Yumi Zouma is a groove-pop band hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand. It began as a project in 2013 between three friends who never thought their music would go beyond their own little circle. The band now consists of Christie Simpson, Sam Perry, Charlie Ryder, and Josh Burgess. The EP collection is a compilation of their first two eps and Yumi Zouma has found that perfect combination of people to capture a special musical magic.
“A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers” kicks off EP 1 and it is instantly addictive. It has all the flavor of cool Rhodes organs, funky bass, trip-hop beats, and the silky-smooth voice of Simpson. There is an ease here in the composition with every component subtle, laid back, and perfectly, well, groovy. “Sålka Gets Her Hopes Up” just drips with an R&B feel with bass sitting back in the pocket and echoing snare. The Rhodes organ provides a bed for the rest of the band to float over and Simpson gives an incredible performance. The band even plays with volume in the vocals to bring them forward and into the background to change up the feel. “The Brae” changes the atmosphere a bit with dreamy acoustic guitars shimmering into the speakers. This piece reminds me a bit of Club 8. This could easily have been a single from the EP because it is catchy, full of melodic hooks, and of nostalgia, evoking the ethereal sounds of the 70’s. There is also a male vocalist in the track that plays nicely off Simpson’s addictive vocals. This is pop perfection in all the right ways.
“Riquelme” begins with warm synths and slightly wavy drones. Shakers, snaps, and light bass provide some structure while Simpson sings an urgent melody over the music. Simpson sings “I don’t wanna leave/you and me/It’s gone the wrong direction/turn/Don’t get burned/you’re my girl/I need that deep affection too/here with you/yeah, it’s cool/bud you really want me babe.” The relational longing in the lyrics is reflected in the darker tones and more melancholy melody of the song. “It Feels Good to be Around You (feat. Air France)” has a spoken word part about meeting Air France and a conversation about missing the band. There is a slower R&B feel to this track with subtle drums and slow, warbly, dreamy guitars. Simpson almost speaks her lyrics as if telling a story. The electronic drums give an electronica flavor, mixing the genres a bit. “Right Off the Bridge” is a bonus track added to EP 1 from the outtakes of EP 2. This is a fast-paced composition with an amazing complexity at points. The band plays with different percussion structures, giving different feels through beats and volume. High-hat really holds the song together as a constant thread through its entire run. I call this band a groove-pop band precisely because of tracks like this, with its ability to get you moving even while you are sitting. This is the sort of music that just dares you to move.
EP 2 begins with “Dodi”. It has a expressive guitar that has this warm, inviting tone. The bass work is just flawless here, with perfect phrasing choices as a centerpiece. The move from EP1 to EP2 shows growth in the writing of the band and their execution. There was a year between both and there was definite growth here. “Alena” begins with sounds of rain and droney organs. There is an infectious high-hat and beat through this song. Bright piano punctuates the rhythms while Simpson uses every phrase she expresses to perfection. This is danceable pop without any of the derivative drivel that inhabits so much of pop music. “Catastrophe” has a strumming guitar with these beautiful accented guitar lines over it. The bass almost has a world music feel to it. The composition here is intricate with many layers to pay attention to along the way. There is a clear tension in the musical composition which is reflected in the lyrics. Simpson sings “Love me like you should/you know I never could/I’m better now, it’s minimal/show me all your fears/as we wait for this to clear/but no one seems to notice though.” This is a song that is powerfully emotive.
“Second Wave” is another track that evokes Club 8 for me. This is a mid-tempo pop tune with beautiful, wave like drones that brings a fullness to the song. The chorus is stripped down and the deeper tones drop out and then come back into the mix. The quality of the composition is deep, chill, and inviting. “Song for Zoe & Gwen” is the finale to the disc and has an almost classic 80’s feel to the chorus, with Simpson reaching into her upper registry throughout. The verses are dreamy, with reverbed-out vocals and a driving beat. The synths really create another layer of ethereal haze, which is a signature of the band.
Yumi Zouma prove to be an incredible find. Their pop sensibilities have this groove (hence groove-pop) that is addictive. The EP Collection is a great way to get into their beginnings and to being to understand the magic this band creates. Yumi Zouma’s brand of pop takes all the greatest parts of the pop, R&B, and electronica and mixes them in a cauldron of wonder to create infectious pop gems that will get you moving.