Life in a Shell by yolabmi

yolabmi | Life in a Shell
Vaagner/Vaknar (CS/DL)

Japanese producer yolabmi has been making his unique soundscapes for the last few years, and work has cropped up on compilations and suddenly this year on at least three cassette tapes on various labels. He’s likely one of those rare artists to keep an eye on as his sound combines icy elements alongside a trove of world music understanding. He’s able to conjure miles of visual, topographical imagery without ever moving inches from his mixing board. It’s a sound full of emotion, undulating high and into the deserted.

Life in a Shell is most definitely a great first dose of what this artist has to offer. Cinematic drones that keep unfurling throughout, it’s like this magical audio scroll. But there’s a shadowy underside to what may be hidden deeply within this ‘shell’. Through minor tones and covert voices Life in a Shell keeps concealed much from the listener, only emitting enough to tempt continued attention. In doing so, it’s a little bit of a game with occasional field recordings of birds and conversation that are floated through.

The coverart plays on some of the ray-o-graph style images of Man Ray (circa the 1920’s) and some of the microsounds sparsely injected here are so fluid they recall early 00’s Scanner. All the while the twenty-five minute work continues to use sound as light, in and around any physical (percussive) effects, like one of those noir scenes where someone is being hypnotized by a spinning optical illusion.

When you flip the tape the story continues where it left off, with a purring engine, disguised partial voice samples, revving synths and much smoke n’ mirrors. With its reverse technologies on full-tilt this is any mad scientist’s wet dream, just add water 😉 But seriously, yolabmi has some serious chops in the atmosphere dept. Side two outdoes its counterpart in my opinion, it’s less murky and more quirky. Life As A House is one of those tracks that makes you pinch yourself as if to ask, “am I here?” Likely becuase it uses complex tonal progression that sounds as if you are slowly sinking into an elongated rabbit hole. An unusual, unexpected standout for 2019.

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