Yeast Machine - "SLEAZE"


I've been waiting for this one. 

Tübingen's grungy stoner rockers Yeast Machine, with their uncanny ability to steal my heart, announced at the end of last year that they were working on new music. This came mere months after I came across the band in the fall of 2023, following the release of their gorgeous EP Rise of the Yeast, and fell head over heels for the band's authentic grunge sound and heart-wrenching lyrics. With that being said, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Rise of the Yeast landed securely in the #2 spot on my Top 25 Underground Releases of 2023 list. Since then, I've been closely following the updates from Yeast Machine leading up to their new album, SLEAZE, (released on April 19, 2024), their first full length album upon signing with the awesome Tonzonen Records. 

First, Yeast Machine released a series of teaser videos for the first single from SLEAZE, called Rip It Off, emphasizing the "ripping off" of a literal and metaphorical plaster. This little tidbit was enough to clue me in that this song, in typical Yeast Machine fashion, was going to cut deep emotionally. What REALLY got me was the following text from an Instagram post the band made shortly before officially releasing the single:

"Imagine, you're sitting in a weird old uncomfortable armchair, thinking about the last years, realizing that your little music project which started with one creaking guitar on a balcony, has become a real band with concerts, traveling, merch, smaller and bigger stages and people who are actually listening to the made-up stuff you wrote. 

Imagine, you're sitting in a weird old uncomfortable armchair, thinking of the next couple of weeks and months and the first album you're throwing into the world, hoping for some people to enjoy it. 

Imagine, you're on the brink of a new stage of life and the one you're in right now feels like an old, dirty plaster and you just want to...

Rip it off." 

Isn't it funny how armchairs, particularly the weird and uncomfortable ones, have a way of searing themselves into our core memories?

Can you imagine? Something that started as little more than a past time or pipe dream, but also something that you poured your heart and soul into, not only taking shape but taking off? At first, it's your bandmates, then a handful of people at gigs, then more and more people all over the world, who, in their hearts and minds, can intensely identify with what you're doing. The words you write and sing, the way you sing them, the music you play, the mood it creates, and the memories it unlocks have a unifying and healing effect on people you never would have met otherwise. How beautiful, how mind-bogglingly amazing is that? Well, it gives me an immense amount of pride and sheer joy to announce that the members of Yeast Machine find themselves in just such a predicament. People are noticing, and, more than anything, people are feeling what they're doing. If that's not the ultimate life accomplishment, I'm not sure what is. Rest assured, SLEAZE is packed full of moments that each and every listener can identify with in a big way. They're not always easy to digest (keep some tissues and a cozy chair for contemplation handy), but they're always immensely therapeutic. 

I have to admit, I wasn't sure that Yeast Machine would be able to churn out an album that was emotionally on par with their previous EPs Behind The Dead End (2021) and Rise of the Yeast (2023), but they did. In fact, they actually went above and beyond the call of duty and somehow made an album that is essentially emotional catharsis in music form, while being (as the band promised) "louder, fuzzier wilder. Calm becomes tension and dissolves into sensation."

Ladies and Gentleman, I'm beyond honored to present to you SLEAZE by Yeast Machine, track-by-track. I only hope that I can even begin to do this album justice. 


SLEAZE contains nine tracks:

1. Intro

The intro is an eerie, haunting performance, a bit of a cautionary tale:

"The train arrives
Hold your breath
To escape
Your little death

The evening came
The hour demands 
The usual fee"

Definitely not the style I envision when I think of Yeast Machine, but I mean that in a good way! This is a very interesting way to start an album, as it leaves you with no idea of what to expect, thereby psyching you up and hooking your attention.

2. Universal Avatar

Universal Avatar begins with a glorious electric buzz from the guitars, booming drums, and driving, heavy bass. This song already feels heavier than Yeast Machine's previous work, leaning more into heavy stoner/desert and darker alternative rock territory, the low rumble from the instrumentals rattling your insides. The vocals here are confident, almost smug. This fits in seamlessly with the lyrics, which seem to delve into narcissism: 

"Kick in the door
Spread like kudzu
The room is full
The room is overfilled with you

Do what you want to 
Do what you are
Universal Avatar

And oh
I come along in every shape
Show me love or
I'll dissolve in space"

3. Banshee

This track begins with a chugging fast pace, heavy on the hi-hat, building anticipation. There are many starts and stops that culminate in howls (Banshee wails?) from the vocals. Just past the halfway point, Banshee slows down considerably, causing you to stop rocking out long enough to realize you're actually listening to a rather evocative narrative. This song is more progressive in nature, effectively telling a story with constantly evolving vocals, instrumentals, and almost gives a musical theater feel. This is another style I wasn't expecting from Yeast Machine, but it's a very pleasant surprise that shows off their skills when it comes to sophisticated composition in particular. 

"And the story unfolds
By the eternal stones
Of the dead and the cold
Where the children hide
Cause they made friends with the ghost
And they are calling her name"

4. Garden Wall

Here we go... Garden Wall, guys. Can you tell from the wall of text below that I have feelings about this one?

I remember when I got the news that this single was out, I was in my kitchen making a cup of coffee when I decided to give it a listen. Bad idea. Make sure you have a soft place to fall, emotionally and perhaps physically as well, before listening to Garden Wall. Let's just say by the midway point of the song, having managed to stumble to a chair, I was just sitting there with my head in my hands saying, "Wow...oh wow," over and over. 

This haunting, heavy ballad, as the title suggests, focuses on what beauty lies behind a self-constructed wall. In my mind, a "wall" can be many things, physical or mental, that are preventing you from reaching your full potential. We put walls up as defense mechanisms, as a way to keep ourselves safe, but they often end up doing much more harm than good. Primarily, it becomes easier to remain placated, albeit stagnant, behind what a wall of lies... It's something that tells you you're not good enough, and you'll never be able to climb over it. However, if you're lucky, a crack will appear and clue you in to the "Shangri-La" that might be on the other side. Surmounting the wall is terrifying, and you may lose your footing a few times along the way, but it's always worth the climb. 

Vocal and instrumental building is utilized brilliantly on Garden Wall (and on SLEAZE as whole, I'm beginning to notice), remaining rather melancholy and doubtful in the beginning, picking up slightly in the first chorus as the initial glimmers of hope are realized, growing angry, then confident and powerful, culminating in some soul-crushing screams at the end. Those screams, quite frankly, were an audible representation of the emotions building up inside me as I listened, and were released at the perfect time in the song. That energy, the good and the bad, just had to be purged. I don't think I have to tell you that, based upon my physical response alone, I can massively identify with this powerful, touching song. However, it's that identification, combined with the way the vocals and instrumentals rise and fall in line with physical response of the listener, that makes Garden Wall so potently relatable, it's almost eerie.  

Yeast Machine made an incredible short/film music video for Garden Wall. This video really helps the listener to fully envision the meaning behind the song. I also applaud the creative choice of using the childlike, masked characters and whimsical imagery. For me, it's a great physical representation of the time in our lives when many walls and insecurities are formed: childhood. And, in my mind, the masks are representative of self-deception. 

"Your wall has been a liar
People told you about the wires 
But you don't listen anymore cause you hear the whisper's call
And the crackling of the fire 
Your garden grows 
Behind the wall
The words shine bright
You could have it all" ❤

5. 1st of July

A lovely, acoustic song with gentle, mournful vocals. This song picks up a bit at the end and leaves us with some beautiful vocalizations, ending very abruptly. Of course, this only adds to 1st of July's haunting effect, leaving you on the edge of your seat.

"I tend to be
In a pretender's body
I feel light
When you shine on me" ❤

6. Brittle Pillars

Brittle Pillars begins with thumping bass and percussion that brilliantly commence and maintain the momentum of the song. The guitars join in to brighten things up and totally rock out. The tone of the vocals, a bit more grave for the most part, tend to reel you back in and remind you that there's a tale being recounted here. In this case, it involves a plea for help from a long-lost sibling. There's a spoken word part in the middle that escalates in intensity, frantically building into the second part of the song, and peaking in a huge way. 
The last two minutes of the song utterly blast in with some gorgeous, ultra heavy, grunge/alternative-tinted guitar work and melodic yet powerful vocals that threaten to blow you away. However, you hang on tight, and they totally surround you as you get blissfully lost in the melody. These two minutes, in fact, were so lovely yet so intense, they made me a bit emotional, creating some kind of feeling for me that I can't quite identify..."marvel" and "enchantment" are the first words that come to mind. In fact, the story within this song and its imagery could easily be another theater piece. Brittle Pillars holds rank as my second favorite song on SLEAZE, second to Garden Wall, of course.

"Days open like a flower bed in Spring
Blossoms falling off my heavy wings
I catch your breath and you try to catch mine
Two lost birds fly perfectly in line" ❤

7. Circling Bird

This one has an even more charged opening than Universal Avatar, more upbeat and downright danceable (I have no shame in admitting I took a short dance break here). Among the bright, high-voltage hum from the guitars, there are some spots of low reverberation. Vocals alternate between a no frills, post-punky croon and powerful, rock n' roll screams. Circling Bird proves that stoner/grunge/rock can intermingle with a lively, dance-worthy rhythm that not only compels you to move but is sure to be a song that you find yourself singing at the top of your lungs. 

"The final drop 
Time to divide
To be the prey
Or Vogel sein

But in the end
It's all the same
And my wings
Go up in flames

Above our heads 
Engraved our names
Above our heads
Our rotten graves"

8. Rip It Off 

Here we go! Rip it Off was the first single Yeast Machine released from SLEAZE, and, as touched upon earlier, implores the listener to rip of the figurative plasters that are holding them back. 
Rip it Off starts off with a bang, making you wonder if we're in for another groovy number. As it turns out, while there's undoubtedly a tidal wave of stoner groove here, this song is ultimately one of Yeast Machine's trademark heart-wrenchers. Instrumentals alternate between delicate guitar and (primarily) fiery riffage, while passionate vocals relay sage advice:

"You gotta rip it off 
Send rivers down your arm
You gotta rip it off 
It won't do you any harm

Through the rabbit hole
A new chapter has begun
You gotta rip it off
Said the mother to her son


You'll walk another line which I haven't 
And you'll walk alone, my love
You gotta rip it off..."

I've listened to this song many times since its release, but when I listened to it in conjunction with the rest of the songs on SLEAZE, it became even clearer to me that the message Rip It Off conveys is the very spirit of the album as a whole. More on that in a minute. 

9. I Can See 

I Can See is another acoustic song that begins in a very muted and placid manner, the guitar having a bit of Middle Eastern/Desert flair. Vocals grow increasingly fervent, brightly highlighted against the softened, bare-bones instrumentals. I've always greatly respected the skill of Yeast Machine's vocalist, but hearing it in such a standout way here made me appreciate his talent even more; he has quite a knack for being able to move his voice from gentle and melodic to commanding and resonant at a moment's notice. 

"My concrete walls 
Feel safe and warm
On the other side
Rages a storm

When my eyelids fall
I can see..."

❤ = Lyrics that hit me squarely in my feelings 

Final Thoughts

First of all, my heart is so happy. Is it weird to say that I'm insanely proud of these guys? I am. I mean, I don't know them personally or anything, but I'm proud as hell. 

In that same vein, I love seeing good things happen to good people. I was downright giddy when I read that Yeast Machine signed with Tonzonen, literally jumping up and down with happiness when they announced their new album, and all but screaming when they did a gig with Giant Lungs (a band that most of you know is very near and dear to my heart). Now, as Yeast Machine continues to tour in promotion of the album, people's reactions have been massively positive. Following this amazing band's journey as musicians for the past several months has been inspiring. These guys have been working hard, and it shows.

SLEAZE is still filled with all the reasons we love Yeast Machine: the spot-on 90s-influenced sound, powerful grungy vocals, and instrumentals that masterfully vacillate between soothing, heavy and riffing, melancholy, and downright groovy. And of course, this album is still brimming over with those heartfelt lyrics that have the ability to clench at our hearts and deeply resonate with us. However, much to my amazement, SLEAZE manages to not only give us an even more raw and heartfelt experience, but it builds upon it in several ways. The core of the album seems to be a personal journey of growth; primarily of building confidence and knocking down mental and physical barriers. However, there are also a few instances of the band utilizing storytelling, interspersing lyrical narratives among the more typical "Yeasty" tunes. As mentioned earlier, these narratives are reminiscent of artful, theatrical pieces, keeping in line with the album's primary theme, but in a metaphorical way. The acoustic interludes accentuate this quality as well, serving as palate cleansers of sorts in between acts. 

Of course, I also can't fail to remind you that Yeast Machine certainly delivered on their promise to give us something weightier with SLEAZE. The band's prior work fit snugly in between grunge and stoner rock. Now, we see Yeast Machine turning it up tenfold and venturing further into the stoner, heavy alternative, psychedelic rock, and occasionally stoner metal territory. Needless to say, this is so cool to hear, and I'm certain that SLEAZE is going to make for a killer live show, especially with those Yeast Machine classics (Time is a Weird Place, Sievings, The One The Sun) folded into the set. The bits and pieces of live gigs that I've seen on video so far are infectiously energetic, so if you have the opportunity to see Yeast Machine live, DO IT!

Stoner rockers, grunge kids, alt-rock aficionados, human beings: Yeast Machine makes it abundantly clear on SLEAZE that they have all of our backs. Not only does this band continue to pull on our tattered heart strings, but they provide a soundtrack for you to heal to and relate to. With SLEAZE, now more than ever, Yeast Machine also gives us something to rock out to like no one is watching. If this band was holding anything back before, that's all gone now. The proverbial plaster has been ripped off, and Yeast Machine bears their heart, giving us their strongest, most genuine performance yet. SLEAZE is like a raw nerve, an unhealed wound that's been left to fester in a lot of darkness and neglect. The time has come to "rip it off" and talk (scream) about it. The healing will come after. 

More About Yeast Machine

You can follow Yeast Machine/listen to their awesome music at the following links:
The band is currently on tour! Be sure to follow their social media pages for updates and upcoming gigs!

And finally, a HUGE thank you to Yeast Machine for sharing your amazing music with the world. My life is certainly a little brighter having heard it. Not only are you creative geniuses who know no bounds when it comes to making open and honest music that dives deep into the human experience, but you're incredibly sweet, supportive members of the heavy underground! Rock on! 

Go forth and show Yeast Machine some much-deserved love! 


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