James Yuill: On his own, immersed in electronic melancholia

A new genre: London-based electronic musician James Yuill plays at the Indoor Tennis complex in Senayan, last Friday.
A new genre: London-based electronic musician James Yuill plays at the Indoor Tennis complex in Senayan, last Friday.

There is something riveting about electronic music. The visceral beats, the layers of sound, the buildup to a stop and a shattering climax — to return the same cycle. A bit like real life.

London-based electronic musician James Yuill takes these hypnotizing sounds to a new level. He carries melancholia through subdued acoustic guitar and emotional lyrics. Blending folk and electronic music, the one-man-band has created a unique sound that will move one to both dance and cry.

The 29-year-old joined Melbourne band The Temper Trap last weekend on its Indonesian tour to Bali, Jakarta and Bandung.

Yuill tends to perform on his own, with his guitar, turntable, synthesizer and laptop, and sings about being alone in On Your Own. With his soft voice, he sings about sorrow: I stand there with nothing but blood in my veins/needlessly washing away the refrain again. His fingers go from gently strumming guitar chords to playing the synthesizer for samples of beats and blips.

Influenced by the indie-folk legend Nick Drake and techno virtuosos such as Aphex Twins and Chemical Brothers, Yuill has successfully combined different genres into something the London music scene dubs as “folktronica”.

His beats can do two things. They will either heighten the pain from the emotional words and
folksy tunes — burning your heart with melancholia — or mask it as something harmless, letting the
sorrow subconsciously seep into the back of your mind while dance takes over.

At a press briefing Friday, the blonde bespectacled man said he did not consciously decide to merge the two different styles of music. “It just felt natural at the time,” he said.

Yuill recorded his first album Vanilla Disc in 2005. “When I was recording I started to layer all of different things on top and kind of messed around with electronics.

“After touring for four years, as I learned to use the software and control things live, my music took on a harder dance edge,” he said. Yuill released his latest album Movement in A Storm this year under the Moshi Moshi record label.

Friday’s performance showed a tall Yuill lost in his music, bouncing his knees to the beat. He played tunes from his latest album, singing My Fears, a tender song that shows both strength and vulnerability.

Amidst looping beats, Yuill drawled the words: separate the me inside of you/my fears will get me through. The ballad Foreign Shore is dark and bittersweet, with Yuill warning a woman about a man that’s: “Known/known by law/to be a traitor from a foreign shore.”

Carrying his camera, Yuill took pictures and videotaped the audience saying hi to the camera. He mentioned he would be selling his merchandise and signing autographs in the next tent after his performance.

When a woman in the crowd gave an exulted cry, he cheerfully said: “Whoa! Extreme reaction over there!” then quickly added in a self-deprecating way: “I wish I got that [reaction] at home.”

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Entertainment | Fri, November 19 2010

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