Yorkston Thorne Khan - Everything Sacred (Domino Recording Co.)

Posted by vibrations on 18-01-16

Last time he played Leeds, in the beautiful surroundings of the Howard Assembly Rooms, James Yorkston worked his usual magic of enchanting and moving me to tears. However, towards the end my partner whispered to me – “Lovely, but it’s getting a bit samey, isn’t it?” I was outraged but, on the evidence here, JY was starting to feel the same way. On ‘Everything Sacred’ he joins forces with sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan and double bassist Jon Thorne and together they deliver an experience that is at once radical, experimental and hauntingly soulful.


Thirteen minute opener ‘Knochentanz’ wanders through almost all of my beloved rock prefixes (post-, kraut-, drone- and folk- ) and a few of my least favourite- (prog- and jazz-) but is undoubtedly a hypnotic scene setter. Largely instrumental, it introduces the listener to the gorgeous intertwining of Yorkston’s guitar, Thorne’s understated double bass and the melodies of Khan’s sarangi. This dynamic is explored to even greater effect in the almost motorik driven ‘Sufi Song’ where Khan’s vocals and Thorne and JY’s insistent rhythmic playing build to an almost Neu-like climax, if Neu were and acoustic experimental folk trio.


Elsewhere Lisa O’Neill guests on several tracks, adding her distinctive voice and piano skills to two of the album’s stand outs – a cover of Lal Waterson’s ‘Song for Thirza’ and the definitive reading of Yorkston’s elegy for his late bass player Doogie Paul, ‘Broken Wave’. However, the high point for me is the title track, a meditative lament on mortality written and sung by Thorne. 


Not all of it works for me. The take on Ivor Cutler’s ‘Little Black Buzzer’ leaves me cold, but that may be more because I seem to be immune to Cutler’s brand of eccentricity rather than the band’s musicianship. I’ve long been a fan of Yorkston’s dextrous guitar playing but Thorne and Kahn are revelatory throuhgout. All in all, released mere weeks into 2016, this album is already one of the oddest and most challenging that you’ll hear all year. However, it will also be one of the most moving.


Yorkston Thorne Kahn play Belgrave Music Hall 23rd February 2016

Alan Stewart