When Bob Dylan released ‘Bring It All Back Home’ in 1965, the album – as well as himself – was greeted with great discontent amongst folk proponents. Dylan was seen to have turned his back on his folk heritage, alienating himself further from his peers and community with the bipartite electric/acoustic album. His message was still the same, however, his supporters’ retort was one of malevolence as he performed at the Newport Folk Festival that year to the contemptuous jeers of “Judas!” that undulated from the crowd.
Dylan’s seemingly musical affair, in hindsight, played devil’s advocate for what was come. Music and its artists have perpetually evolved, and a blinkered vision of genre purity will leave many purblind to the advancements of musical expression. For those of an archaic disposition, James Yuill’s cogent blend of grassroots folk and bedroom produced electronic beats may leave you accepting of the draconian measures that were once imposed upon Dylan’s ostensible public lynching.
However, for those of a more accommodating aural capacity, James Yuill has managed to marry two genres that are at antipodes on the continuum in order to produce a musical affair of a forlorn and intelligible heart. An exponent of his kind, the 27-year-old’s debut to Moshi Moshi ‘Turning Down Water For Air’, marks him as a troubadour of the laptop age.
The album is a mark of the bipolar times in which we live; the title of which is itself a metaphor for snubbing one important element for another. What Yuill has achieved in this is something special and endearing as an individual: an insight into the life and mind of musician scolded by life’s lessons, reposted as a means of cure.
Where Bright Eyes faulted with ‘Digital Urn’ and its considerable lack of restraint that was showed within it esoteric result, Yuill appears emancipated from this problem. Album highlights ‘No Pins Allowed’ swirls with chemically enhanced house arpeggios, breaking only to introduce tempered industrial beats and monochrome vocals; followed by ‘This Sweet Love’ and its palpating elemental rhythm, surreptitiously rendered to life with an electronic lullaby of comforting middle eight blips. These accompanied with the sensitivity shown in expression is unassumingly intoxicating; the unquiet desperation of sorrow that is expressed in ‘Head Over Heels’, ‘The Ghosts’ and ‘No Surprise’ teems with empathetic tones of a soul shedding light upon dark.
Yuill’s self-control in production has resulted in something utterly affecting and pensive to the ear: ‘Turning Down Water For Air’ manages to dissipate the elements of conventional orchestration, amalgamating the incongruous blend of electronics and folk together as a very natural form. Think Nick Drake at Postal Service’s night school of computing, and you are almost out there.