The other night I saw Yazan, a solo artist I’d yet to hear of, open a bill I was really excited about. I got to the bar early and listened to the Brooklyner sound-check and then transition humbly into his actual set, in front of a few fans and other musicians, saying “Actually, the empty room is pretty integral to my sound.” It was just Yazan’s voice and electric guitar (for a few songs he was joined on drums by the drummer from Mail the Horse) and he sure as shit filled that room. Not to privilege my words over his, but these are some of the notes I wrote down about experiencing his music live, for the purposes of showing how much he blew my mind: Milky way marsh honky tonk, sermon-cry, muskrat colossus, gem-toned sidewalk-dirge. Blunt, twinkling, liquid timbres. Skull-tickle haircut. Nights apart, nights in fits, nights rigid, nights swaying on your lower cache of joints. Touch-and-go lullabies, hammerheaded hymns, sternums set to hummingbird, ears set to galactic gauges, heart-to-foot nerves in overdrive.
Which is to say he killed it! I love bands that can cover a lot of ground on one guitar, and it’s not overstatement to say that Yazan covers ground, space, and skin like a hydrogen blanket. His show is expansive and incendiary, reserved when needs to be and otherwise totally gnarly.
So I rush home to download his studio album and am surprised to find that it accomplishes all of the above with acoustic guitar. It still blows my mind but eventually the shock settles down in my ribs and obliques and gives a glorious, gracious, hug. The album, Undress My Mind, is mantras and parables fed through a country-blues engine. The lyrics trace a meditative trajectory from distress to undress, from
The world is an oyster / tight and unkind
I feel so alive / like a flower petal / spiraling down / toward the ground / that never arrives.
He’s got such an affecting sound–stripping down the songs until the music and vocals recall pre-Vietnam stuff like Brownie McGhee and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as Bearsville folk revival stuff, but maintaining this future-facing Hendrix-like creativity and personality. It doesn’t feel like much is held back on this record, so after listening to it, you can’t help but feel refreshed yourself. I can’t recommend it enough–it’s Essential Listening and you can name your own price for it on Yazan’s bandcamp.