Yezda Urfa – Sacred Baboon (Syn-Phonic reissue)

4 out of 5

Label: Syn-Phonic

Produced by: Greg Walker, Phil Kimbrough

If you’ve gotten used to the rawness and immediacy of Yezda Urfa’s debut ‘demo’ Boris – as I have – it can be a bit difficult to cross over to the more polished versions of half of its tracks that appear on their first official release, Sacred Baboon. While the versions on the latter are probably technically better – played a bit tighter and maybe slightly faster, with infinitely more instruments listed in the credits and a clear production sheen (that’s mastered super low, though, on my Sym-Phonic 1992 CD release) – these added complexities initially water down the rock backing that surprised the heck out of me when I first heard them. But stepping away from that bias, new song and opener Give ‘Em Some Rawhide Chewies is exciting as all get out, successfully marrying the folk strumming that seemed super out of place on Boris with the group’s Yes-/Gentle Giant-mimicking harmonies and progness, and edging the rather vague, fantastical lyrics into the more entertaining absurd. It’s awesome, and makes us wish for an alternate timeline in which Yezda continued working in this vein, eventually emerging as another influence from the era instead of something of a lost “they sound like so-and-so” relic.

Some of the same cut-and-paste indulgences of Boris return, on the other new tracks – Cancer of the Band, and (My Doc Told Me I Had) Doggie Head – but here, too it’s a bit sharper, with the group aiming more for speed than carving out some kind of epic 10 minute fantasy trip. The flip-flopping between jazz and folk and rock and whatnot is certainly still herky-jerk at points, the album just benefits from that sheen which shaves off the (admittedly charming) flubs which previously exacerbated that herky-jerk. And once you’ve been through the thing a couple of times, appreciating the bells and whistles, the re-takes of Boris’ tracks start to stand on their own, maybe a little restrained in a certain sense, but full of toe-tapping wizardry nonetheless, with goddamn impressive guitar / bass / drum proggy finagling throughout.