Yumi Zouma‘s new album Yoncalla spends all of its thirty four minutes developing and perfecting that tight balance between Christie Simpson’s hushed sing-song and the rest of the band’s rhythmic pulse. A persistent twinkle winds through the tracks, sometimes in sync with Christie’s voice, sometimes acting as its own synthesized drum beat.
The band’s lyrics are, as always, a reflection – romance and memory, and a self-awareness that makes perfect sense coming from a delicate haze of sound and poetry. The entire album feeds off of that frailty, stringing along a tone so silky that it feels ready to tear, to trip on one of the fluffy clouds floating by – but holds nonetheless, extending that characteristic subtle-ness to every single song.
The very first track is “Barricade (Matter of Fact)”, which begins inconspicuously enough, swinging along with the ease of an R&B slow jive. As it progresses, the instrumentals open the song up like a white sunbeam after a drizzle, taking over the vocals and driving the point home. Simpson sings in couplets, giving way to the sphere of innocence her voice creates against the soft progressions rising up behind her. “Who cares, who cares,” she sings, “It’s all coming back to me,” filling the chorus with that same matter-of-fact-ness that graces the title of the song, and even making room for the shy, male counterpart to come in toward the end.
In “Haji Awali,” that dual chemistry makes another appearance. The sheer similarity between the two voices outweighs their differences and falls in step with the spacey chord-play that defines this particular track. Past the halfway point of the album, “Yesterday” beckons to “come follow me.” The instrumentals take on the cadence of a video game soundtrack, pausing in all the right places to take you by the hand and lead you to wherever your mission lies.
Lyrically, the track looks back on that fabled yesterday that artists tend to immortalize, in an ever- recurring display of sonic cryonics. The final song on the album is a nod to life before the euro-titled “Drachma,” and ends things on a reverberating note of farewell. “I know you’re working all the time… I see the way you say that you miss her,” sings Simpson, adapting her voice so that it merges quietly with the aforementioned twinkle. As the track builds, its questions become synonymous with wonder, and the band captures and translates a strange, inevitable uncertainty.
Yoncalla is easy to digest, with enough consistency to provide a soundtrack, and enough conceptual innovation to give an audience something to dwell on. Yumi Zouma is currently on tour and you can catch them in Williamsburg on May 28th, the day following Yoncalla‘s official release.