Experimental hip-hop artist and, dare I say, singer-songwriter from Kansas YYU’s new single, and his first bit of new music since his TIMETIMETIME&TIME album for “vaporwave” label Beer On The Rug, comes in the form of the Kiss As We Walk 12” for UK-based experimental label RAMP Recordings.
It contains two cuts of esoteric weirdness that takes in the best of the LA Beat Scene’s production techniques with strange home spun sound effects, natural acoustic reverb treatments and a knack for vocal manipulation that is much in the vein of the UK’s 2-Step and Funky scenes. It’s therefore not a stretch to say that these treatments are also much in the vein of US Garage legend Todd “The God” Edwards, one of the main drivers (not purposefully mind) behind recent developments in the UK’s “Hardcore Continuum” and a primary influence behind the “Speed Garage” movement of the mid to late ’90s.
I mention all of this as YYU has not really crossed the Atlantic into the Europe’s musical landscape as of yet, with little to no European love being given to his Beer On The Rug release. Further exploration of his sound reveals further definite UK predispositions. The little sonic idiosyncrasies that reside within his rough-shod productions, such as the chopped vocals, the foley sound, his lo-fi sound palette and his general abstract tendencies, mark his songs out as much more than the neo-blog, micro-genre bandwagon jumping junk that is usually cultured and dumped by users on Reddit, Tumblr and 4Chan. It is not, therefore, hard to see why his sound has been picked up by RAMP, arguably one of the UK’s most important modern beat leaning labels.
Opening number (or side A) “Kiss As We Walk” comes across as one of the most startling pieces of beat scene work of at least this year, with swooning pads, pulsating alongside, muffled boom-bap kicks, the aforementioned pitched, effected vocal snippets and rim-shot snares that dance along in triplet timing — once again, probably unbeknownst to him, referencing UK dance culture. The whole tune is enveloped in a crust of homemade ambiance that perhaps suggests that ample amounts of an audio technique known as “re-amping” were employed to create the otherworldly landscape that the tune resides within. It doesn’t pound or stomp along, but instead flows like a gentle stream with elements weaving in and out of focus as the tune journeys to its conclusion.
“When We Were Young” (side B) is a heartfelt song that describes the one thing we all, as humans, have in common: death. It isn’t dark or depressing, in fact quite the opposite. It is haunting only due to the fact that the sense of nostalgia evoked is almost overpowering at points, with softly delivered vocal verses playing off against a gently strummed acoustic guitar. Birdsong heralds in the second section of the tune, replete with live hand claps to drive the tune along. YYU’s range is impressive and his voice unique, and the way he plays with it is very much akin to the UK’s James Blake.
All things said this is a lovely record and serves a great introduction to YYU, especially to Europeans. His debut album for RAMP is out in September. It should be great if these tracks are anything to go by!