‘Sweet Shelter’ from the norm – A Review of Yatte’s New Release
Back in November of this year I was drafted in as a guest host on the excellent Forever Synth. That particular episode featured Austin-based artist Alex Chod who was guesting to discuss his collaborations project ‘Yatte’. What I quickly discovered is that Alex shares my love and passion for Genesis, Big Philly Collins and the warm blanket that is Yacht Rock. History has often deemed a love for these artists and genres as cheesy dad rock and not at all fashionable. Well fuck that. Alex was balls to the wall, even sporting a Genesis 80s tour tee for the occasion.
So I was extremely pleased to hear from Alex just a few weeks later when he shared with me Yatte’s new release, Sweet Shelter. The follow up April 2020’s Shadow Work.
So we did what we do here on the 11th floor of the American Gardens Building, and we gave it a listen.. What resulted was all i’ve really asked for – Something unique and different. Something that takes its influence from more imaginative sources. So let’s go through it.
This 9 track collection starts with Cliquet d’Energie. A short instrumental that slaps straight out. Yatte are not afraid to take an up-beat and positive stance and throw it at you. Whilst technically an instrumental, there are those recognisable Yatte harmonies that plug you into the vibe. I’ve always enjoyed the use of intros in such a way that the tropes of that short 1 minute section will play through the rest of the tracks. The self titled energy of the track is your guide. Prep you for the journey.
Sweet Shelter – The title track of the album and we are thrown straight in. The percussion has the distinct vibe of Collins but it carries a Christopher Cross-like softness to the mix. The synths are let free to run wild and the vocal arrangement is ballsy and lends itself to the experimental prog rock arrangements that divided music lovers in the 70s. It’s intelligent and a welcome progression to many of the albums that lands in my inbox.
Heatbeat – Track 3, Heartbeat brings the guitar a little more into focus. Opening with what feels like a strong Tears for Fears-like arrangement but very well contrasted with verses that reminded me of golden era Beach Boys in their lightness and Tiki-Bar playfulness. Heartbeat is the longest track of the Sweet Shelter collection and the track’s complexities lend themselves to needing that time. Any shorter and it would feel contrived, but its nearly 5 minute running time lets the track evolve. It’s intelligent writing. One of my favourites.
Not The Same – The transition between Heartbeat and Not The Same feels like a remedy. I’ll try and explain why. We find ourselves with a funky, R&B track carrying some strong Alexander O’Neil tropes. The contrast between the tracks is strong, but the familiarity of the musical eras keeps the contrast from being too much. For me, the remedial qualities bare fruit when it comes to the willingness to open your album up to such a mixture of influences from a range of 70s and 80s artists. Up to now, Sweet Shelter has scratched my prog and yacht rock itches but with Not The Same it’s playing to my weakness for some straight up 80s and 90s R&B. Yatte aren’t the first to take spin at this angle but they are one of just a few who are now progressing those sounds. And we need that.
Stay – The biggest stand out factor to Stay are the vocals. This track is drenched is Bowie and Scritti vibes from start to end. It’s a soft space-like adventure where the synth and percussion serve the vocals in just the right way. Click on the video below. You’ll dig it.
Spirit Calls – Even the most miserable of listeners would struggle not to have their mood lightened by track 6, Spirit Comes. The opening bars immediately reminded of Deniece Williams’s ‘Lets Hear It For The Boys’ but then it switches to some almost 8-bit qualities as this summer track continues. Some well placed sax in the final quarter polishes is off nicely.
Battle Lines – Ballard time with Battle Lines. Well placed in the running order and well-paced as a track, Battle Lines is the most subtle track on the album but much like the title track, the vocal arrangements are clever and help to elevate it.
Ohayo – Ohayo is quite smart in its execution. Lyrically its clear that our narrator is not doing to well with his lady and isn’t quite sure why he’s been given the cold shoulder. He’s looking for that Ohayo – That casual hello and good morning that seems to have been lost. There are some nice synths here that slightly reminded me of Casiopea but very quickly contrasted by the aggressive electric guitar licks that criss cross the track. Then we have some very Yatte-like harmonies. It feels like the mind of a confused man, but considering the variety of musical styles that are included here, it works well.
Gozaimasu – Running straight off the back of Ohayo,Gozaimasu runs as the perfect outro to Sweet Shelter’s 9 tracks. I’m a fan of an outro that is done well and this highlights reel of the key sounds from the rest of the album is welcomed. It reminded me a lot of Duke’s End from Genesis’s 1980 album Duke and makes you want to listen to the album again and pick up on all the elements that Yatte include’s in those final 3 minutes.
As a collection of tracks, Sweet Shelter hold an important place in my assessments of the musical stylings of 2020. In a year where we have artists in a certain scene covering each others tracks, somewhat well and others not so well, Yatte reminds us, in a very similar way to that of Sunglasses Kid, that there is so much great music out there that can have an influence on the producers of today if you just explore and keep and open mind. And the world needs that ongoing creativity. I don’t care if you call it Synthwave, Synth pop, Yacht Rock or Yachtwave. It’s just fucking fresh. Let’s keep that going.
If you haven’t done so, go and listen to ‘Duke’ by Genesis or Christopher Cross’s self titled 1979 album. Those are great albums that Yatte and Sweet Shelter bring to mind when listening to this bold and inventive collection. We’ve been lucky enough to have a small number of releases this year that open people’s musical education. Yatte joins the list.
Sweet Shelter is out now and you can pick it up at Yatte’s Bandcamp page. If you love an artists work, go buy it and help them make more.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.