Ike Yard: 1980-82 Collection
Acute Records

Acute Records provides a valuable historical service in resurrecting Ike Yard's modest output (the first time the material has appeared since its original early-‘80s release), perhaps helping the group to become more than a footnote to better-known bands like PiL and Joy Division. The nearly 80-minute 1980-82 Collected compiles two formal releases, Night After Night, an EP for Les Disques du Crepuscule, and a self-titled album for Factory Records (the label's first American signing), plus unreleased material. Ike Yard's sound is pretty much what you'd expect from a group influenced by NY punk, Krautrock, bands like PiL, Magazine, and Joy Division, CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, the avant-garde art scene (two members were students at RISD), No Wave, etc.: an acerbic, disturbing brew of aggressive guitar stabs, monotone vocals, rhythms that, when not accelerating in motorik style, lurch and crawl, and crude electronics and drum machines.

The band's sound evolved rapidly. In the EP's April 1981 tracks, Kenneth Compton's motorik bass is the nucleus for Michael Diekmann's angular guitar slashes, Stuart Argabright's deathly monologues, and the incessant sputter of Fred Szymanski's electronic noise-making and percussive clatter. In addition to the funereal “The Whistler” and the early electronic experiment “Infra-Ton,” the dirge “Sense of Male” stands out as a particularly memorable guitar freakout. Even so, the songs sound like preparatory exercises when heard alongside the Factory material. The considerably more impressive album (recorded in May 1982) introduces a heavier reliance on electronic rhythms and programming, synth pulses now adopting the role formerly handled by the bass, but the experimental and uncompromising sensibility remains. At this stage, Ike Yard leaves conventional song structure far behind to focus on long-form grooves. At almost eight minutes, the incredible “Loss” sounds like a nightmarish psyche brought to life. When the group puts the song's voices through a shredder, it's hard to believe material so progressive sprang to life 25 years ago. “Kino” plunges even further into the abyss, with electrical shocks jackhammering over a moaning howl and primitive synthesizer rhythms. None of the following unreleased tracks rises to the same level, except for perhaps the jittery “Dancing And Slaving” (laid down a month after the album tracks were recorded) and “Nocturne,” where piercing shards of guitar slice through peaceful piano and bass stylings. What a shame that, having advanced into a remarkable zone of fearless experimentalism, the group imploded at the beginning of 1983 before recording a follow-up album.

In addition to the sometimes visionary music, an engrossing 28-page booklet presents an evocative document of the early-‘80s NY post-punk era. Diekmann contributes a detailed account of the group's formation and intent (prior to its formal creation, he astutely visualizes Ike Yard as “a shape shifting, structurally and temporally adroit super-city of sound”), followed by Argabright's encompassing chronological account of the band's development.

September 2006