By DJ El Toro
Like many geeks who came of age in the ’70s, I was obsessed with inexplicable phenomenon. I ransacked the local library for information on UFOs, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Easter Island, and more. But the Abominable Snowman? Not so much. The dang thing just seemed lame, like Sasquatch with a dusting of powered sugar.
But times have changed. Now I love the Yeti. Or rather, I love YETI, the infrequent journal of music & culture published by Portland denizen (and former Seattle resident) Mike McGonigal. I purchased the latest issue, #5, a few days ago, and I’ve been stuck to it like an “In Search Of…” marathon on Sci-Fi Channel.
YETI has the extraordinary ability to kindle interest in topics that might otherwise elude the reader. Heck, the latest edition opens with a great article on the more bucolic aspects of various sub-genres of extreme metal and concludes with a travel diary through the Western Sahara by Hisham Mayet, of Seattle’s own Sublime Frequencies imprint. In between, there are thoughtful interviews with Will Oldham, Akron/Family, and the widow of infamous performance artist Leigh Bowery. If, like me, you are curious about the blues, yet put off by the scholarly quality of so much writing on the subject, head immediately to McGonigal’s essay on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was the Ground.” The writing is persuasive, intelligent but not too analytical, and, most importantly, infectiously enthusiastic.
In an era when print publications are dropping like flies (No Depression, Harp, and Resonance all bit the dust in recent weeks), YETI not only has the audacity to print articles of significant length (without stretching to the patience-taxing word counts of, say, The New Yorker), but tons of visual art. In between the prose, the current issue features works — plural — by painter Michelle Blade, Kyle Field of Little Wings, and highlights from Luc Sante’s photo blog Pinakothek. I probably spent more time scrutinizing the intricacies of the drawings by German surrealist Unica Zürn than I did reading the entire last issue of Rolling Stone.
Did I mention the free CD? Every issue comes with one, featuring exclusive material spanning the same breadth of sounds and eras. The latest includes gospel selections, Dean & Britta doing a live version of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat,” a mesmerizing kinda-sorta Sparks cover by Atlas Sound (a.k.a. Bradford Cox of Deerhunter), and more. Jeff Magnum from Neutral Milk Hotel guest curates the mid-section, contributing cuts from super-rare 78s, the apex of which is a pair of tunes by 1920s Greek vocalist Marika Papagika. As with the magazine, the care with which the sublimely sequenced disc was compiled managed to make me set my prejudices aside and take notice of a band I’d heretofore not given a hoot about: Anacortes indie rockers D+.
YETI #5 is fantastic. Mythic, even. And the commitment that clearly goes into publishing it is clearly beyond reason. But it is not just a figment of some over-active adolescent imagination. It is very real, and I encourage you to pick one up today.
DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org.