Barsuk Records is excited to announce that New York’s Yellow Ostrich will be releasing their new album, Strange Land, on March 6, 2012. Strange Land is the follow-up to the acclaimed The Mistress, and is self-produced with engineer Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse). The Mistress was also self-produced, and was made by singer/guitarist Alex Schaaf on his own, playing all the instruments. With multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper in the fold, Strange Land presents Yellow Ostrich fully formed, no longer a bedroom project, but rather now a full-fledged power trio.
The evolution from Schaaf’s past work to Strange Land is palpable. Previously, he had revelled in artistic constraints, like recording The Mistress virtually by himself, or recording an EP using only voice and drum machine (Fade Cave), or taking lyrics exclusively from a movie star’s Wikipedia entry (The Morgan Freeman EP). For Strange Land he went in the opposite direction, enlisting his very gifted bandmates to help take the music in directions he never could have anticipated.
“The Mistress was a guy in a bedroom,” says Schaaf, who grew up in Wisconsin and moved to New York in 2010. “Strange Land is a band. In a slightly bigger room.” They recorded most of the tracks in six days in a little studio outside of Woodstock, New York, and so while The Mistress used a purposely limited palette of sounds, Strange Land has a dramatically expanded one: Tapper’s inventive, downright catchy drumming provides a polyrhythmic foundation for many of the songs while Natchez plays no less than 11 different kinds of horns on the album, lending an almost symphonic air, while his nimble bass playing helps propel the music in its exciting new direction.
Tapper actually saw Yellow Ostrich’s first show, at Schaaf’s college in Wisconsin, opening for Tapper’s old band. A few months later, both of them happened to move to New York City, and in October 2010 Schaaf invited Tapper to join forces. They played as a duo for another few months before inducting the talented and supremely versatile Natchez, who’s played with Beirut, the Antlers, and Camera Obscura, among countless others. “When Jon joined, that’s when it really felt like a band,” says Tapper. “It’s more than just the fact that he plays horns sometimes – he adds some things that can be quantified and some that are intangible, but it all makes playing the songs feel really natural.”
Yellow Ostrich did several US tours in 2011, opening for bands like the Antlers and Ra Ra Riot. It was a pivotal experience. “I found myself tending to want to flex a little bit, get bigger, so people wouldn’t talk over our whole set,” Tapper says. That – and the heavy airplay the Velvet Underground, Wire, and Crazy Horse-era Neil Young got in the tour van – had a big impact on the new music they made, with its dramatic dynamic shifts and listen-to-me-now passion. “We took the energy from those performances,” says Natchez, “and allowed the live experience to direct the recording, as opposed to vice versa.”
It took that kind of power and urgency to unleash the emotional core of the songs on Strange Land. “They’re about all those pent-up feelings of anticipation you carry throughout your life,” says Schaaf, “and what happens to those feelings when imagination becomes reality, and you see things maybe quite aren’t as magical and easy as you thought they’d be. When your future becomes your present, an explosion happens; that’s where a lot of this came from.”
The tracklisting for Strange Land is below:
1. Elephant King
3. Marathon Runner
4. I Got No Time For You
5. Stay At Home
6. I Want Yr Love
7. The Shakedown
8. Wear Suits
9. Up In The Mountains
10. When All Is Dead