By Jennifer Kahn | August 26th, 2010
“Folktronica” is a troublesome and somewhat cringe-worthy label frequently used to describe the music of UK artist James Yuill. First of all, Yuill’s music consists mainly of elements that are more acoustic/indie than traditional folk, and more house than electronica. Also… “folktronica”? That’s just a ridiculous word, period.
Technicalities and crazy labels aside, Yuill creates his own blend of danceable synth beats infused with singer-songwriter soulfulness, with gorgeous results. His 2008 release, Turning Down Water for Air, was driven by layers of airy vocals, acoustic guitar and dance-ready hooks that exuded a bubbling warmth.
I was completely enamored with “This Sweet Love” — it had the perfect mixture of tender lyrics and synthetic blips to melt my heart. “No Surprise” and “No Pins Allowed” were also in frequent rotation on my iPod.
Yuill’s newest album, Movement In A Storm, released in June earlier this year, trades in some of the poppy cuteness for a heavier tone and slightly more aggressive beats. It still has that trademark Yuill shimmer though — the song “On Your Own” glitters with light, tinkling synths that sound a little like wind chimes. I would say this and “Crying for Hollywood” — an upbeat dance track layered with guitar — are tied as my favorite songs of the album.
One thing that threw me about Movement In A Storm was the opening line of the first track, “Give You Away”, in which Yuill sings, “Nobody knows it, but it’s true / I hate myself and I hate you too.” I understand that part of the point here is to mix some melancholy with something fun and danceable, but in this case the angst just seems a bit over the top.
Movement In A Storm can be thought of as a kind of mix tape — you’ve got some mainly acoustic tunes, (“Foreign Shore”, “Wild Goose At Night”), some mainly electronic (“Give You Away”, “My Fears”), and some that are a mix of the two (“Sing Me A Song”, “Ray Gun”). The title of the album works well in describing the different genres explored within — it shifts between a thunderstorm of dance beats to a light patter of guitar strums, but all still falls under the general acoustic-electronic cloud we’ve come to know James Yuill for.