YYU – Kiss As We Walk
Label: RAMP Recordings Score: 7.5/10
Vaporwave is one of those niche-micro genres that rear’s its head up on places like reddit, 4chan and tumblr every so often. It comprises of samples that a Chicago Reader journalist described as “the most reviled form of music in the recording age” namely Smooth Jazz, 80s Lounge music and Muzak (we’re guessing he has never heard anything by Amon Tobin or Aphex Twin before). The samples are then warped in some way, by way of pitchshifting and effecting and the results have been coined as Vaporwave. It first surfaced in 2010 with James Ferrano’s “Far Side Virtual” consensually agreed as being the catalyst that birthed this new micro-genre of electronic music, and throughout the following months built up a considerable following with Warp Records’ Oneohtrix Point Never known to be both an admirer and purveyor of sorts.
Enter YYU – the enfant terrible of the Vaporwave scene. “Why is that so?” I hear you ask. Well instead of sampling the afformentioned sounds to sculpt his unique sounding instrumentals, the Kansas born producer creates his own. Utilising a rag-tag assortment of guitars, stringed instruments, keys and his own voice, YYU channels the pining, strange nostaligia and DIY, almost punk aesthetic that marks out both the vaporwave and hauntology genres but utilising his own sounds to get to a similar yet at the same time distinctly different vibe.
Therefore, following from 2012’s critically lauded album ‘TIMETIMETIME&TIME’ for US based label ‘Beer On The Rug’, YYU’s first foray beyond his own micro-scene is his first 12” single – entitled ‘Kiss As We Walk’ – for UK based powerhouse Ramp Recordings, with his second official full length album set to follow on the label later on this year.
Advancing on his aformentioned home-spun sound; the innovate producer utilises lo-fi recordings of live instrumentation and heavily effected, pitch shifting vocal refrains – that at points coming across like a garage rock version of James Blake – alongside modern, hip hop leaning, beat scene production techniques and a playful, intriguing approach to arrangement and the way his tunes ebb and flow.
Title track “Kiss As We Walk” tread similar ground to the beat centric work RAMP has peddled in the past with side-chained organ pads, breathing in amongst dull, subdued kicks and an a almost UK approach to pitched-up vocals snippets. The thing that makes this all the better and different is the extremely strange sounding, natural reverb treatments he has employed throughout, at points decreasing and increasing in feel as the track reveals itself – at one point it sounds like it has ended up in a crowed train station! The bassline seems to fluctuate around quarter and half note tones indicating to me that YYU has got a little freaky with the pitch wheel on his controller. The vocals become more prominent as the track moves on with the strange loops repeating creating an abstract yyet affecting sound collage. In short it is sick and a welcome change to all the Flylo referencing downtempo instrumentals that fly around the net with reckless abandon.
“When we were Young” is a strange beast of a tune, that took me a little while to “get” – but when it clicked I was like “YES!” – first impression are often deceiving, as they say “never judge a book by its cover.” The track, recorded in a garage, almost comes across as a demo, it sounds like a one take. But then strange vocal harmonies enter the fray a top distant strings and the gentle acoustic guitar work that characterises the track. The sound of bird song is also present, and the track dissolves to complete silence, as if the performer were taking a drag on an errant cigarette and a little sip of the coffee perched on a stool next to him, before resuming on a more upbeat tip, with driving live handclaps driving the tune along, trust me, you cant clap, sing and play a guitar at the same time, but it sounds as if he is! And that is the mastery of the multi-tracking and sound matching the producer has created!
With an album mooted for September on RAMP, I for one cant wait… I seriously recommend you listen to these cuts, especially if you take you music a little differently!