For those who don’t know, PsychoYogi are a jazz fusion / progressive rock band led by the incredibly talented Chris Ramsing who plays guitar, writes the songs and also sings them! Chris is clearly influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa and many other left-field musicians. He is a very skilled player and uses the band’s musicality to express his thought and viewpoints. The music can be a bit cerebral and clever and can take a while to get into as it requires the listener’s effort too, what can seem to be a bit obscure will eventually begin to feel familiar and friendly, if you are prepared to make the investment of time and effort.
PsychoYogi have joined the roster of artists that appear under the Bad Elephant Music label banner, which is a good home for them and should expose them to a far wider audience. Their talents should begin to get the recognition that they deserve, after several years of self-released albums like ‘Accident Prone’, ‘Consumption Wheel’ and ‘Chase the Bone’, along with last year’s ‘Dangerous Devices’.
The latter was a good template for this new album ‘Digital Vagrancy’, a release on which, you will be glad to hear, the band’s normal wackiness and weirdness continues unabated, which, in the madness of this present age, is certainly both a boon and a relief and is very welcome. This is music to challenge and to experience for yourself, in amongst the weird time signatures lurks a good sense of both humour and of the absurd. This is clearly shown on tracks like Wonderful Place with its strong bass lines and with Chris’s fluid guitar taking centre stage, its freewheeling form scoring highly. There is also a deft lightness of touch to many of these tracks which shows how well the band are gelling as a unit these days, brass, horns, bass and guitars are drawn together, all underpinned by the bass of Izzy Stylish and the drums of Justin Casey.
The album opens with Guiding Light, all gentle noodling from Chris along with good syncopation from Justin’s drums, which splash gently across the muted tones of the sax of Toby Nowell. This is all very eloquently overseen by all concerned with a strong jazz fusion leaning and a jaunty tone, yet it’s still accessible listening and not just for jazz buffs. A Dangerous Path opens with some horn interplay, which sets the scene well for the languid jazzy rhythms at play. Here the music and vocals actually put me in mind of Greenslade for some odd reason but, if so, that’s a good comparison to have really, as they are nothing like each other at all but the mind is a strange thing at times and I guess years of stored music came to the surface there.
The River follows and has prominent bass to open followed by eloquent sax. Again, this mellow song works well hinged on bass and delicate drums with guitar chords at play and a brief jazzy guitar break from Chris really hits the mark. Wonderful Place is up next and opens with a long, fluid guitar line laid over busy drums and more of those strong bass lines. Shimmering guitar chords play over the track and are joined by more sax lines, add in an almost ethnic sounding percussion segment and it becomes very jazzy. This is sublime and superb at the same time, an enjoyable track with lots happening in its three-minute window.
Distant Bell follows with more delicate guitar lines and subtle bass lines, the horn and sax parts helping this sound really swing. This album gets better the more you play it and you begin to realise just what a joyfully crafted it really is as well as being imaginative and boldly creative. Everyone gets a chance to shine, and they all do throughout this fine track. Next Track Salvation has a smoky sounding opening, murky and effective sounding, before the vocals start. The song is all about faith and belief and the entire system of such things, it’s an interesting song that asks a lot questions land leaves you to your own conclusions.
Love and Sanity is about the lack of compassion in today’s world, how we are worse for its lack in society, and how we all avoid it as individuals today. It’s an honest, challenging and sobering song at times. Much to Dream About follows and is another questioning song about how yesterday’s dreams have gone and how those dreams have been replaced with negativity, fear and loathing with everybody affected by this change. This is social commentary about the world today and how it has not gotten better but has taken a step or more in the wrong direction.
Innocence for Fear is the last vocal track on the album and offers the observation that we exchange ‘Innocence for Fear’ in this modern age and that we all suffer as a result. Chris is quite forthright in his observations and questioning and why not , these things should be spoken of far more than the subservience and blind obedience that is expected of us these days!
It’s good that albums like this can offer a platform for such views to be considered and, as such, this is an important album and one that is worthy of consideration with its excellent musicianship and challenging lyrics and themes. This music could be described as left-field punk-jazz and I think that is pretty accurate.
Released 29th October, 2021
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