Band of the Day

2012.01.22

If By Yes

A dreamy array of experimental pop with ultra-cool touches of jazz
Imagino the waterfall, breaking down the walls, we’re lost in emotion.
lyrics from Imagino

If By Yes is a four-piece experimental pop group from New York. The group started as a collaboration between vocalist/violinist Petra Haden, and keyboardist/producer Yuka Honda. The two began writing songs together in 2002, as a long distance project between New York City and Los Angeles. Before collaborating as If By Yes, Haden was a member of a group called That Dog. She also performed and recorded with Beck, Foo Fighters, and The Decemberists, and composed TV commercials for Toyota Prius. Honda was a member of a Cibo Matto, a group from New York that included Sean Lennon. The band added two other members: Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu (on guitar) and Yuko Araki (on drums), both of whom were members of the Japanese band Cornelius. Their debut album, Salt On Sea Glass, was released on Chimera Music (Sean Lennon's record label) in 2011. It includes guest appearances from Talking Head's David Byrne (on “Eliza”), guitarist Nels Cline, and remixes from Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada.

Named after a line in a poem by e.e. cummings (1940's “anyone lived in a pretty how town”), If By Yes is an experimental pop group from New York. Just as the poem makes references to dreaming and celestial bodies, If By Yes create music that's ambient and nocturnal. It's the type of music that's meant for low-key city nights, when chilling out in an ultra-cool super lounge takes precedence over dancing at a loud, crowded club. The group started out in 2002 as a collaboration between vocalist Petra Haden (of That Dog) and producer Yuka Honda (of Cibo Matto), before adding two members from the Japanese band Cornelius: guitarist Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu and drummer Yuko Araki. Their debut album, 2011's Salt On Sea Glass, takes the sum of their collective backgrounds (both musically and ethnically; Haden is the only non-Japanese member), and combines it into a stunning array of dreamy, experimental pop songs. “You Feel Right (Cornelius Mix)” is ethereal and delicate, with subdued vocalizations of “da da das” layered between Haden's soothing, whisper-like vocals. A subtle, shimmering bed of chimes and shakers, with an occasional flourish of bells, enhances the dream-like effect. Lyrics like “I keep on drowning/watching lights on water/and I feel blinded” sound like they're describing vague recollections of last night's dream, and you might find yourself momentarily swept away into If By Yes' otherworldly soundscapes. Alongside the four core members, the album features some notable guest stars: namely the Talking Heads' David Byrne, who sings and wrote lyrics for “Eliza.” Byrne and Haden's voices meld together harmoniously, over instrumentation that has a slightly Eastern flair—a quivering sitar here, magical chimes there. File “Imagino” next to trip-hop greats like Hooverphonic and Zero 7—it has a similar downtempo feel, with ambiguous lyrics like, “Imagino the the waterfall/breaking down the walls/we're lost in emotion” sung over a jazzy saxophone line and grooving keys. Whether their songs are soothing and ethereal, or smolderingly sexy, If By Yes have created the type of album that you'll want to let yourself get lost in.