Album Reviews

James Yuill – Turning Down Water For Air

(Moshi Moshi) UK release date: 13 October 2008

James Yuill - Turning Down Water For Air Laptops and acoustic guitars tend to inhabit very different musical sound worlds. Put the two together, and the results are often baffling. Not so if your name is James Yuill – and make a note of that name, for it’s one you could well be hearing a lot more of. Yuill performs as a one man band, his own songs performed over acoustic guitar while a clutch of electronica, enough to fit in a guitar case, provides a supporting role.

Sometimes the electricity comes right to the front. No Pins Allowed starts off with a sudden blast of distortion that suggests Yuill has teleported himself from the bedroom to the middle of a sweaty dancefloor. Soon the veil drops, however, and while the energetic beats chug along the subtle acoustic sensibilities once again make themselves known.

It’s an engaging and entertaining mix, and once heard ensures the listener is kept on the edge of their seat, ready to wig out at any time. Yet it’s when Yuill explores the more sensitive side of his electronic arrangements that the combination works best.

The single Sweet Love is a charming and wistful example of this, wending its way pleasantly through fertile countryside before a plaintive theme works its way into the song.

When Yuill more or less ditches the electronics the songs are no less rewarding. Opener You Always Do is a vivid recall of Nick Drake, beautifully and warmly sung, while Head Over Heels charms with its nagging chorus and wonderful lyrical couplet “I need you in the morning, to make me tea, to kiss me when I’m yawning”. Of similar stock is Left Handed Girl, a warm hearted song that proclaims, “I’m your right handed man, you’re my left handed girl”

A darker sub-current lurks just beneath the surface, mind. Ghost is a sombre dissection of the emotional side of a relationship. Somehow goes further, and though it may sound like a restful coda to the album the realisation that Yuill is singing “I know you want me to hurt myself” is somewhat alarming.

Such contradictions, both emotional and musical, form the appeal of this album. Yuill has masterminded an intriguing blend of songwriting and electronic trickery, one complementing the other, and has enough edge and unpredictability to go a long way.

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More on James Yuill
James Yuill – A Change In State
James Yuill – These Spirits
James Yuill @ XOYO, London
James Yuill – Movement In A Storm
James Yuill – Turning Down Water For Air