Yes We Mystic Say Farewell With Ambitious Third LP ‘Trust Fall’

If there was any group that felt less of a band and more of a multimedia art project, it’d be Yes We Mystic. The collective, now consisting of Adam Fuhr, Jensen Fridfinnson, Keegan Steele, Jodi Plenert, and Jordon Ottenson, have continually reached well beyond their recordings to engage the public. Their guerilla tactics have seen use of call-in lines, performance art efforts, and a cinematic universe of connected videos. This is the level of intentionality that not everyone will get or appreciate, but it is a powerful champion in the art versus content conversation. There are layers here – indeed, more layers than ogres or onions or wedding cakes.

But even on the surface, each piece of the puzzle earns its own praise. The songs, now self-produced, are intricate and masterfully-executed. The videos are dynamic and conceptual, a refreshing twist in an age where many bands choose the easy route. And the marketing? Having a duplicate version of the band to participate in interviews is bold to say the least (I do have to wonder if the press was in on it).

Now, the band are saying goodbye with their third LP, Trust Fall. And while this undoubtedly comes as bittersweet news, one condition for the record is that it would be the group’s best work to date – a difficult task, certainly, but one that would ensure the band ended on the high point of their career. After an extensive 36-day period in the studio, though, the final collection of ten tracks certainly seems to claim this title.

I have always appreciated Yes We Mystic, though to varying degrees. Forgiver was promising, with “The Contest of Strength”, “Undertow”, and “Odessa Steps” placing as highlights. But it was “Ten Seated Figures” that saw the band become more consistent sonically (if such a thing was truly possible given their eclectic approach). This is simply to preface that Trust Fall is in fact the cohesive, balanced effort that Fuhr and team had hoped. The sonic pallet is still diverse and songs continue to subvert expectations – but the strong moments are far more consistent, and the dynamics are wider than ever.

At their core, Yes We Mystic craft a delicate brand of electro-acoustic cinematic pop. Whirling synths, shining violin and cello, and vocal trade-offs are in no short supply. Better tools do not make a craftsperson more skilled, but a skilled person can definitely express more through a broader set of tools. The maximalist approach to songwriting sees core rock instrumentation combined with programmed drums, tape loops, organ, French horn, saxophone, and even tap dance (something Alicia Walter also incorporated, as a side note). The collision of organic and synthetic elements never feels abrasive, though.

The album opens with a reference to REM sleep that sees staccato arpeggios of strings and synths layer over increasingly-complex drumming. The elements come in subtly and there’s just enough consistency to mask some of the shifting parts, but it’s very much a track that does not understand the concept of stasis. “Long Dream” manages to work threefold as an opener, single, and statement piece of sorts. It’s a lesson in nuance and careful arrangements, only building to its zenith toward the end.

“Gap Year” opts for a heftier sound, employing careful use of overdriven guitar and punchy bass for the verses to give the track a bit of an alt-rock taste. But on the wordless-vocal-run chorus, the full band kicks in with explosive force. The drumming in particular is a highlight here, and the album as a whole relies heavily on Ottenson’s percussive expertise for its consistent successes.

Somewhere between these two exists “Sit Down”, another single that shows the highlights of the band’s orchestral aptitude while also throwing in a couple goodies along the way. The start is pretty simple: piano and reverby drums. But then the attack and release on the keys is adjusted, leaving more abrupt endings to chords. Add in a quick run of guitar or bass into the mix and a far bit of strings and the mood drifts from spacious to claustrophobic. It’s as if the building arrangement is encroaching on Fuhr as he belts out his pleas.

“Dead Bolt” is a new beast altogether. It’s a collaboration with Virgo Rising which sees Fuhr swap the rest of the band for four new contributors. Unfortunately, it’s one of the shortest songs on the album (2:36) and ends before the concept can develop fully. Half of this time is devoted to the track speeding up and looping a good bit, but there isn’t a true crescendo which leaves a sort of cliff-hanger ending.

Fridfinnson takes lead vocal responsibilities on “Night Mode”. In certain ways, some of the most accessible pop traits of the band are on display here. There’s a heavier focus on synthesizers and the cadence and melodies are arguably a bit closer to the mainstream. But this isn’t Yes We Mystic selling out in any stretch – there are plenty of strings yet to behold. It’s a good middle ground between the barrenness of singer-songwriter efforts and tracks like “Gap Year”. It’s not a personal favorite track due to its pacing at times, but it’d be unfair to call it weak.

“Trap Door” is a late-entry highlight. The vocal delivery here is hazy, a bit lower register than most other tracks. Add in angelic backing vocal layers and the result is ethereal. This 80s veneer pulls back a bit on the chorus when the drums and synth became the primary driving force. The second verse sees a stronger bass presence – something that might typically result in a post-punk feeling, admittedly. Here, it instead feels like some esoteric ballad that draws closer comparisons to Bowie or Mercury. Vocally, it’s one of the most compelling tracks and the chorus is a particular high point.

As the album comes to a close, one question remains: what is Yes We Mystic’s final statement to the world? The answer is one that rests firmly on the line, “You hoped that it would never change / But it had already changed”. In context, it’s a haunting sentiment, one that sees the project come to a close as its members have drifted toward new endeavors. It’s retrospective honesty about the nature of ephemera. In line with this theme, the track moves through four acts. The first consists of acoustic guitar, strings, and vocals. The second part adds in synthesizers and drums. The third part is largely a string crescendo that tapers off before going into the dynamic closing portion where the full band kicks in. The ending works so well due to the unpredictable flow of the pieces before it – there’s an ebb and flow of fullness and emptiness, gain and loss, and it’s only after just about everything has dropped out that we see everything Yes We Mystic have to showcase. It’s a powerful, layered statement. And then the record ends.

Lyrically, this is an interesting album full of motifs – sleeping and being awake, being shuttered inside and relentless opportunities for adventure, solitude and community. It is, perhaps, in some ways a microcosm of the band itself and the members’ attempts to reason through art during a straining, uncertain time in history. After all, when you become known as “the guy in that band”, separating out the residual truth of your identity from the persona is no small matter. And while I am not bold enough to decode the sentiments line-by-line, there is no hiddenness when it comes to the theme of how people change and attempt to navigate the world through the eyes of the iterative self. It’s a coming of age story, but not one of self-discovery through careless summers. It’s one of self-loss through recognition of what pieces of identity can actually weather the storms of change. “You hoped that it would never change / But you had already changed.”

This is prophetic in a large sense. Yes We Mystic is not the same band they were a decade ago. And rather than continue to shapeshift, they have rested upon a stunning final form that bursts forth with vigor and verdancy. Trust Fall is the sort of album that feels like the band’s definitive work, a magnum opus of sorts, perhaps even deserving of being a self-titled record. Tracks like “Long Dream”, “Gap Year”, “Sit Down”, “Head Rush”, and “Trap Door” claim quick spots as my early favorites. “Night Mode” shows a more commercial side of the band, while “Dead Bolt” shows… less of the band altogether. And “Sun Room” is such a powerful closing statement to the band’s final chapter. While Yes We Mystic will be laying the name to rest soon, their legacy of multi-media efforts and expansive sonic arrangements will not be forgotten any time soon.

Find Yes We Mystic on Facebook and Instagram.

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