, dotting things with a weird blend of fantasy and urban imagery; only on ‘Three Tons of Fresh Thyroid Glands,’ when this approach is ditched for a somewhat more straight-forward story, do the lyrics actually seem integral and not just a requirement.  To that effect, while the often impressive vocal work might’ve just been a “prog bands need a pretty singer” inclusion, those vague lyrics are sung passionately, and delivered with inventive parallels / juxtapositions to the music.  This extends to the music: Boris is littered with insanely exciting passages and ideas, rubbing up against one another oddly on occasion (the sudden folk / country of Texas Armadillo; the oddball blend of proto-punk and funk on 3, Almost 4, 6 Yea) but always played with intensity and – flubs aside, since this is complicated stuff – skill.  The last three tracks (The Basis of Dubenglazy While Dirk Does the Dance being a bonus on later releases) are nigh masterpieces, with the aforementioned Three Tons an especially solid highlight, through and through.

A lot of modern prog bands undoubtedly have the same influences Yezda Urfa did.  And when you listen to those influences, you can hear where they’re coming from, but you also hear music of the era.  Boris, though, is something else; it could very easily exist and stand alongside bands of today, doing similar shticks.  It’s timeless.  And quite awesome.