Yellow6: Melt Inside (Make Mine Music, 2005)
It’s been a full four years since we first pointed you in the direction of Jon Attwood, a.k.a. Yellow6, a UK-based electronic artist that creates slow-burning pieces out of guitar, keyboards, beats, and other odd noises. His menacing and rich Music for Pleasure won our acclaim with its hypnotic moody music. Since that release, Yellow6 has released a slew of other similar CD’s and EP’s, each time pushing the trademark Yellow6 sound (perhaps best described as slowcore via electronic ambience?) to further heights. Indeed, Attwood has proven to be one of the most prolific artists in the ambient scene, and he consistently releases engaging, thoughtful music.
While any Yellow6 release is a cause for celebration amongst music fans, Melt Inside, a full-length just released on Make Mine Music, intrigued me. In the time leading up to the release of Melt Inside, Attwood mentions on Yellow6’s website that the new CD will feature female vocals, with actual lyrics and songs. What? Up until now, Yellow6’s music has been characterized by ambient instrumental pieces that beg for interpretation. Melt Inside, though, was to feature a female vocalist by the name of Ally Todd. I couldn’t imagine Yellow6’s soothing and seething music matching with vocals, so I was excited about Melt Inside, and was eager to hear how Attwood and his colleague pulled it off…
On first listen, though, I was disappointed. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting…(perhaps a modern-day Slowdive with more emphasis on electronic beats?)…but I was a bit let down by Melt Inside the first time I popped it in my player. The first song, “Pacific Rough”, featured the great building of electronic fragments that Yellow6 is known for. With its menacing bassline and disparate sounds slowly gaining momentum throughout the course of the song, “Pacific Rough” portrayed the leaps and bounds by which Attwood has grown as an artist over the years. Yet, for some reason, the spoken word lyrics by Tood turned me off, and distracted me from the great musical layers Attwood was building. My disappointment continued into “Between Two”. Again, Attwood’s contribution is stellar, as the song shows Attwood’s brooding melodic. However, I was again put off by Todd’s vocals, this time sung in a vibrato-heavy tone. I almost longed for the day when Yellow6 was a solitary pursuit, as the rest of Melt Inside paired absolutely stellar electronics with what I thought was a miss-match in terms of vocal stylings. So, I put the CD away for a few weeks…
…And after some time, I turned on Melt Inside again, endeavouring to approach it with fresh ears and no expectations. I was rewarded with a sublimely intense musical experience. Somehow, approaching Melt Inside as a cohesive whole (and not as traditional Yellow6 with vocals) helped me to understand further what the artists were doing with this release. For instance, the vocal melodies interweave beautifully and dramatically on Melt Inside. Take “Solone”, for instance…tense buzz-saw sounds and tentative beats meld perfectly with Todd’s mourning vocals and despairing lyrics. The listener is held in a state of emotional dread for nine minutes, as the song builds mercilessly. On “Never Stay Too Long”, both Todd and Attwood provide vocals, creating a dark vocal combination to match the slow, foreboding electronics. “As Seen From Above” is classic Yellow6, as dreamy electronics float throughout the song. However, Todd’s sensitive vocals navigate through the drones masterfully. The 8 minute long “Sthlm” is mostly instrumental (though Todd does offer a short and sweet vocal interlude) and lingering, sounding stylistically like a remix of a song off of Slowdive’s Pygmalion. “Long Saturday” is another dreamy cut, with Todd’s vocals perfectly mixed so as to not overpower the soothing but slightly dark mood. “On Returning” breathes and sighs poison towards the object of the lyrics, and the music matches this mood. Finally, “Ten” finishes off the CD, with a hypnotic beat (the best on the CD in my opinion), humming guitar sounds, and whispered vocals. The song builds to almost an industrial-sounding composition, with busy beats and haunting noises hovering above the music. “Ten” also showcases Todd’s best vocal performance, as her tortured whispers and barely-there sung vocals only accentuate the feverish mood of the song.
Indeed, Melt Inside is curious in that, on the one hand, it will satisfy Yellow6 fans with Jon Attwood’s best electronic work, while on the other hand alienating fans of the instrumental-only nature of previous Yellow6 releases. However, as my experience with Melt Inside proves, once the Yellow6 admirer gets beyond this fundamental difference in approach, they will discover that Melt Inside is an impressive CD that adds dimension to Attwood’s musical vision. For her part, Todd pours her soul and somehow ably sings over such dissonant music, no small feat for any singer. The inclusion of a vocalist, and a good one at that (though not the distant soft-girl vocals of a Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine that I imagined; rather, Todd is a vocalist with a full-bodied woman of a voice) may see Yellow6 become more accessible to listeners, winning them more fans. To the new fans that will undoubtedly come to loveYellow6 because of Melt Inside, the idea of having a Yellow6 without vocals would seem preposterous. Indeed, without the baggage of having to match up precisely with past Yellow6 releases, Melt Inside is a delight for the ambient-dream-abstract-electronic listener.
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