April 19, 2007

Underground Legends Reunite

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When downtown NYC music legends Ike Yard take to the stage tomorrow at the Lost Dog Lounge, it will be the band’s first live performance since breaking up twenty five years ago — reason enough for most to want to attend the Fanclub Collective’s latest offering.
But when you stop to consider the band’s place in Lower East Side cultural history, the opportunity to witness this historic reunion by one of the most celebrated underground electronic acts in NYC history begins to look even more irresistible.
During their brief tenure, from 1980-1983, Ike Yard managed to harness the emerging industrial sonics flooding in from Berlin, the avant-performative spirit of no-wave, the academic world of 20th century classical composition, and the latest analog technologies of sequencers, synths and drum machines into a restless, driving, minimalist blend unlike anything made by their contemporaries before or since.
Ike Yard played alongside bands as varied as New Order, Suicide, Section 25, the Del Byzenteens (one member of which was a young filmmaker named Jim Jarmusch) and they were friends and collaborators with artworld luminaries on the order of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Longo, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Rammellzee, Rhys Chatham, Lydia Lunch, Kathryn Bigelow, Gudrun Gut and scores of other admired personalities. And though Ike Yard released only two records (their first was on the Belgian label Disque du Crepuscule), their second was recorded for none other than Factory Records America — the same Factory Records that was home to Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column and an array of other seminal bands.
Formed at a time when no-wave was fading and hip-hop and electro were about to sweep through the Lower East Side, Ike Yard distinguished themselves by embracing the influence of both German “new wave” (Neue Deutsche Welle) and Berlin-style industrial (Einstuerzende Neubauten), but also by warping those influences into their own version of electronic decay, rusted machines and imminent collapse.
Though the resulting sound was something more sonically akin to DAF had DAF actually used guitars and lived below Canal Street, today’s fans of industrial music will want to take note: the members of Ike Yard not only witnessed Einstuerzende Neubauten’s first US gig, but IY’s instrumentalist Michael Diekmann loaned his guitar to Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld for the show, who then proceeded to abuse the borrowed instrument for the duration of the performance. (Incidentally, around this time Michael Diekmann happened also to be romantically involved with another person whom you may have heard of — last name then, Ciccone, years later, Madonna).
One of the moving forces behind Ike Yard was an articulate musician by the name of Stuart Argabright. Argabright moved from D.C. to New York City in the late 1970s in order to witness for himself the heady days of punk, no-wave and the emerging experimental music available only in New York City. Upon meeting Kenneth Compton, Michael Diekmann and Fred Szymanski, two of whom had studied electronic music at Brown University, the four decided to form a project that would devote itself to exploring the limits of the man-machine interface, both at the conceptual level but also, crucially, at the physical, and somatic, level too.
When talking to Argabright it becomes clear that cybernetic theory and bodily pleasure were of equal importance to their approach, which is another way of saying that the four enthusiastically welded machine-built loops, early analog sequencers, huge synth modules, and scrap metal aesthetics together with a pure love for beatmaking and mechanical repetition. And what is maybe even more remarkable from today’s point of view is that they succeeded to such a degree that now, after reuniting a quarter of a century later, they find themselves still drawn to many of the same techniques that they developed in ’80-’83.
Last year Ike Yard released their collected works on Acute Records (Ike Yard 1980-1982 Collected). The album received breathless praise from an audience as diverse as Pitchforkmedia.com, dance producers and the British blogosphere. Argabright also compiled and wrote liner notes for last year’s well-received New York Noise Vol. 3, on the esteemed UK reissue label, Soul Jazz. Argabright’s volume in particular, as many have noted, recovers an element of NYC music history that is equal parts eclectic singularity and long-lost, never-before-heard sonic pearls.
With a number of shows scheduled in New York and Europe, Ike Yard are now actively writing again and plan to release an album of new material later this year or next. Considering that this will be their first ever out-of-NYC performance, and their first gig in twenty five years, the opportunity to see this band play live again can only be described as unprecedented.
When every press release next year for their new album mentions this reunion show in Ithaca, you will be able to say that you were there.