Following last year's collaborative Money $ex 01 EP, The Yard Work Simulator is Graef and Astro's first full-length together. It's said to be "a dance record without the obvious components," but no discernible concept or direction is established. Instead, the pair simply find nine stoney spots in the house spectrum where their talents mesh together. Often a sign of a successful collaboration, it's hard to tell who exactly is responsible for what on each track.
Hip-hop is usually a staple of each artist's solo material, but there's none of that here. There is, though, plenty of head-nodding material. The galactic-funk excursion of "Money $ex Theme," the title track (which evokes Madlib jazzy project, Yesterday's New Quintet) and the sublimely spacious "Viktor's Blues" venture furthest into funky electronic jazz.
When Graef and Astro move to the dance floor, the results are hardly straightforward. "Flat Peter" uses thick drums and a walking bassline to anchor its endless cycle of swirling chords and electronic gurgles. "W313D" bristles on the edge of mutant house. The album's percussive lead single, "Magic Johnson," is a blunted Rhodes jam session complete with frantic live drums, turntable scratches and a barrage of squelching synth.
The Yard Work Simulator covers an impressive range, but any conceptual throughline is muddled by its hazy meandering, which isn't a surprise. The duo's skill with playing outside the confines of functional club music is among their strongest attributes, and sure enough, erratic arrangements, slippery musicianship and a playful spirit are the album's focus. Even if Graef and Astro don't seem to be headed anywhere in particular, it's still fun to hitch a hot-boxed ride with them.