Montreal polymath Jean-Sébastien Audet, aka Yves Jarvis, has shifted consistently throughout his solo work, stitching together the fragmented moods, experiments, and quick changes of style that make up his songs into albums that somehow convey larger overall themes. Since changing his moniker around 2019, Jarvis' records have explored an ambitious range of sounds and presentations so seamlessly that it requires zooming out to really see how different each new chapter is. Upon a cursory listen, fourth album The Zug doesn't seem all that sonically removed from its 2020 predecessor, Sundry Rock Song Stock. That set found Jarvis toying with more acoustic instrumentation and interspersing his furry folk tunes with moments of Caribou-esque electronics. Opening track "At the Whims" is a swirl of psychedelic folk-rock akin to David Crosby's hazy solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name, just dotted with jumpy synthesizer lines. "Prism Through Which I Perceive" is similarly informed by '60s acid folk, returning to a jaunty acoustic guitar figure and leaning into dusty throwback production for the duration of its one-minute running time. Elsewhere on The Zug, Jarvis touches on damaged Tropicalia, stacked vocal harmonies, and moments of gentle bliss like "Endless Tube." These elements are similar to earlier records, but as the album goes on, the emphasis on electronics becomes clearer. Jarvis laces autobiographical album highlight "Bootstrap Jubilee" with bright, bubbly synth parts and electronic percussion sounds. Throughout the record, synth textures meet with organic drum loops in ways that evoke either indie experimentalists like Stereolab and Land of the Loops or the playful sweetness of Child's View on tracks like "Enemy." Like all of Jarvis' work, The Zug never stays on one idea too long, and as the 14-song tracklist zips by in just over half an hour, he gets into Terry Riley-esque repetition on "Why?," glitchy vocal prog on "Thrust," and echo-saturated funk on "What." The percussive "You Offer a Mile" sounds like a feverish meeting point between Tom Waits' Bone Machine and the paranoid growling of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, while closing number "To That End" would fit in among the most opulent stretches of Air's soundtrack work. As with each of Jarvis' albums before it, the disparate pieces of The Zug eventually congeal into a cohesive collective expression. This time around, it feels a bit more extroverted and curious than the sometimes internal worlds of earlier releases, but as with all of his work, Jarvis somehow wanders down multiple avenues of sound at once and evades expectations at every turn.
The Zug Review
by Fred Thomas