[CD Review] James Yuill, 'Turning Down Water for Air' (Nettwerk)

Pinging with warm beats and splashed with giddy loops while at the same time devoted to acoustic guitar and sighing vocals, James Yuill’s debut album has the iffy “folktronica” thing down pat. But that doesn’t mean the London-based multihyphenate is afraid to tackle other terrain. After two songs of aching wistfulness, “No Pins Allowed” rains thick sheets of distorted synths and ups the tempo considerably. It’s still sung as if Yuill were afraid of disturbing a nearby cobweb, but despite a few pregnant pauses, the music screams “dance floor.” A bit of an anomaly, perhaps, though the back-to-back “The Ghost” and “No Surprise” do flirt gamely with Italian disco.

The most immediate song, the successful U.K. single “Over the Hills,” manages a Postal Service-worthy balance of electronic iciness and pop-devoted romance, and there’s an almost deconstructed R&B vibe to “Breathing In,” with its finger snaps and sultry production. More in line with the Notwist than Beth Orton, Yuill takes an organic approach that doesn’t call attention to the slippery fusion at work. The man is an ace at remixes, having collaborated with indie-pop acts Au Revoir Simone and Tilly and the Wall, as well as famed DJ/composer David Holmes.

In his native U.K., Yuill is signed to Moshi Moshi, the taste-making label that has released albums by Hot Chip, Dntel and Architecture in Helsinki. Here in the States, he’s on Nettwerk, home to Datarock, Styrofoam and the Submarines. While more modestly pleasing than downright revelatory, Turning Down Water for Air has the well-crafted components to win over fans of all the above. And with such a melancholy, bedroom aesthetic, you could even file Yuill comfortably alongside Nick Drake and Red House Painters.


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