Yumi Zouma

Willowbank

Cascine

Oct 05, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

For the members of New Zealand four-piece Yumi Zouma, it's been a long road home. It started with EPs created from files sent across continents, and progressed to a debut album recorded together but outside their homeland. Willowbank is the great return, the band finally comfortable as a band, heading back to record the follow-up to last year's Yoncalla.

The dance friendly dream pop remains, but it's a sad dream, a strong sense of absence spreading across 12 tracks. That absence might come from the fragmenting relationships of "Depths (Pt. I)" or it might be death itself on "Half Hour." On the former, Christie Simpson's hushed, whispery voice builds towards the chorus singing ominously "Cold/So cold." The sound never gets quite that chilly, only the sentiment.

As for the music, it's busy creating an impressively deceptive hole at the heart of Willowbank. Relaxed keyboards, gentle synths, and chilled guitar lines help craft an enticing trap. It's easy to stumble into initially breezy sounds, and hard to escape from the oppressive melancholia that rises up sharply. One moment fingers are clicking along to "December," the next death leaps up in "Half Hour," Simpson and Josh Burgess combining to sing "I think I'll need you when I die/When I've got no one on my side."

This mix of desperate longing and fatalism never fades, springing up regularly. "Gabriel" finds Simpson softening her vocals over somber acoustic guitar to deliver "I want to hold every word that you said/I want to kiss you before you are dead." If this is what returning home does for them, it suggests it's good for the music, if not the soul, leaving Yumi Zouma sounding occasionally like the descent of angels, even as they dread what that descent might mean. (www.yumizouma.com)

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