Marble Valley: Steve West (vocals); James Waudby (guitar); Carl Hogarth (keyboards, synthesizer); Beige (bass guitar); Andy Dimmack (drums); Remko Schouten.
Personnel: Remko Schouten (synthesizer).
Recording information: Ijland Studio, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New Adelphi, Hull, England; Sauceland Studio, Lexington, VA.
Despite the relatively pristine nature of the title of former Pavement drummer Steve West's third solo album (he performs using the band name Marble Valley), Wild Yams is urban-influenced indie rock with more to do with industry than agriculture or nature. It's almost as if West and co. decided to spend some time in Detroit (as well as with a few of their favorite prog rock tracks) before sitting down to record. And what results, even with the variety of genres explored on Wild Yams -- from Krautrock to synth pop to post-punk -- is something that seems very cohesive and whole. Perhaps this is because the production is so similar throughout the entire album: the same slightly gritty guitars and vocals with occasional electronic interruptions that spread a layer of grime, like what's found on cars parked near factories, across the face of every song. It's all very dirty musically (which makes the track of the same name, with West's gruff singing and computerized-sounding female background vocals, a particularly appropriate inclusion), so even though the lyrics tend to wander haphazardly around from subject to subject (the only word that can be used to describe the transition from "Diary of a Stone Mason," which ends with "And I'll always be alone" to the quirky and heavenly "Fag & Ah Light," whose bridge contains the lines "Everybody's drinking because no one has to drive/That's always a problem when you're alive"), there an elemental consistency from track to track that makes Wild Yams very palatable. And it doesn't hurt that Marble Valley know how to have a little fun, too, frequently breaking it down in that white-boy-soul kind of way, with bluesy chords and a trying-to-be funky bass. It's not a perfect record, but it's catchy, kind of strange, and most importantly, dirty, all of which makes it a pretty good listen. ~ Marisa Brown