Review Summary: Eighty One could be the electronica record this premature summer has been shouting out for.
Last week marked the arrival of British Summer Time, an event that’s usually only significant for creating a 60 million-strong groan about a lost hour of sleep, but this year British Summer Time has done something unheard of: introduce summer time in Britain. Hypnotic ice cream van jingles are flooding kids with adrenaline, beaches are choking under the weight of thousands of not-so-long-ago Christmas dinners, and faces are turning from white to a handsome acid-burn red. This has been one of the warmest Marches in British history. And it could do with a soundtrack, really.
Joe Corrales Jr. may have provided just that. Despite being a Californian, the man behind Yppah seems to have his instincts firmly rooted in the British Isles because his latest release, Eighty One
, has come out at the perfect time to introduce another premature British summer. Densely layered with bass-heavy beats, shimmering guitars and spacey glitches, Eighty One
is a trip-hop record designed for rolled-down windows and backdrops of sun, sea, and sand. But unlike many other summery electronica records, Eighty One
isn’t vacuous or shallow; it carries weight in its highly influenced personality. There’s a darkness, a grittiness evident in many of the songs here which elevates it to a place above the dime-a-dozen tracks usually featured at the arse-end of Ministry of Sound’s chill-out albums.
The Newsom-esque vocals of Anomie Belle, with their swagger and soul, match up perfectly with the confidence and cool delivered in the tracks she accompanies. Tracks like 'Film Burn' and 'Three Portraits' utilize her ability to blend into – and work with - the background elements of tracks, with Corrales knowing the right times to pull her onto centre stage. But even without her the artist knows how to suspend a song between the blurry posts of engaging and easy-going. The Moby-influenced 'R. Mullen' starts strong with a simple rhythm sat behind some ethereal male and female vocals, propelled in the middle by a twinkling melody section, but it dies out beautifully, if prematurely, with reverb-heavy, sun-scorched guitars soaking up those last few seconds.
The album succeeds because it knows what works, and does just that. Unfortunately, this can also be its biggest flaw. It doesn’t try to run with a good idea, and this frustrates at times – such as when 'R. Mullen' ends just as it’s hitting its stride. Corrales seems intent on fitting his songs into the same-sized box, regardless of their potential: all the songs are almost identically long – with only 61 seconds separating the shortest and longest. Greatness maybe within reach, but unrealized; evident on highlights like 'Never Mess with Sunday'. But maybe we should heed that title, and treat this album like an unspoilt Sunday: not to be messed with. Sometimes it’s better just to chill out and not work up a sweat, but for the sheen from the summer sun. Like the weather, it may not last long, but for now I don’t care; I’m happy enjoying what Yppah and Eighty One
has to offer.