Yarrow are a Philadelphia punk trio, all heavy chords, mathy rhythms, and lyrics that swing from desperate to brooding, like a hyper-kinetic Shellac on a particularly-bad acid trip. (They describe themselves as “doomgaze.”) A Mild Circus is their first recording, arriving via local queerpunk juggernaut Get Better Records. The twin guitar attack of Meri Haines—also the lead guitarist and singer of equally empowering band Great Weights—and Christopher Johnson manages to remain warm and dense even without the addition of bass guitar, resulting in an ample electric shimmer; it reaches a peak on “Shyless,” where Johnson explodes into a nervy, caustic breakdown atop pummeling, In Utero-esque instrumentation: “Say goodbye to what you love, I woke up!”
A Mild Circus unfolds with five short bursts of deliberate, clearly-workshopped chaos, wrought with stark urgency. Opener “Bubble Tea” creeps in from the cosmic ether with just a few minor chords, then erupts into a lurching, looming wall of noise. Drummer Shawn Gorman’s drum patterns prove especially immersive on this track; the percussionist leans into each cymbal crash with a beginner’s abandon, a tribal sense of propulsion. On “Tambourine,” Johnson sings “I’m so sick of feeling stuck / I’m so sick of waking up,” over one of the record’s many moments of droning, loopy power. When the band finds a groove, it feels like they’ve discovered the weight of life’s challenges viscerally. In other words, this is the kind of dark dream listeners will find they don’t want to wake from either.