Expectations of James Yuill are high: his 2008 debut album, Turning Down Water For Air, was met with rapturous acclaim, the then 27-year-old Yuill held up as the poster boy of folktronica.
Movement In A Storm, however, defies attempts to bind it with oversimplified jargon. It is a resonating and indelible statement that Yuill is far from just some bloke with a laptop, decks and an acoustic guitar; he’s a singer-songwriter with a rare knack for crafting precocious and potent pieces of pop perfection.
Give You Away strides into earshot with a pounding synth sequence The Knife would be proud of, Yuill’s hoarse vocals at once disarming and unassuming. They are, throughout, the factor that steers the album from venturing too deeply into hedonistic, self-indulgent seams; there’s an undercurrent of subtle melancholy that is never quite pronounced, but never quite absent either.
Crying For Hollywood introduces the slightest of folk influences with a looped acoustic guitar lick, but quickly grows into a Hot Chip-esque mini-masterpiece, its component parts repeated to shimmering effect, never abused or overexposed. First In Line, similarly, exhibits a pop sensibility developed to the extent that comparisons with Vince Clarke are far from fanciful; it’s a highlight among highlights.
Movement In A Storm then deposits the first of several segments of pure folk: Foreign Shore plucks delicately along a cautionary tale of an unwanted guest, Yuill’s tones joined by those of a female accomplice in a beguiling climax.
The shade of such pristine parcels of acoustica, quite apart from being pleasures in and of themselves, allow the synth-led, full volume pop stompers to shine all the brighter: hard on the heels of Foreign Shore, recent radio playlist botherer On Your Own is an utterly vibrant electro charm that plods irresistibly into the subconscious like a more vulnerable Calvin Harris chart-topper.
Sing Me A Song then plays devil’s advocate between amped and unplugged elements, and, serving as the only track to place equal emphasis on each, ushers in the album’s second half with aplomb. There’s a bit of a touch of Japanese knob-twiddler Cornelius, and even a brief refrain that seems to channel Paul Simon‘s Graceland. Which is nice.
And while My Fears’ paranoid glitches jar ever so slightly with the preceding narrative, they are not entirely unexpected, and – following Wild Goose At Night, a delightful instrumental display of fret dexterity – their post-script in the form of Ray Gun draws out the album’s restrained melancholia further.
Album closer Taller Son, at nearly seven minutes, betrays a wealth of ideas on Yuill’s behalf, but deftly weaves them together without indulgence or pretence: it is the album in microcosm, and a fitting epilogue to an album rich in content, assured in concept and a credit to its creator.