Over half a century ago, the French theorist and actor Antonin Artaud wrote a book called The Theatre and Its Double. The book posited that great theater is a form of exorcism, and the stage is a space where spectators directly confront their fears and desires. This way of thinking about performance became the basis for an influential experimental-theater movement born in the streets of mid-century downtown New York called the Living Theatre, which also happens to be the title of the equally heady sophomore album from a Brooklyn-based group called Olden Yolk.
Arriving a year after the project's debut, Living Theatre continues to explore the intimate, electronics-tinged psychedelic folk-rock already established by Olden Yolk's Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer, with some subtle shifts in approach. Whereas Olden Yolk was borne out of a series of exchanged poems between the songwriters, Living Theatre expanded upon conversations in concentrated writing sessions. Also, Olden Yolk was recorded primarily as a four-piece with their touring band, and while Living Theatre returns to engineer/co-producer Jarvis Taveniere (Woods), its guests include percussionist Booker Stardrum, who features prominently on the album, as well as Frank Maston (flute), Eliza Bagg (violin/viola), and others.
Living Theatre by Olden Yolk In the 2018 first album, Olden Yolk shrouded strummy, folk-derived melodies in a radiant psychedelic hum. In fact, the glow that lit their songs seemed as much a reason to listen as the songs themselves. You were not required to listen so much as to dive in and submerge yourself in warm, welcoming tone. In my review at Dusted last year, I observed that, "Olden Yolk's debut is altogether more bewitching than [Shane Butler's former band] Quilt, wrapping slow-moving melodies in a haze of psychedelic drone, and jacking billowy dream pop sighs up on the jittery jangle of folk guitars." Living Theatre clears some of that delicious haze and bares the angst and tension under Olden Yolk's effortless pop.