It's not ludicrous to imagine Yukon's second release, Medallion, as the skilled craft of ancient artisans: a large patriotic medallion on a bowl from the late Roman Empire, or the Grecian urn that sent John Keats spiraling into poetry. And like these decorated time capsules, the disc's four songs record one refined phase of the band's development, leaving room and setting the groundwork for inevitable transition and transformation.
Chiseling angular math rock into a softer, more curvaceous body of prog, opening track "Zero Gravity Chamber" features founding guitarist Denny Bowen tinkering with insane scales and punchy jazz chords, accompanied by his match, Sam Garrett, reciprocating tangents of staccato picking. Drummer Nick Podgurski and bassist Brad Smith play just as rhythmically wild and are as militant in their strides as Achilles dragging Hector's corpse behind his chariot. In the last minute of this otherwise instrumental track, Bowen screams some sinister lyrics, producing a post-hardcore finale.
The roots of transition for Yukon emerge from the second track, "Medallion." Podgurski takes over vocals duties for Bowen, who left the band during the recording. Avoiding the outright screams of his predecessor, he carefully annunciates the lyrics in a taut baritone reminiscent of J. Robbins. This track is the most poppy of the EP, and if it is jazz at all, it can be only on account of its hectic but seamlessly transitioned mélange of postpunk riffs.
"Hotel," an instrumental, is a measured and sculpted space jam, with ricocheting effects pedals on guitars pursuing melodic chord progressions. Podgurski's hi-hat snips seem suited for some kind of absurdist ballet or ballroom dancing. But ultimately, the welcome stay of "Hotel" gravitates toward a Zeppelin-esque black-magic breakdown.
If you gave Nirvana more technical ability with which to laden its down-tuned anthems, you would arrive at a song like "Totem Pole." It is one of those intellectually sound pieces of hard rock that can still get people slam-dancing in imagined mosh pits. The exuberant heavy hitting of tom drums and guitars jumping between Oxes-style ironic fiddling and muted power chords bolster Podgurski's rough vocals as they champion the flag of post-grunge.