Published Jun 04, 2020In recent years, Yvette Young has emerged as the guitar prodigy of the underground, giving stunning displays of technical proficiency, rhythmic complexity and lyrical phrasing alongside a well-attuned sense of melody and mood. Young has won over the often old-school, stuck-in-its-ways (and predominantly male) world of guitar culture, earning acclaim from magazines like Guitar World and Premier Guitar. Her Bay Area trio Covet released an EP in 2015 followed by their full-length debut, Effloresce, in 2018, gaining a rapturous fanbase while playing on stages next to riff-loving tourmates including math-emo prolifics Tiny Moving Parts, math-rock innovators Tera Melos and djent pioneers Periphery.
What makes Covet so likeable? Maybe as important as the music itself is Young's joy in playing it. Technicolor, the band's second album, sparkles with the wonder of creativity. With Young's imaginative playing along with the intrepid basslines of David Adamiak and the understated polyrhythms of drummer Forrest Rice, the band creates a kaleidoscope of sound that's filled with rich feeling. At its best, it feels like what it must be like to observe the Northern Lights. Technicolor has the sweet, sad mood of Explosions in the Sky, Pianos Become the Teeth or Caspian (whose guitarist Phillip Jamieson plays on "Predawn"), only with a great deal of instrumental wizardry packed into the wide-open spaces of those groups' work.
The harmonic clockwork of "Good Morning" shows the electric guitar at its most beautiful. There are loud clangs and an unpredictable flow to "Atreyu," yet always devoted to the idea of forward momentum. The melodic math rock of "Nero" contains the album's greatest six-string acrobatics, but it's infused with sentimentality — like Dream Theater doing a cover of an American Football song that sticks closely to its spirit. "Aries" gets into the most extreme intellectual pursuits of prog-rock, spending much of its time exploring the outer reaches of complex musical theory before arriving back in the atmosphere. And Covet occasionally get into jazzy territory, as with the complex harmonization, intricate rhythms and quick chord changes of the brief "Pirouette," bringing to mind Pat Metheny and GoGo Penguin reimagined in a rock format. We also hear Young's voice for the first time on "Parachute" and "Farewell," and what a lovely voice it is. It's delicate, intimate and somewhat tentative — akin to Harmony Woods, PINE or early Rainer Maria — and so befitting this music that it seems a shame it's not heard more.
With Technicolor, it's surprisingly easy to forget that you're listening to a virtuosic guitarist. Even at its most stunningly complex and technically adept, the purpose of Young's playing is not to showcase her tremendous talent, but to serve the mood of the composition. Covet use the full spectrum of colour to paint a mural that's painstakingly intricate in its every brushstroke but ultimately meant to be viewed and enjoyed from a wide enough angle that you lose yourself in the sum of its parts. (Triple Crown) (Triple Crown)