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Album Review: Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla

2 min read

Yumi Zouma have lived the possibilities of modern telecommunications technology.  After forming in Christchurch, New Zealand, the members then scattered to the wind, ending up as far afield as New York and France.  Yet despite this separation, the group continued to produce music, utilising the internet to collaborate, and the group’s EPs to date were composed this way.  Yoncalla, the debut LP from Yumi Zouma, broke with this approach and saw the band writing together – face-to-face – while on tour, and recording the resulting songs over a three-week tour break in Paris.

Yumi Zouma - YoncallaGiven the intercontinental origins of the album, you might expect more of a global flavour to the sound of the music, instead it walks very narrowly – albeit extremely well – down the path of synth/electro-pop.  The international influence on the band and their music is expressed through the lyrics and titles; Text From Sweden, Haji Awali (haji being an honorific applied to one who has completed the Hajj pilgrimage), Drachma (the former currency of Greece), and Yoncalla is a small town in Oregon, USA, where the band spent a few days downtime while touring.

Barricade (Matter Of Fact) starts Yoncalla off with a chilled and laid back vibe, the song building nicely before relaxing into a subdued close.  Yumi Zouma really hit their stride towards the middle of the album with songs like Remember You At All, with the cheerful melody juxtaposing well with the strong electronic beat, and the askew guitar riff and fuzzy beat of Better When I’m By Your Side.  The bombastic, electro-pop, energy of Short Truth hooks the listener, making it is easy to see why this has been selected as one of the records singles.

Yoncalla is ended on a high note with the exceptional Drachma.  Christie Simpson’s breathy vocal delivery creates a sense of fragility – where a similar approach on Barricade (Matter Of Fact) just came across as detached – which counterpoints the sense of heaviness and tension generated by the insistent palm-muted guitar that underlies the song.  A string section is added to bolster the tracks gravitas and isn’t overused, showing Yumi Zouma’s compositional skills at work.  Yoncalla is a solid album before you even consider that it is the sound of a band trying a drastically different approach to writing and recording their music, and with it Yumi Zouma have set high expectations for future releases.