Barsuk Records is excited to debut Yellow Ostrich’s video for “Ghost” (available for posting HERE), the title track from the band’s recent 6-song release. The clip, directed by the band and Frank Larson, premiered via Stereogum, who described it as “focus[ing] tight on bandleader Alex Schaaf, alternating between the singer delivering his lament in present-day and fuzzy old VHS footage capturing happier bygone times.” The track is available for download HERE.
The image on the cover of Ghost is an original painting by New York-based artist Graham Parks. Parks painted this image on a canvas comprised of 100 blank record sleeves, which the band sold as 100 limited-edition copies of the EP packaged in pieces of the painting. A video of Parks painting the cover, accompanied by EP song samples, can be viewed HERE.
Last fall, Yellow Ostrich spent 12 hours a day tracking their first full-length release as a trio (Strange Land, released March 2012 on Barsuk). Yet every night, while the rest of the band slept, Alex Schaaf, the group’s leader, singer, and guitarist, would stay up recording ideas for new songs. The intensity of Schaaf’s creative output is staggering; he is constantly generating new material. “For me,” Schaaf says, “music is about creating something that expresses a particular moment in time. It’s important to acknowledge that moment in my life, but then to move on to the next thing.” This creative restlessness is the constant that has defined Schaaf’s body of work.
Schaaf’s collaborators in the band, Michael Tapper and Jon Natchez, share a similar commitment to experimentation. Tapper plays a drum kit he designed himself: it lacks both a kick drum and hi-hat, and features many homemade percussion elements as well as a palette of painstakingly assembled electronic sounds. Natchez plays bass and also everything from lap steel guitar to trombone run through effects pedals to saxophone to synthesizers, often all in the same song.
Ghost began with one of the late-night songs from the Strange Land sessions. Now having worked together for more than a year and a half, and having embarked on 7 national tours that included performances at Lollapalooza, Sasquatch, and Austin City Limits, the group has developed a rapport that is apparent on Ghost. The three musicians passed ideas around gradually, letting each song develop over a period of months. The band also limited itself to a more contained sonic palette: on Strange Land, for example, Natchez played 11 different horns, in addition to bass and multiple keyboards; on Ghost, the band chose to exclude horns entirely. “We wanted to have more space in the songs, to exercise a little more patience,” says Natchez. “With Strange Land, we went into the studio with a ‘let’s show the world everything we can do’ attitude. With Ghost, it’s been rewarding to focus on a more tightly defined sonic world.”
There is continuity between Ghost and previous Yellow Ostrich releases: Schaaf’s keening, intricate harmonies remain central here; Tapper’s unique approach to drumming is immediately recognizable whether on acoustic or electronic drums; Natchez still constructs intricately layered soundscapes, just using analog keyboards and processed lap steel instead of horns. But Ghost reflects a powerful step forward in the group’s development. Taken as a whole, Ghost reveals a band that both has found its footing and is confidently striding on.