There ‘exists’ in the world, many fantastical things that sometimes, you can’t help wishing were real; Unicorns. Lightsabers. Fairy dust. Yet taking the title of his 2007 record I Believe In You, Your Magic Is Real, as his ethos, and telling himself ‘you’re a wizard Jona’, Jona Bechtolt, the patriarch of YACHT (Young Americans Challenging High Technology) has blended the power of imagination with realism in See Mystery Lights, a product of whimsy, sunbeams and circuit-bending.
The album is a synaesthetic dream, a tangled, tousled mess of influences and sensations.
Opening track -Ring The Bell’ enmeshes freaky, falsetto layered vocals, shuddering electronics and entrancing tropical percussion as Bechtolt attempts to be dreamily profound, exclaiming, ‘will we go to heaven, or will we go to hell?/It’s my understanding that neither are real.’ YACHT may be adept at mixing a potent magic potion of exciting aural effects, but song writing sorcerers they are not. The bulk of the lyrics are divided between repetitive cultic chants and baffling philosophical aphorisms such as ‘don’t fight the darkness, bring the light and darkness’. The contrasting themes of life and death, darkness and light are obvious; what is shrouded in mystery is the sentiment behind the songs, and you can’t help but wonder whether Bechtolt has cherry picked a bunch of pithy non-sequitirs because they’ll sound good over some rollicking afro-pop beats.
But since when was it routine to listen to fanciful, fruity electro pop for its lyrical depth? Regardless of Bechtolt’s lack of wordsmith status, See Mystery Lights harbours some quirky delights. ‘The Afterlife’ is a concoction of 8-bit era melodies, -60s surf pop resonating guitar riffs and reggae chanting (a tribute to Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites’). New fully fledged YACHT crew member Claire L. Evans has clearly graduated from the William Shatner School of Spoken Word, with her compelling if not slightly peculiar delivery as she yelps talismanically ‘Death is not the end of this song’. ‘It’s Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want’ showcases the band’s many faces of pop with a galloping guitar line that could have been lifted straight out of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’, contagious handclaps and captivating, uplifting gang shouts of ‘you can live anywhere you want’.
Certain songs punctuate the album with their descent into the ridiculous, with strong suspicions that Bechtolt’s tongue is lodged firmly in his cheek, particularly evident on ‘I’m In Love With A Ripper’, an hilariously indulgent -80s homage complete with laser effects that wouldn’t go amiss on a Yamaha keyboard, drum machines and what sounds like distorted glam guitar shredding. Certainly, it serves as a testament to YACHT’s simple but successful method of songcraft; computerised beats, heartening melodies and lots of swelling synths, which all combine to create a little piece of magic that doesn’t stop you wishing that ponies with ice-cream conies on their heads are real.