YELLO

Compulsory listening for all hi fi people. Top notch band. Top notch examples of electronic music taken to the edge of technology, combined with live performance work.

1980 Solid Pleasure Ralph Records (re-issued by Mercury Records/Vertigo Records) – –
1981 Claro Que Si Ralph Records (re-issued by Mercury Records/Vertigo Records) – –
1983 You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess Stiff Records/Elektra Records (re-issued by Mercury Records 65 184
1985 Stella Stiff Records/Elektra Records (re-issued by Mercury Records) 92 –
1987 One Second Mercury 48 92 Featuring Billy Mackenzie and Shirley Bassey
1988 Flag Mercury 56 152
1991 Baby Mercury/PolyGram 37 –
1994 Zebra Fourth & Broadway – –
1997 Pocket Universe PolyGram – – Featuring Stina Nordenstam on “To The Sea”
1999 Motion Picture Polygram – –
2003 The Eye Motor Music – –
2009 Touch Yello Polydor – –

Other albums
Year Album Label UK US Additional information
1986 1980–1985 The New Mix in One Go Mercury – – Remix album
1992 Essential Mercury – – Compilation album
1995 Hands on Yello Urban Records/Motor Music – – Remix album
1999 Eccentrix Remixes Mercury – – Remix album
2007 Progress and Perfection – – – Audi A5 promo album


 

SOLID PLEASURE – 1980

We’re talking 1980! Look at what else was happening at this time and compare. From the start – streets ahead.

Bimbo
Listen to the drums – synthetic and the chromatic scale on the old analogue synth at the start behind the slow rap. (in English)
Riff driven bass lines with rapping over the top. Listen carefully and you’ll hear a delicate little ‘glassy’ sound above all this rhythm stuff. Complex mix of sounds.
Quite a commercial sound at the time. Zappa like sense of humour in use of voice. Massive influence on UK electronic commercial bands at the time.
In the hook – backing in one key – vocals in another key. A kind of polytonality.
Fade out at the end – proabably seen as their single …..

They sound young.

Night Flanger
Change of sound. heavier. Real drums and bass alongside electronics. (Very low pitched snare drum similar to Pink Floyd snare) Reminds me of Holger Hiller in some respects. (Also around at the time) Again, riff driven but heavier in sound than track 1.

Strange chords in synth behind the vocal. Real catchy hook and a beautifully played guitar solo in the middle. Gorgeous tone. Stringy and mellow. (Lots of British Electronica totally turned their backs on guitar – a mistake) It really adds an ‘expressiveness to the electronic sound.

For 1980 – deep bass. Even in the remixed version! There is a sense of the future drama of their following albums in this.

Reverse Lion
Bass riff with synth sounds and backwards samples.

Downtown SambaMagneto Massage Assistant’s cry

Not a samba but using elements. (Rhythmic) plus whooshing sounds at start and the drums start to play kind of in a different time signature to the opening which kind of displaces the sound for a short while. Riff driven with faded/backwards samples.

Elements of Latin American percussion next and a sax section. Great sense of humour. In the main section, the bass plays a typical Latin American bass line (Cross rhythms) with all sorts of mayhem going on above. (including Spanish speaking voices – Mexican I think)

This all clears away for a dramatic swirling chord with some deep bass thuds. Very Doctor Who – this is not commercial. More Pink Floyd type of sounds. Basically a drone effect with samples fading in and out and a low beat on a bass drum in the background. The beat starts to come forward and the drone becomes more focussed onto a note. Almost BBC workshop type stuff.

A new drone introduces a ‘chant’ on voices. Very dramatic. Background samples introduced. Drone moves higher.

This is almost DSOTM like in intensity. Spoken voices. Illustrating screams in the backgrounds. This is a real electronic soundscape.

Bostich

Amazing mono-tone rap. Gotta be heard to be believed!! They have performed this all of their career. Brilliant.

Rock Stop
Reggae opening with electronic sounds. Typical 50’s rock sequence. Hammy guitar solo. Great humour. Surprisingly – no bass guitar sounds. Synth led.

Coast to Polka
Almost like an ‘oom pah’ band played on electronic instruments. Synth solo up top with again, all sorts of samples jumping in and lots of electronic ‘phasing’

Blue Green
More serious in contrast to the ‘comic’ ‘Coast to Polka’. Congas, drones, guitar, wind sounds. Bass line played by synth, continuous dotted rhythm. It almost reminds me of Jean Michel Jarre’s stuff as far as the body of the sound goes. The guitarist’s phrasing is really good over the top of swirling synths. An extended guitar solo with synths and vocals underneath.

Eternal legs
Quite 80’s sounding. You can hear the influence that this stuff had on British Electronic music. More commercial for that time. Thinner texture than the other stuff – almost minimalistic in production. There is a ‘sawtooth’ synth solo that reminds me so much of Pink Floyd keyboard solos that move above a fixed bass line. It breaks down into electronic/industrial sounds.

Stanztrigger
Industrial sounds and samples. It starts with a soundscape and a bass drum rhythm underneath. Sounds come and go into the mix. The beat keeps going. very strong left/right info, so can be uncomfortable for headphones. A mad track.

Bananas to the Beat
Latin American beat with a comic vocal line. Strong synth bass. Funnily enough, this could have been a commercial type number, but it’s not. Sort of off the wall. Good hook line though.

Thrill Wave
back to serious business with a faded in synth drone. If you listen really carefully, there are harmonics in the sound that appear as it grows. It gradually builds in texture and dynamic and then fades away.

I.T. Splash
Heavy bass riff led. Reverb ridden vocals. Latin American type beat on the kit with traffic noises! Wailing guitar.
Gluehead
Almost manic!! No bass. Drums, distorted guitar snips, and distorted vocals. Compared to later, their voices do sound young! The voices seem more part of the mix than at the front. Lots of wailing and distortion.

Smirak’s Train
You can hear the train coming at the start in the music. They kind of imitate a train engine in music. (A modern train) Ostinato rhythms (keep repeating) All bassed on the one note – similar to a technique used by Frank Zappa in some of his extended solos. Lots of echo on the guitar sounds so they repeat and fade away in the mix. More like an improvisation over a drone with synths (and voices) drifting in and out of the mix.

Bostich (N’est-ce pas)
Miltary opening before we get back to the mono-tone rap again. Different mix. Elements of the race in this mix with the shouting voice – ‘Everybody’.

This isn’t my favourite album but it contains elements of what was going to happen with Yello. The brilliant use of sampling technology. The use of the mono-tone voice. Sparing use of electric guitar. The Latin American percussion.

It takes me right back to the experimentation of the 80’s with electronics and getting away from Punk. It’s not a massively commercial album but has some really interesting material that perhaps they could do because Dieter was so rich and didn’t need the money!! It led the way for what was to come.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJFShE1VfEc


 

CLARO QUE SI

This one translates as ‘Of Course’.

It is a more mature album than number 1 and shows a more consolidated approach to album making. Almost as though they’ve taken elements from the first and started to really form that Yello sound that I love to listen to.

Again, not their best imo, but starting to really demonstrate Yello characteristics of the future. An easier listen perhaps than number 1 too. Less Soundscape stuff but the riff basses remain, the sense of humour, and the start of using cliche which they are masters of.

Daily Disco
To me, this track is like an 80’s electronic chart mickey take!! It has that 80’s thinness in sound, a disco beat and a catchy chorus/hook. Slightly dark opening on the synth where there it goes down a semi-tone at a time before we get the ingredients of disco served up. Repeated piano chords, slightly manic vocal Above the vocals a quietly played counter melody on another synth. Verses linked together with a typical bass link to a chorus.which includes a semi-quaver repeated patter used so much in disco stuff. The chorus reminds me SO much of the Pet Shop Boys. There there is a middle section where a series of rhythms are played with synth sounds creeping around. One of the sounds creeps around the stereo image and another ominous sound creeps in and out like an aeroplane diving around. No melody. Just rhythmic stuff before a bass riff starts up and a new section begins with a creepy synth and a piano. Then in typical disco style the return of the chorus.

No More Roger
Bass riff with a heavier sound than Daily Disco. This one incorporates a vocoder on the vocals with a strong bass rhythm below. Really strong rhythmically. The vocals start to sound typically later Yello here with the electronic manipulation of the voice and some rather modern synth melodies in the background.

Take It All
Dramatic bass line and booms in the start with some serious ‘space’ shots over a riff. A lovely ‘detuned’ synth appears, screeching away with hits and glissandos going on above. (slides) Dark sounding and industrial with a little electronic chaos added as a seamless link to …

The Evening’s Young
Here is a future Yello sound. It’s been sort of happening in the first album but here it is plain and there in your face. A strong riff set against an upbeat rhythm and a repeating bass note and various electronic sounds. Another typical Yello feature that starts here is the brilliant use of a pause before continuing and the DEEP vocal from Dieter. He is a master of deep voice and short bursts of vocals with comments added for good measure. The mix is altered behind his voice and there are even ‘crowd sounds. I love the way that the riff stops for a short while and then goes off again. This became a typical Yello musical trait later in classics like ‘The Race’. Big synth sounds with an echoey announcement in the background. To me this is the predecessor of The Race. I love this track. It’s cheeky and full of mini solos coming and going inside the mix with Dieter’s style starting to really show. Material also gets taken away from the background while he’s vocalising. For me, real Yello starts here. This links to an synth instrumental that is almost film like in the way that it is written. It’s a stark contrast to the previous stuff. It sounds almost lost with the synth string sound and growling bass with assorted sounds in the middle of the mix.

It links to …

She’s Got a Gun
Applause and an announcement. Dieter’s speech seems to suddenly fit with the music that starts. It’s almost western in style. To me, very evocative of a film score like the Good, Bad and the Ugly. When the lady appears, the congas start with a Latin American beat. Dieter telling the story while the band illustrate what’s going on musically. Brilliant, mature stuff. Very tense and you feel that the story is really building with riffs and samples in the background. Again, another classic piece of early Yello.

Ballet Mechanique
Train sounds, shots, bass riff, fantastic drum sound. The guys shouting with their voices electronically manipulated. Dieter’s voice is actually quite mechanical as well. Some great bass drum whacks. Dieter is really using his voice up and down in an attempt to tell the story. A bit of reggae on the guitar and an inverted drone on the synth before we hear a kind of synthesised chorus type of thing which extends into the story. Almost sounds free of form, just following the words.

Cuad el Habib
Repeating bass line with foreign words. Again, this is going to be typical future Yello. Creeping chromatic lines with a curious rhythm once the verse starts. Electronic and real drums mixed beautifully. A rather delicate solo in the middle almost drowned out by the backing!!

The Lorry
Heavy beat with a shouted vocal over the top. It has a heavy sound, but it’s not played loudly! Lots of short electronic samples. There is that typical repeated bass note again with a lovely guitar solo over the top. I love the guitarist’s playing. The ‘moronic’ hook is great. You’ll guess when you hear it.

Homer Hossa
Faded in synth sounds with waves. Reminiscent of the earlier track in the first album. Could be used in Seaworld. Bird samples and imitation of birds (perhaps) on synths. Congas and spoken voice with elephant sounds!!! Tropical. No real bass line, just low thumps which forms an ostinato pattern. (repeating) Very evocative. Again, for me, sounds film like, especially with the added voices shouting in the background on a beach. (perhaps) Lovely wooden sound which evokes steel pans where they repeat notes very quickly. Basically rhythmic patterns with long held ‘pad’ notes on the synths and creeping melodies and lovely samples.

Pinball Cha Cha
What it says on the label. A cha cha. Background sounds of people and a kind of party atmosphere with an announcer. There is a lovely low sung chorus by Dieter. I love his sense of humour in the way he uses a cha cha cliché in this section. Great middle section with a James Bond line if you listen closely, above the cha cha sounds and below the high synth. Lovely metallic sounds with more clichés before Dieter launches off with his low voice again. The piece actually finishes with ‘cha cha cha’!!

Again, this one can be got cheap too.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7vLG4SxsVI

www.youtube.com/watch?v=265Zn06TguA

 

 

 

Musical evidence so far:

Strong bass riffs.
Sampled crowd sounds.
Announcers starting to appear.
Illustration of words using samples.
Vocoder on vocals.
Short bursts of guitar solos (Brillianty played) and extended synth solos.
There is often a quiet countermelody played on a synth above the vocals.
The use of the mono-tone by the voice.
Dieter’s rich, low sound starting to really develop.
The repeated bass note with stuff going off above.
The Latin American link.
Occasional manic shouting – very evocative.
Jungle samples.
Beautifully played kit mixed in with electronic percussion. Often using a lower pitched snare which I love to hear. This is something that you often hear with Pink Floyd. (Almost like a deep tom tom with a snare on the bottom)

One problem so far imo has been the engineering. Number one is a bit thin. Number two has quite strong balancing going on and it’s sometimes a bit unnatural. For instance, instruments seem to be in different rooms and the sound is faded in and out on occasions in a slightly unnatural way. That’s what i mean when I talk about engineers noy really getting a grip of the sound and trying to present something in the foreground with stuff in the back and something else perhaps right back in the mix as a ‘subtle’ addition. For me, it’s like just three levels of sound whereas my feeling is that Yello wanted ‘washes’ of sound which doesn’t quite get pulled off in these recordings.

You only had to see them live to hear the difference.

All of the musical things are becoming typical Yello characteristics by album number 2. If you go back and listen to the two of them again, you’ll hear other things in the mixes while spotting the Yello characteristics!!!

 

 

 

YOU  GOTTA  SAY YES TO ANOTHER EXCESS – 1983

I feel that the first two albums show Yello developing the characteristics that would form the basis of their more successful stuff later on. That’s why imo, they’re an important part of their output if you want to gain an insight into their music. Get those two albums in your head, and you will easily spot the aural clues later on in their output.

Now we hit a new period for their music. It sounds to me as though the company were after a more ‘commercial’ sound. Joe public has always had problems with soundscapes because there is no tune and there often seems to be a kind of anarchy in the noise that people don’t connect with.

In the jazz field, John Zorn did the same in a much more developed way in an album called ‘Spillane’. It evokes gangster land of the 40’s through the eyes of one guy who almost sounds like a ‘private eye.’ It’s highly stylised and a very difficult listen for lots of people. It opens with a terrifying scream and develops from there but by the end, it feels kind of sad. It’s difficult to get this album because it’s not party music but there is no getting away from the fact that it is truly moving. (In the end)

There is a kind of similarity in the Yello soundscapes, although they were working with electronics which we all tend to forget were difficult to be expressive with in those days. You wouldn’t believe the crudity of some of the gear being used in comparison to today. That’s why Yello are so great. Where a lot of electro guys were fighting to get the electronics to communicate emotionally (or even non emotionally because perhaps that could be easier with a machine), Yello had the ability to grab you by the Gonads and keep your interest.

However, soundscapes were hard for your general listener to put on in the front room and they didn’t really listen like a ‘classical’ listener, so ‘You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess’ retains a lot of the elements heard in the first two albums and combines it with ‘commerciality’. Something that many electro guys were craving for and also by the way, one of the biggest criticisms of these bands.

Many bands in the UK were shocked by the vision of the future in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and were also fascinated by Sci Fi. The future of the UK was being shaped by Tories and industry was closing down. People lost jobs and so electro guys were trying to make serious points in a commercial world. It kind of clashed in retrospect and bands trying to be ‘serious’ in content but ‘popularist’ in presentation found it difficult to manage; especially if the management were uncomfortable with what your music was saying.

Yello really merged commerciality into some difficult listening with Album no. 3, a time when British Electro was going strong and seemed to be loved or hated by the public. (Until Gary Numann)

I Love You
A commercial title but the music takes the P. A robotic, sampled voice keeps saying – ‘I love you. It cracks me up when Cindy (as I named her at the time) starts up. Riff driven, hard hitting bass line, that is continually interrupted by Cindy!!! I love it!!!! Beautiful deep kit and sampled moans. The vocalist sounds so insincere with the chromatic synth behind. Refernce to driving a car. (Car = sex) Commercial with a weird twist. In this track, you may have a copy where the engineers played with the balance. The chromatic line is tweaked in a very poor way at one point and it is faded back too fast!! Samples return and come in and out of the mix and synth sounds are gradually added to the mix in the background. I love a new kind of thing that appears in this number – the detuned sythn. It’s kind of out of tune and has a quirky effect on the sound. I think that this became another Yello feature when they were saying something sarcastic or daft – the detuned synth would make a musical comment. A great commercial opening merged with Yello characteristics. Brilliant.

Lost Again
Hammering bass line with the long held ‘strange’ note sounds on synth and footsteps. I LOVE the chord sequence over Dieter’s voice. It’s almost sad in the way that it is presented and again – detuned guitar and synth in the ‘hook’ part!! I really like the way that the band leave spaces for samples and musical interludes in their music. This is not really a commercial thing to do but hey – education!! Use of vocoder on the vocals and then a lovely instrumental section with the repeating bass line that allows them to fade samples in and out. This is coming from their earlier albums/experiments. Again, the guitar chords remind me of ‘The Race.’

No More Words
Low quality samples (on purpose) Bass riff driven. An element of comedy and that sarcastic sounding voice. Not in English and there are ‘comedy’ sounds put into the mix – almost cartoon like. One riff to the next. No melody. Just rhythms. No words = no tune. A dance number. Again, the vocoder makes an appearance on the chorus with Dieter moaning underneath!! Latin American percussion added to the mix later along with elephant sounds and samples.

Crash Dance
Heavy drums and bass with very close mic’d vocal in short bursts. Not really what I would call a commercial number. Bursts of ideas but that Yello pedal note stays on the bass guitar while stuff goes on above. There is a ‘cowboy’ like guitar section which I find amusing – it ends up getting stuck on one low note before continuing as if nothing has happened.
Great Mission
A new idea for Yello. Double bass ostinato, Latin American sounds, jungle samples while Dieter whispers in a fascinated voice. Samples illustrate his words. Count the percussion in this!!! Dieter is telling the story of the ‘Father of Excess.’ His voice just cracks me up when he uses a pitch changer to speak the Father’s words!!! No kit, a simple sythn counter melody and a story being told. Really not commercial.

This is in reality, a link to the title number.

You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess
Chanting with drum breaks. There is a strong comedy element. After Dieter’s strange counting, a Latin American rhythm with cowbells and short phrases spoken over the top. A bass synth enters with the Yello repeating bass note idea and chanting/percussion going on above.

Swing
Sampled voice at the start and electronic drum sounds. Obviously in a swing style. Double bass and played in a big band style almost like from the film, ‘The Mask’. Calls back the 40’s. Drum played with brushes and the a synth plays the double bass line as a link. The instrumental section goes into double time with a walking bass, inverted drone, electronic vibes and it becomes a bit more lively. I think some of the sounds are vocoded sampled voices.

Heavy Whispers
Sampled girl scream. Riff driven and that bass repeated note that becomes so typical of Yello and the lonely synth melody at the top. Short bursts of mono-tone from Dieter. This actually has two bass lines. The repeated note idea and a riff! The detuned synth in the middle is eerie but there it is again. Detuning seems to be the thing for this album. It is almost ‘cha cha cha’ like. There is a middle section on keyboard that is so empty. No bass. Just keyboard and drum with a few samples. It almost sounds like a cheap keyboard backing – that wouldn’t surprise me if they did that on purpose!!! The next verse has a wrong note as a bass note. (A bit like poly tonality)

Smile On You
I LOVE this number. Hard hitting. Repeated bass line. Brass synth. This to me is the future of Yello. Quick changing passages. Brass stabs. Samples fading in and out. Backwards samples. Mono-tone. Syncopated rhythms and that sense of humour. This is like they’ve let their hair down. Electronic drum sounds, loads of stabs and rhythmically complex with Dieter’s ‘sarcastic’ vocal sound. Announcements appearing again with comments played on the synths.

Pumping Velvet
Sampled opening and a hammering bass line with guitar. Forget this is 80’s – it is SO modern. Michael Jackson lines almost in the synth lines. Detuned synths again and the bass gets taken out of the mix. Another big number, this one. It has elements of Michael Jackson/Frankie Goes to Hollywood for me!! It’s just absolutely carefree and they seem to start to be letting their hair down.

Salut Mayoumba
A film score opening. Maybe the kernel for Pocket Universe? It crashes in and then just starts to wail and moan. To me, this is the predecessor of Pocket. Drones, tiny noises. At last a soundscape. Thunder. It builds dramatically and is DEEP. Radio sounds and almost sounds other world to me. The train whistle introduces the next part which is distinctly South American with a strong rhythm, wailing guitar and steel pan type sounds. Over this background, synths and samples fade in and out. No vocals, just rhythms, cross rhythms and samples. It becomes manic before crashing out.

This is a great album. Under-rated. It has a good mix of commercial sounds while retaining their soundscape/experimentation work. It’s not background music but merges the experimentation of the first two albums into the Yello that fans love.

This is a good starter album.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUVnHVJ-ihw

 

 

 

The development of Yello’s style so far has included:

Vocals –
Dieter’s rich, low sound starting to really develop.
The use of the mono-tone by the voice.
The ‘sarcastic’/humour voice.
Vocoder on vocals.
Occasional manic shouting – very evocative.
Sampled crowd sounds.
Announcers voices appearing.

Synths –
Short bursts of guitar solos and extended synth solos.
There is often a quiet countermelody played on a synth above the vocals.
Use of a detuned synth.

Electronic –
Jungle samples.
Illustration of words using samples.
Manipulation of the voice in Album 3 to make it drop an octave!
Beautifully crafted soundscapes.

Rhythm Section –
Beautifully played kit mixed in with electronic percussion.
Strong bass riffs.
The repeated bass note with stuff going off above.
Use of ‘single’ percussion items like Latin American things – claves, cowbell, shakers etc.

Style –
Reference to 40’s jazz.
50’s Rock ‘n Roll type Sequences
The Latin American link.

Engineering –
1st album a bit thin and some fairly wide spacing on the stereo image. (Uncomfortable for headphones)
2nd – a bit more weight in the sound and sounding like a mature band.
3rd – Bingo. Good sound. More commercial with a mix of the early soundscape stuff.

It’s nice to see that they didn’t obliterate their roots.

Album 4

STELLA – 1985

This is a mature band, five years after their first album and a difficult time for any band. It’s a time when you may have used up most of your original ideas and you merely keep repeating the formula or risk losing your audience and look for new directions.

After all, your fans now have ‘expectations’ but you need to move forward in your development or else the band stagnates. Difficult one really. Where to go?

This is a big album with 15 songs.

Desire
Simple chord sequence with some string synth but if you listen to the lower synth, you will recognize the pattern from earlier work. Dieter is singing a melody rather than using mono-tone. It’s laid back. We still have that solid bass down below with repeated slow notes and a lovely extended guitar solo. It sounds more mature now. Some lovely counter – melody playing on the guitar. The vocals at one point are in octaves. This happened in an earlier album but it’s now becoming like a vocal feature. Pink Floyd did a lot of this. This is more like a conventional song with synth backing.

You feel that they have become more conventional. (Although it’s a good song in itself) I am always suspicious of record companies and what they have ‘advised’. This may be their nod to commercialism.

Vicious Games
Yello mode!!! Thumping repeated bass line on synth and short bursts above. However – a female voice!! Bit of a surprise. Octave voices appear again and then a typical Yello ‘speech’ with musical backing. Then the synth fun starts with riffs on a brass type sound and screams. I can hear echoes of the Race again in this instrumental section. Again, it feels a little reserved and popular. Latin American percussion appears in a short rhythmic section and the combination of short elements of the song together at the end before it fades.

Oh Yeah
Yello back. Manipulated voice. The gorilla is back. Latin American percussion. Driving. Humour. Bass driven riff with strong percussion and ‘gorilla’. Samples in and out. No melody. Basically, they play around with the mix, putting stuff in and then we hear the magic synth sound for a short while before returning to the strong percussion stuff and bursts of things in and out. For me, they still haven’t let their hair down.

Desert Inn
Reggae type guitar and a riff. Mono-tone voice. Detuned synth back. Humour is back. There’s a middle section where keyboards play a sequence and a quiet synth in background, but we get back to riff plus traffic and samples. A mad guitar solo with some sampled voice that leads back to the next verse. No melody again.

Stalakdrama
Dramatic entrance of a synth that does a crescendo to another note with thumps. Very dramatic. Then a fanfare on a brass type sound. Almost Rick Wakeman in style plus screaming. This stuff stops and then a reflective passage with drips and a vocal type sound while we hear a string melody along with a brass sound. This is in film mode. Back to screams and big chords which are moved around in the stereo image. The fanfare returns and it literally stops.

I wonder whether this was an experiment. I feel that it needs more and it stopped short. It’s really dramatic and got a lot there and never was completed. This is the dramatic Yello sound that they became so expert at later.

Koladi-Ola
Swing with a nod to 50’s vocals/style? There’s the Yello pedal note with a loud vocal which ends with odd vocal samples. (One says ‘I love you’ I think) A drum link takes you into a comic passage with sounds just appearing from the sampler. Underneath is a strong bass riff. It changes so much that it’s hard to describe how much has gone into the sampling for this track.

Domingo
Bass pedals/drone with a disco type beat. An announcer talks about a reincarnation. Choral sounds in the background while the speaker rants. Very dramatic. The choral type sound plays alone with the drums and the announcer goes into French. The pedals return and the vocals change into a melody with a synth counter – melody and another vocal shouted in unison in the back. A guitar break leads us back to the drones – almost ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’!! Textures change very quickly.

Sometimes
Bass riff, strong bass beat and synth chords. Mono-tone voice which changes to melodic. The hook is sung higher and stands out in contrast with an ostinato pattern on another synth. Lovely middle section with a circus element creeping in (oom cha cha) and some wailing synth stuff. There is a quiet synth above the voice as well. Something that Yello do a lot and it’s really easy to miss funnily enough.

Let Me Cry
Aggressive. Screaming/distorted start before we get the mono-tone. Dieter is telling a story. Lots of wailing and screaming. A unison hook. The vocals are broken down into little couplets. Great bass playing on this track.

Ciel Ouvert
Fades in with a synth ‘wave’ sound, drone and wind sounds. Helicopter flies past. You can hear that it’s doing circles. Over the drone, synthesized choir sounds and other samples creeping in. Laughter and the helicopter sound is imitated in the music. There is a synth solo (understated) with footsteps and then some shouting. Lots of reverb and a bass ostinato starts down below. (Double bass) The rhythm becomes more stated with orchestral type sounds – synth strings and a high wailing voice. (Sampled) This is very film like. We get bass stabs to emphasise the rhythm of the piece and the ostinato continues on guitar, very staccato. The orchestral sounds fade away and we are left with the synth, steps and someone shouting.

Angel No
Sampled sounds at the start and into a rocky number. Female voice singing over a rock based backing. Heavy bass riff on bass guitar and guitar ostinato/rock drum rhythm. Soon gives way to electronics which add samples and grunts all over the place. Reminds me of Thomas Dolby. It’s pretty relentless.

Blue Nabou
Brilliant bass opening. Really funky type sound with creeping synth strings. Electric piano comes in with a sequence which is taken up by the others. Jazz orientated. The piano sounds as though it’s in a different room if you listen closely. (Why do engineers do that?) An Arabian sound comes in with the drums. (It’s electronic) They play around with the mix again and then we get the piano with echoes.

Oh Yeah (Indian Summer Version)
I’m not keen on hearing another version of the same thing on the same album. Always feels as though they couldn’t decide which one to release to me!! This one seems to be a cleaned up version of the original with the ugly gorilla not as ugly. Listen to the ‘hit’ percussion and they are in a different key!! There are elements of polytonality here – something that appeared in album no. 1. An extended synth solo over the rhythm and gorilla based on a drone. It gets faded out and becomes an electronic choir. These washes of colour seem to be a common thing in this album, where one massive texture overwrites another. This becomes a soundscape of string sounds and samples fading in and out.

Desire (12” Mix)
Voices in octaves. Dance version? Again, seems a cleaned up version. Lovely guitar playing in the solo over a layer of padded synth sound and drums. Once the congas come in, the rhythms seem more solid with the ‘buzz’ sound of the synth phasing around. This makes me think of Brighton discos!

Vicious Games (12” version)
Again, designed for disco use. Still in Brighton for me!! Interesting that the tuning seems to be shifting in my copy like the tape isn’t secure.

This is not my favourite album and I think that it shows evidence of company tampering. It’s difficult to sustain a band beyond five years and things in the market were starting to change by 1985. The recording is better in quality but in terms of content, not the best imo.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q7FFjUpVLg

This album kind of marks the end of their first period imo. From experimentation to commercialism and getting a balance. The next period is diamond stuff.

BTW – the meaning of Stella is ‘star’.

The band was now as follows:

* Dieter Meier: Vocals
* Rush Winters: Vocals
* Chico Hablas: Guitars
* Annie Hogan: Piano
* Petia: Glass Harp
* Beat Ash: Drums, Percussion

Carlos Peron had left Yello by this time. (One of the founder members)

Carlos Peron

He produced an oratorio amongst a lot of other things and now lives in Zurich. (So does Boris Blank)

Have a look on Dieter’s site. He’s an interesting guy:

www.dietermeier.com/viewer.php

Also about the band:

Part 1
www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_598zDn4DM
Part 2
www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQEnGml8rEw&feature=related
Part 3
www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC7LJr4YJy4&feature=related
Part 4
www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8S4hK6w37k&feature=related

A glass harp is just glasses filled with water and you rub your fingers over the rims to get sound. Pink Floyd also used the ‘glass harp’ effect in ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’.

 

 

 

ONE SECOND – 1987

This album is unusual for a few reasons. The use of Shirley Bassey for the vocals in the Rhythm Divine and also Billy MacKenzie. ‘Call It Love’ was used in a TV series called, ‘Miami Vice’.

1. “La Habanera”
2. “Moon On Ice”
3. “Call It Love”
4. “Le Secret Farida”
5. “Hawaiian Chance”
6. “The Rhythm Divine”
7. “Santiago”
8. “Goldrush”
9. “Dr. Van Steiner”
10. “Si Senor The Hairy Grill”
11. “L’Hôtel”

There is an absence of Dieter’s vocals in this album with more focus on female voices and the engineering quality seems better. This looks like a real change of direction with lots of the old elements remaining. There’s a strong Latin American feel to many of the numbers but the cheeky sarcasm of earlier is missing. Only one song for example uses the mono-tone of Dieter – ‘Goldrush’. The first section is incredible with a vocal rendition of drum rhythms. It is also one of the few places where we hear the old sampled crowd shouts.

Vocals throughout this album are mostly female.

Some new sounds appear in this album that we haven’t heard previously. The whimsical accordion and a church organ. ‘Le Secret Farida’ begins with an accordion before launching into the familiar repeated bass idea and an isolated synth tune up top. However, this features a female voice on the top and a sound that appears a lot in this album – a sampled choir type of sound. It’s almost like a Dieter song with the detached melody and spoken voice but up a couple of octaves.

We still have the strong bass riffs appearing in this album and short bursts of brilliance from the guitar and synths. We still have an announcer in ‘Dr Van Steiner’. .Another new feature is the use of sampled saxes and brass instruments that really come to the front in this number.

Some typical Yello elements have gone from this album, such as Dieter’s low tones and his sarcasm. The humour voice is missing. Sparing use of the vocoder and the announcer’s voice. In fact, vocally, this album seems to have taken a major turn, while instrumentally, most of the Yello elements have remained intact.

There’s less use of jungle samples and imo less illustration going on. Most of the album feels Latin based and to me, it feels as though Yello have slightly lost their direction.

The final song is almost like a film credit piece. Dramatic, as though something is going to happen.

There are some unusual things in this album such as ‘The Rhythm Divine’ which sounds like a Blues piece with the wrong number of bars for a blues sequence, cross rhythms going on in ‘Santiago’ (Like Latin stuff) but for me, ‘Si Senor, The Hairy Grill’ is the one. They let their hair down.

Driving, riffs, heavy metal, screaming, distorted guitar driven sounds with a whisper for vocals!! A fantastic guitar solo and a gothic organ over a pedal.

For me a transitional album where elements that are most interesting are instrumental and a few get carried over into the next magical album. It takes us into the new period with elements that come from the early experimentation and some of the more sophisticated ideas from this collection.

For me, the sound of Yello contains drama, film, humour, sarcasm, musical illustration, soundscapes, story telling all along with the technical stuff like

Drones, excellent samples, bursts of short solos and samples coming and going like a flash in the mix, Latin American, 50’s rock, occasional jazz references, polytonality, syncopated rhythms and lightening changes.

However, I really feel that the glue is Dieter and that voice and it’s mostly missing from the album.

All of these elements are in the earlier albums but need to be put together in a definitive album. Well, it’s coming …….

 

 

 

FLAG – 1988

Here we go ……. Classic YELLO.

This is the album that most non-Yello fans would know. Musical production is superb by now, which by the way, has already become a kind of reference for other musical guys at the time. From Stella, the quality of the recordings is fantastic.

The musical characteristics that Yello had shown in their earlier albums seems to get focussed on this album. It’s as though they had looked back at what they had done and hand picked the most ‘Yello’ type ideas for this album which is absolutely superb. It has been played so much since it came out, that many people may overlook its superb craftsmanship but it is a reference quality piece of work. It knocked everything else in the same field at the time for six.

Tied Up
The opening feature is one from the past – shouting and responses. (Call and response is a powerful tool in music) The sax intro consists of sampled notes. (Again done previously) There is a LOW bass drum that emphasises the first beat of the bar followed by a syncopated beat. (Off beat) This suggests Latin American straight away.

Once the song gets under way, the congas are going with the kit and a powerful bass ostinato. With good systems, this shakes the house. The guitar kicks in with short chords and there is a Santana like feel about it. (Go bop bop) I heard this live and I HAD to move. I’m not a moving kind of guy, but this had me running up the walls. Shouting and brass stabs feature. If you play this pretty loud, you will hear the depth of the bass in the percussion beats. It’s a truly moving sound.

The vocals are almost in the background when they begin in Spanish and then go into English. We also hear the vocals in octaves – again used in earlier albums. The conga playing is SUPERB. The quality of its recording is brilliant with the double hits and sickeningly perfect slap sounds. Dieter is growling in the mix – close mic’d (again as used in earlier albums) We then hear Dieter rapping at ‘growl’ pitch with Boris doing the same an octave higher. Cracks of thunder and samples of rain plus a choir. The beat stops for one of those ‘ravine’ moments and we hear a deep gong as a link to the next section.

Back to the rhythm with cross rhythms on the congas. Purely percussion with cowbells, snare shots. The congas are amazing. Vocals are almost in the background. The percussion stop to let them come forward in the mix and the beat starts again. The congas feature heavily with vocals almost taking a back seat.

Sampled brass and sax play an instrumental section. Almost Miami vice like and then a beautiful guitar solo with loads of reverb. It moves forward in the mix. Manipulated voice (an octave lower and close mic’d from Dieter) A crack of thunder and more rain leading into the gyuitar riff and that strong beat with the brass adding to the riff. Absolutely stunning. Planes roar past into a crack of thunder and a choir finishes with a low rumble of a gong.

I wrote a lot of detail about this song because it is one that has probably been played a lot over the years and almost gets overlooked because of familiarity. It encompasses so much of Yello’s past that every time I hear it, I hear past albums within it added to the unbelieveably good job that the engineers did on it. For me this is an absolute masterpiece that sums up their work so far.
Play it loud and you will FEEL this music. It all seems to come together for me in this one song and even now, after listening, I just want to play it again. It has a carnival atmosphere, beautifully crafted sound effects and samples, Dieter’s gorgeous rumbles – everything you could wish for from this group. For me, it’s pure Yello with that carnival atmosphere, even bring you the weather.

Of Course I’m Lying
We start with claves and some deep rumbles. (Just on a technical note – my recording contains low level hum from the studio – or my system is too analytical. Maybe someone can confirm?) The thing that I love about this song is the humour of someone lying and then the comment –‘ I love it.’ It reminds me of the humour in ‘I love You’ – my Cindy doll previously. You may be seeing what I’m talking about now, when I mention previos albums contained with this album.

VERY deep thuds. A kind of riff starts up and then a second riff way down in the bass. This one sounds kind of ‘Western’ – Good Bad and Ugly reference from early. Lovely rich pad sounds on the synth The chorus just makes me laugh with the added comment. There is an interesting chord that links verse one to two. This may have been the technology developing what is known as ‘aftertouch.’ If you press notes, chords play. Generally, on a good keyboard, if you press hard it’s loud and if you press soft, it’s soft. That is known as touch sensitivity in order to be able to perform dynamics on a keyboard. Aftertouch is when you play a chord and the while holding the keys, you press harder and the chord or note gets louder. (It does a crescendo) This linking chord does that if you listen carefully.

Lovely chord sequence that reminds me of an earlier song I mentioned in another album where it’s built on what are called ‘inversions. There’s also a great chromatic falling sequence under the voice. Mostly pad sounds.

Sampled chorus sounds after verse two with other guys singing ‘oooh’ sounds. Dieter does a lovely slow monologue over the chord sequence – telling the story with the choir as a backing before Boris adds the chorus line that keeps mentioning, ‘I love it’.

This song is a series of build ups linked by short quiet drum passages. A beautiful song with lots of side comments from the guitar.

Just two minor things technically. In analytical systems, you may be aware of the studio noise at the start and the synthetic quality of the reverb at the end. (Again that may be more to do with the types of reverb around at the time – I can’t for the life of me remember what people generally used but I know that Zappa in an attempt to get good reverb actually used a narrow corridor with a mic in it to get a more natural effect) Don’t let this detract from the sheer quality of the song though.

3rd of June
Remember the ‘wave’ effect from earlier? This number starts with a ‘wave’ – a pad sound fading in slowly with a low drone entering. It holds and settles and then in comes an eerie melody on a synth, a drum ostinato and a guitar ostinato. Once the rhytm gets under way, there is a really deep bass attack of three notes that keep returning at the start of each phrase. There is a drone and Dieter is telling the story followed by the hook – Dieter recorded over himself a few time. Boris links the verse with a rap in the background and Dieter returns with the hook.
This piece is formed around a pedal or drone which stops for short whiles in order to introduce a link passage. The texture changes a great deal with choral sounds in the background. Dieter continues with his story and the music kind of illustrating behind him.

The incessant drone comes back with a stronger rhythm. Very driving and a melody at the top on synth and choral sounds.

Blazing Saddles
Seagull type noises and waves introduces Boris who launches into verse one with a hook that has the octave idea below.

A lovely trumpet effect with repeated synth notes that sound almost steel pan like. This piece sounds Mexican to me.

The next verse has the guitar making comments after Boris’ lines.

Another instrumental sound with the ‘steel pan’ type sound and trumpet sound. Boris almost sounds punch drunk in this!! There is then a countermelody on the trumpet behind his voice followed by the ‘steel pan’ type of sound.

The Race
This is an absolute classic. The opening sound of cars has been used everywhere. It goes through your head on headphones. A bass pulse, a brass intro and the Latin American percussion. Samples of slamming doors and shouts. Manipulated voice (an octave lower)

A bass riff and then phrases which are answered by a trombone sound. Bass line is a repeated note. Very low.

The middle section features a distant sythn solo ending with a car racing through your head and back to the intro ideas. Next is a sax section with clapping. (The saxes are sampled) The repeating thud in the bass and a trombone glissando answered by trumpets. Bass drum thumps on every beat while the texture builds.

It stops for the Latin percussion and a new section. The bass is SO deep here. Shouts in the background with car noises and drones. (Vocally as well) There is also a rather nice owl ‘hoot’ really low down in pitch if you listen carefully!!!

Ostinatos on the brass and then guitar riffs with Dieter’s fast rapping. There is a western style guitar solo and suddenly there is a change of place when an announcer appears.

Lots of samples, Latin Percussion, crowds, announcer, rapping, repeated bass lines and ostinatos. It all happens so fast.

A synth ostinato appears with a melody in the bass. (on synths) then the guitar sounds almost industrial – like a saw. The piece finishes with the gong.

Alhambra
Monks voices? Then a praying type of sound. Very theatrical/film like. Congas come in with high synth sounds. (Voice like sounds) It builds to a high chord before a repeated drum pattern begins and pad sounds on the synth.

There is a dramatic chord (One of those chasms) – also I can hear a timpani in the mix. Fast Spanish style clapping and a detuned guitar plays chords. Then there is this isolated ‘Moroccan’ style melody over a percussion backing. (The guitar sounds like it’s in a different room to me) he’s answering the Moroccan instrument almost like a conversation between the two of them and then it fades away with clapping.

Otto di Catania
Pad sounds with bass stabs and a Mexican voice. Beautiful deep sound with spacial synth sounds. Pregnant pauses at the end of each verse. A gorgeous relaxed guitar solo. He seems to be playing in an enormous space on the recording. A clarinet answers briefly before we go back to the next part of the story. I’m not sure whether that voice is a sample or someone is working in the studio. I really like this laid back sound with the gravelly Mexican voice.

Tied Up in Red
Crowd sounds and off we go into thunder and rain. A kind of tribal call (and the low owl hoot) before the congas start and the low rap followed by calls. We’re back to that Santana feel here. All percussion and voice. Manipulated voice – Dieter likes that deep sound!! More cracks of thunder and a lonely synth melody followed by chorus voices.

Back to the beat (and owl hoot) with the rap. With a good system, you can really hear the difference between the low drums whereas on a cheap nasty system, it’s not so obvious. A guitar riff starts and a cross rhythm on cowbell. Once this is set up, the rap starts again and is answered by brass. This is almost tribal. Fantastic conga playing at this point, playing across the beat as well.

Another lonely synth solo on top. The brass start to feature more and we go back to the tribal beat with a guitar solo. I love the mellow sound of this guitar. (With a guitar ostinato behind it)

Now the whole lot play the opening figure from the first time around. (Squeaky toy and all) Thunder claps and rain with peoples’ voices as the piece fades away into a storm. This is a fantastic sample.

Tied Up in Gear
This starts with a sound like a police siren and a manic guitar. (We also have the return of the studio hum by the way) A manic beat and guitar riff while they shout over the top and then rap away. It’s like they’ve let their hair down.

Change of texture for Dieter’s growling and the wailing guitar answers him. Sounds come in all over the place. It breaks down to just a drum beat before the guitar wails in again. Listen to the bass – it’s really driving with attack. My system nearly takes off with the bass line. It has a gorgeous tone that is almost covered by the other sounds. This is a complex sound that makes it beneficial to listen ‘inside’ if you can.

A crack of thunder before the choir come in, everything stops and the sirens fade away. (Again, listen for that hum on the fade out)

This is a gorgeous album. One that I HAVE to play loud. If you have a good set of speakers, they will rumble with this and you will hear some gorgeous bass tones in the mix. You will also be able to detect the different types of drums being used rather than just hear ‘banging’. While great care has been taken over the production of the album, the hum I’m referring to may be the copy I have. It’s not loud, but I have a slightly ‘laser’ type system that makes me aware of it. For me, it’s all part of the live experience. It sounds more real because of it.

I love the life in this recording and the exuberance that jumps out of it at you. It’s a thrilling listen that combines most of the elements heard in their earlier albums in such a convincing and musical way.

I think that this is a ‘must buy’ both musically and as a reference for hi fi listening.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjoQiqY9MN4

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnJIL-lvXnI

This version is slightly different from the album, but good.

 

 

 

BABY – 1991

This one is easily overlooked because of ‘Flag’ and ‘The Race’ which really brought Yello into the public eye. The music for Baby was used as a filmtrack called ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’ but it was a different version/mix of the CD. The album did really well in Austria where it hit no. 1 in the album charts but not so well here in the UK. (No. 37) There is a new guitarist (rather good) – Marco Colombo and a live accordion player. (Rolf Aschwander)

Flag was a really successful album and it was received well by critics. There was less of the early experimentation but a strong Latin American feel which was continued into ‘Baby.’ It’s a pity that this one got overshadowed to some extent by ‘Flag’ because there are some really good highlights on the album, such as ‘Jungle Bill’, ‘Who’s Gone’ and the Yello sense of humour shows in ‘Rubberbandman’.

Homage to the Mountain
This crashes in with choral sounds and a fanfare. Short and sweet.

Rubberbandman
Vocal samples provide a rhythm for the start of this number. A really low, deep beat starts up on the drums. The vocals start with a quiet two chord accompaniment on the synth. There are also little trombone stabs from the sampler. Gradually the texture builds with other sounds popping into the mix and then it’s all suddenly taken away while the vocals continue. The cork popping from a bottle sample makes me laugh in this since it becomes quite important in the rhythm later on!! There’s also a Mexican type voice warning you, ‘You Gotta Watch Him!!’ with a western type spoof going on. All kinds of samples form a great rhythm next and is used as the backing for the next verse until the two chord pattern returns with the comping played on a keyboard.

Jungle Bill
Beautiful sax (and a trumpet) samples at the start make up a sequence as an intro before the dance beat starts up. Riff driven and deep bass. Dieter does a mono-tone over the top of this solid backing. The link between verses is quite brilliant. The guitarist is playing little clichés and the brass sound plays a falling chromatic figure before verse two.

Another link on the drums and a pad synth sound for the hook, ‘I’m in danger …’ A two note melody with riffs going on all over the place behind.

More samples (Hilarious) as a link with the tom toms and brass. Then there is an extended percussion section. I LOVE this stuff. There is a dialogue between the drums and saxes/brass and in the background, the congas start up. A guitar solo drives it forward to a sax solo which is answered by the other saxes. Next a riff is repeated ready for the next verse from Dieter.

Another link with drums and synth to the hook. The guitar takes over with the riffs rushing underneath to the fade.

Ocean Club
I love this. It’s a Spoof about Lou Norman. He tells a story in 40’s style while the band illustrate in the background with various samples, stabs and riffs. Highly stylised and deep bass notes. I love the reactions to Dieter’s comments in this. You can kind of hear the thoughts of the characters in the musical comments. It swings and has a great ‘loose’ feel.

Some lovely accordion bits when Lou is talking to the girl. (He obviously has other things on his mind!!!) Lots of brilliant musical comments.

The end of the story – When I turned around ……… Miss Cooper had gone!!

Who’s Gone?
Loads of sample work. Great riff driven piece – almost Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Dieter does a fast rap. Lots of drive with sounds coming in and going out. I love the western style guitar solo.

The chorus has voices in harmony and octaves.

Verse two has some comical moments with samples answering the vocals. It also has Dieter whispering the rap with himself!!

Another chorus and then a fade out.

Capri Calling
Wave sounds, and a LOVELY, DEEP bass line with pad sounds. It rattles my walls. A suave vocal. It follows a kind of minor blues chord sequence but changes in the middle to a 16 bar sequence instead of 8 as it is at the start or 12 as normal blues is. A lovely Spanish guitar comments at the end of the verse. This sounds very sophisticated. It’s a kind of Spanish take on 12 bar blues with the wrong number of bars!!! I find it very funny actually.

Drive/Driven
A sample that makes me almost fall off my chair – sniffing!! It forms part of the opening rhythm with pad sounds. A bass riff and a guitar comes in with an off beat guitar as an accompaniment for the vocals. I love the stuff going on behind the vocals in this. There are loads of them. A gorgeous accordion solo. (Almost French sounding now) It just stops for a pause and then continues with the next verse. I find the pause quite funny too – almost as though they stopped, wondering what the hell the accordion was. That’s something I love about Yello – they are good at laughing at themselves. (Self-parody is also quite a feature of their stuff) The second accordion solo seems to be accepted because there is no shocked silence!!

On the Run
Sax intro (samples) and stabs before the Latin percussion go hell for leather. I wonder if you notice the low owl hoot from ‘Flag’ in this? The African/Latin drumming is inspired. Deep and rumbling. You NEED good speakers for this. Crowd sounds and then short bursts on the guitar. No backing or chords. Just rhythmic. There are three conga players in this if you listen really closely. (Left, right and centre) A trumpet interrupts and improvises over congas and sax riffs in unison. The next section introduces a deep bass riff and pad sounds. Rhythmically brilliant.

Birdsong and a lone conga which is soon joined by the others. Then the time keeper (bass drum) and a low owl hoot before it all starts up again.

Blender
Gong type sound as an intro. It has pitch and plays an ostinato. Pad sounds on a synth and the a helicopter flies past right to left after some bass stabs. Dieter is announcing a hilarious character (The son of Durex – a blender). This is almost Franky Goes to Hollywood. Very heavy thumping beat with riffs and a slow rapping Dieter. There is a girl with a really dirty laugh in this too. (It’s a sample) Rhythmically brilliant again with those brass stabs punctuating. Car noises, helicopters and synths buzzing around. A real rock riff on the guitar acts as a link to the next verse. A wall rattler. It finishes with that dirty laugh!!

Sweet Thunder
Bird/insect sounds with a faded in pad sound and voices. Bass stabs and a drone starts up with a gorgeous short sample of bass and cello playing a rhythm that hasn’t started up yet. The warm pad sounds continue ending with bass stabs and that gorgeous cello sound starting up with its ostinato. There is then a high, detached melody on synth which is repeated on synth string and then a new melody on synth bassoon. A smooth high pitched melody creeps around with glissandos but we still get these bass stabs. This music is back into film mode. It’s dramatic and it moves around a lot. There’s a really pure sine wave like melody at the top before a synth string takes over and the synth bassoon again. This is very orchestral and then we get the ‘thunder’ sample and brass stabs. Lovely timpani rolls sampled as well. The music shifts through different keys before returning back to the tonic and another serious crack of thunder. Last chord with strings and brass.

This is an entertaining album with lots of humour in the words as well as the samples. Well worth listening to.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukxl7YwPZq8
(A different version to the album.)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=l43FRmtOt0k

 

 

 

ZEBRA

For non-Yello fans or just casual listeners, I would say that this album is a nice easy listen. It’s well produced and is more commercial sounding than a lot of previous stuff. Very polished. Experimental stuff is not investigated too much here and the soundscapes seem to have taken a back seat with this album. It doesn’t seem to be as adventurous as past work but is a nice listen.

Suite 909
A Santana like opening on the organ with an ostinato and then electronic percussion. Real kit comes in with a ‘disco’ type beat, backwards cymbal. Lots of ‘drip’ sounds.
There is a repeated bass note on a synth under the mono-tone melody. Some really nice detuned synth stuff between verses. A lonely synth melody, repeated in octaves links vocal sections together. On the third repeat, doubled with voices as well and a flute doubling the bass ostinato.
Some great ‘pingy’ noises used as percussion. There is an instrumental sound with distorted organ (almost Deep Purple like in the way it’s played) The synth melody returns and the flute plays the ostinato pattern again while the syhtn melody is going on above.
This piece is based on a kind of ‘drone’ idea. (One chord) The flute ostinato is replaced by a glockenspiel sound with a fat pad synth sound and Dieter speaking.

How How
Bass ostinato with sax riffs. Dieter singing in his ‘comedy’ type voice – a mono-tone that changes pitch like speech. Very strong (synth) sax presence. A new section introduces a kind of ‘bubbly’ bass line before the next verse. These sax sounds are really accurate.

Night Train
Train sounds with an announcer and an organ pattern. There is a strong disco bass beat and the repeated pattern type stuff that Yello often use in the bass. Also the dramatic ‘choir’ sound that they use above melodies. Some drones on strings separate the verses from the instrumental on guitar with choir above. All through this number, you hear train sound samples inserted. There is a lovely string melody that is developed in the next section that leads us to the end.

Do It
Starts with manic voices shouting ‘Do It!!’ and then the organ starts a riff and a strong disco beat starts up with Dieter’s voice. The ‘Do it!’ stuff becomes a link between sections. Some really deep bass stuff on this track. The vocal samples are joined together brilliantly just before the drumming section and during. Interesting that you end up not remembering any tunes from the vocals, but you remember the organ riff easily!!

I… I’m in Love
Wind sounds with a rhythm and bass. This kind of reminds me of Santana in style until those Yello style of vocals come in. This one wanders through keys before returning back to the tonic for ‘I’m in Love’. A guitar solo links to the next verse. I love the way that the rhythm is just taken out of the mix for a bar. It kind of emphasizes what they’re saying. The Latin American instruments are floating around in the back of the mix and they become more prominent towards the end.

S.A.X.
Great samples at the start used as the basis of a rhythm. Creepy string melody with a deep bass and electronic sounds before the sax plays a riff. The others join in 5ths and then it pauses for a bar and a comic utterance. (sampled) The saxes play as an ensemble and they are answered by voices. A drum section and a lone synth before the voices join in and the percussion. Again, there is a lot of start/stop stuff with the rhythms. (A bit like an engineer playing around on a sound board, except they’re playing it)

Fat Cry
Sampled sounds begin this track before we get some pad sounds and a rhythm. Some really deep bass notes. Very deep sounding vocals, with a bass riff and very strong downbeat on a bass drum. Shakes the walls. Dieter starts to tell a story which is then commented on in the chorus/hook. Some nice counter-melody stuff on low guitar. It almost turns to reggae and then this X-Files type sound plays a melody. (Like a whistle) Some great bass sounds on this next with a dramatic lower string link.

Tremendous Pain
Low sythn sound with wind noises and a repeated bass line and an organ pattern above. Clicks on the off beat. Then a strong kit rhythm kicks in just after the vocals enter. This piece sounds tense and driven although it’s slow. Some lovely sampled bell sounds are used as a link – they play a melody!! A guitar riff joins verse two. (Beautifully placed in the stereo image) Really well recorded kit sounds.

Move Dance Be Born
Opens with a simple statement which is then accentuated with a punctuated rhythm and a bluesy synth asnswer. Really fast rapping from Dieter. The rhythm eases off and then starts up again with various (comical) samples. Dieter’s rapped twice so his two voices are in unison!! It’s one of those pieces based on a drone note with samples and riffs planted over the top. The mix is then altered to change the texture. There are some off beat slamming door samples and low tom tom rhythms along with all kinds of sounds added to the mix at different points. The music crescendos and decrescendos all through so although it’s based on a drone note, it keeps your interest with the different sounds within the mix coming and going.

The Premix
A bass pattern and a solid crotchet beat bass drum with semi-quavers over the top. Sounds introduced and then a sax riff. A ‘double’ slow rap. (Dieter recorded twice in unison) A driving bass guitar riff with an organ pattern above plus samples and the next verse builds again. Actually notice that the bass riff gets kind of broken up and played by two sounds at one point.

Poom Shanka
Insect/bird sounds and an Arabian type of sound with a pad sythn and a string instrument. This seems to be a new idea in the Yello repertoire. A tabla tyle of drumming with this solo instrument and a shaker on the left. An organ joins the mix with choral sounds in the background. Sitar sounds and samples. The piece builds and then a drone fades away with the wind.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fba5VCZ4S2o
www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTBen3SXMxQ

 

 

 

POCKET UNIVERSE – 1997

For me, this is another of those albums that makes you wonder what they’re up to musically. The album seems reflective, moody and asking questions about the universe and why we’re all here. Almost like a mid-life crisis. The album has been designed to link as a whole, more like a concept but for me, a lot of it relies on heavy use of drone and one note rhythms with added disco beats. There is the return of some soundscape/orchestral stuff here but there is a lot of this ‘disco’ type beat stuff which for me comes to life on Resistor- for me, the best track on the album because it really drives. The album is well recorded and sounds are spaced out nicely. Yello seem to have lost a lot of their humour in this though and it feels as though a change is on the way to me. Guitar sounds have in effect gone from the mix. This album also had a lot of ‘cooks’ working on it – 4 producers including Dieter and Boris!!

A pocket universe is supposed to be a piece of space that is supposed to be attached to a larger piece of space. They are called ‘pockets’ but can be big enough to contain a whole solar system. I suppose, the idea of having a section of space that it a part of the whole. It’s a science fiction thing and as such, is one of the things that interested a lot of Electro musicians in the UK as well.

Solar Driftwood
An inverted pedal on a string sound with choral sounds in the background while Dieter delivers a dramatic speech. Very orchestral and film like track. After he says, ‘the next inevitable big band’, there is a really dramatic pause and a distant crack of thunder which links us to …

Celsius
This starts with a low drone just after the thunder and we hear the harmonics of that note being filtered through the sound. A repeated bass note joins in with wheezing strings before we hear the drum beat superimposed on top of the rhythm that the drones make. Mens voices shouting followed by samples that have been electronically manipulated. One guy then leads the vocals with a kind of left/right stereo chant. He’s accompanied by percussion with congas now put into the mix. Vocal ‘rhythm’ noises. The whole piece seems to be based on the drone note with the strings ‘wheezing’ a semi-tone higher which brings tension into the sound. A lovely bass synthesiser riff appears and everything stops for it. There is a high synth melody in the background and some ‘wah wah’ sounds which lead us back into the rhythm even strong. The wheezing strings stay and sounds from the start come in and out of the mix.

Basically a ‘rhythmic’ drone with no sung or spoken vocals and samples.

More
This starts with female voices speaking very quietly and a bass repeating note with another higher sound above. Then a dance beat starts with each bar finishing with a strange, low ‘strangled chicken’ sound. Dieter does a mono-tone verse with various samples and the mix is altered by subtracting/adding sounds. (As in a lot of disco music) Again this is based on a drone type idea with the mix being manipulated to create interest. The middle section introduces some new sounds by subtracting stuff from the mix and adding new samples, but to me, it’s basically a disco type mix. It finishes with the female whispered voices. It links seamlessly with ….

On Track
Drones and train noises, with choir sounds. Dieter talks about ‘life arriving like days on a train. Cities rush by like ghosts in the night’. This is very film like in sound. A great bass synth riff starts up (Almost Jean Michelle Jarre like) and a disco beat. Dieter does another of those amazing fast raps on one note. This is answered by a synth melody and another higher ostinato on the left joins in. There’s a break from the disco rhythm with samples faded in and chords on the organ followed by another verse. I have no idea how Dieter does this fast rap trick – quite amazing. A station announcer appears with some chords and the riff before we hear the synth melody and Dieter talking about the ‘rhythm of wheels and time drifting away’. A synth ‘cello line plays under some high notes and train noises are faded in. This links seamlessly to

Monolyth
A drone with a flute melody that sounds very closely like Debussy. A choir sings a ‘religious’ sounding melody and the flute repeats its melody. Drones and bells are going on in the mix and then Dieter (I presume) leads the chant. A very low sung voice that is answered by the choir. It’s very dramatic and just sung over a drone with bell sounds. Low booms and a lone melody plays over the drone and chanting.
Some ‘woody’ sounding percussion start followed by some more drums and the flute melody. Gradually the texture is thickened with the addition with synth pad sounds and then the congas plus a new melody. It fades and we’re left with a muffled rhythm, a synth and a really low growling voice with some weird pitch bend effect for good measure. Chanting over the new texture – almost religious. More percussion join the mix and the flute repeats its melody.
It gradually fades away to sea sounds and seagulls with high, sustained notes on synth. This links seamlessly to …

To the Sea
A nice, fruity bass pattern with pad sounds over the top. The sound wafts left to right quite strongly. The rhythm then becomes more prominent and we get female vocals over the bass pattern, pad sounds and rhythms. This is based on two alternating chords and is slightly disconcerting with strange sounds and the alternating chords. The drums are a mix of real and electric. Very exposed for the singer. Lots of space in the sound.

Magnetic
This starts as though it’s going to be dramatic with low sounds and dark drum sounds with a pad sound floating over the top with some strange chords. Latin percussion appear but it’s all very low key before the ‘disco’ bass drum appears and the spoken voice over pad sounds. A beautiful bass ostinato appears which starts to liven things up and then everything stops, leaving this pattern as the basis of the next section, which seems a bit more driven. A great rhythm is built up gradually and then the congas are added while Dieter continues his speaking. It’s a bass pedal again, with chords planted over the top. There is a curious section where Dieter’s voice has been sampled and then manipulated before the rhythm returns again. (Almost like they’re inventing new words by altering the length of vowels in the sample) Sideband samples appear (radio voices) and the bass changes to something a bit more ominous. These sounds take you into ….

Liquid Mountain
‘Fluid’ sounds and more like soundscape stuff of earlier. A low growling voice makes an appearance with bass stabs and his voice is manipulated to hold at the end like a drone. This links directly to ….

Pan Blue
Dieter is growling as well as singing – this can make the voice seem an octave lower than it really is and was used by Stockhausen in ‘Schtimmung’. (amongst loads of other things.) A dramatic pedal keeps repeating while a string melody plays up top with choral sounds. A bass riff starts up after a growl and some ‘disco’ type organ chords followed by the strong ‘disco’ beat and Dieter continues his growling with this backing. Over this, he speaks some lyrics. It stops and there is a section with no rhythm but a repeating synth. pattern that is taken up by the vocals as well. The disco beat comes back with avengeance and then a bass melody is answered by choral sounds, chanting and growls. This reminds me of some of the linking passages that Pink Floyd wrote like … ‘The running in DSOTM. Back to the disco beat and bass melody answered by chorus. This number links directly to …..

Resistor
It has the time tone, a drone, and a dramatic organ sound as an intro, right into the main part of the piece. This one gets me every time I hear it. It’s dramatic, thumping and like they really go for it. Thumping bass sounds, very heavily hit bass drum, shouting, speaking and relentless. I love the ‘scream link’ – it’s absolutely manic. A synth melody above repeated bass notes and an off beat chord at the end of each bar. This shakes the walls. Like disco music turned nasty!! Crowd noises with a lone off beat bass note and a bass drum. Low vocal notes and a synth above with an announcement as to ‘why we’re all hear on the planet!’ Manic scream back to the heavy beat and disco type stuff. I find this gripping and somehow quite a crude type of sound; even incorporating tribal chant. Vocal percussion start the beat up again – call and response stuff with a leader and crowd. Back to that serious disco beat.

Beyond Mirrors
A soundscape start that goes very deep with a speech above about the ‘age of science failing.’ Lots of swooping sounds behind Dieter’s speech about us sitting on a piece of ‘solar driftwood floating in space.’ He starts to talk about magic and the sounds behind are illustrating what he’s saying. It reminds me of ‘War of the Worlds’ actually. There is an emotive ‘Spanish’ type melody behind Dieter – It really reminds me of the Guitar concerto by Rodrigez. This has an eerie, moving quality about it. The church organ is a really moving sound and works well with the strange electronic sound and choir while Dieter continues. An electronic oboe continues a strange melody. Some dramatic string stuff makes the whole thing sound like we’re done for!!! The music is very closely tied to what Dieter is saying – he is a bit controversial about what he’s saying in this passage actually. He ends with the dramatic statement that the universe is Magic!! The electronic orchestra illustrate their feelings on this – a great tinge of sadness.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn3rvb0dkQE

 

 

 

MOTION PICTURE  – 1999

This album sounds kind of minimalist to me. There is a lot of one chord and two chord stuff while improvisation goes on above. I like this album because it feels a little more experimental with the use of percussive vocal sounds, drones, disco-type beats and mixing and some really dramatic sounds including DEEP bass riffs and pure percussive effects. I’m not sure that this album did particularly well at the time, but I feel it’s one of those albums that grows with time and it is superbly recorded too. This album will rattle the walls of your house.

Get On
Big pad sounds with a fat repeated bass line after the intro. Dieter sings a low mono-tone over a repeating bass note with a catch hook. This recording goes deep down into the bass. Quite a low key opening number based on a repeating motif and a kind of low, whistling counter-melody on a synth. This recording has a gorgeous sound that truly rattles the walls. The whole song is based on just one chord.

Houdini
A congo and ‘rubber band’ type sound intro on the synth. A fast bass riff which builds and changes timbre (sound) in the mix. There are two verse and this time, the vocals are based on three notes. After the vocals finish there is an electronic instrumental link and then it continues with congas coming in and a lovely low electronic ‘cello solo sound over the riff with sounds fading in and out. Great hand percussion on congas and assorted percussion. The mix continually changes and the texture changes into percussion only (Virtually) and we hear another three note verse. Gradually pitched sounds come in to the mix. At the end of the vocals, there’s a strange long note held sound which links to another verse with added replies from various sounds.

Prisoner of His Mind
Electronic percussion sounds and a really low bass sound. An organ riff with beautifully clear percussion rhythms and electronic sounds. We’re back to mono-tone vocals here with two chords on the organ. (Some jazz chords actually – 9ths) There’s a chromatic falling sound (a bit like James Bond) The mix alters really fast while the vocals are given in a relaxed delivery. Like a DJ mix. The bass thuds are again, very deep. The percussion is a combination of real and synthesized sounds.

Distant Mirror
A soundscape-type opening. Left and right sweeps and then this three note motif with an echo effect. A bass rhythm and then an electronic percussion sound playing a Latin American type triangle rhythm. (It sounds almost like an insect sound though) Lots of sweeping sounds and use of pitch bend on synths. Again, the mix is altered to provide plenty of contrast in sounds, like a DJ mix. Rhythms stop and start and sounds float in and out of the mix. It’s almost polytonal actually. (Two keys being played at the same time, which gives it a kind of ‘lost’ feeling) Really good samples inside – like church bells (or tubular bells) No real melody in this piece, just the three note repeating motif. It’s almost minimalistic in its approach – minimal material with interest being created by altering the mix.

Time Freeze
Dramatic opening riff in the bass and rock based rhythm. The mono-tone verse from Dieter over this really deep bass. Two organ chords keep answering Dieter. 9it reminds me of the two chords used in ‘So What’ by Miles Davis) This is based on one chord with a riff. There is a break where the drums stop and when the bass riff returns, boy is this powerful with an electric piano over the top playing like a jazz solo. On a later verse, there is a little counter melody in the back behind the voice that almost floats somewhere in the centre of the stereo. Then an organ solo with the riff and assorted sounds floating around. It finishes with a jazz chord too.

Croissant Bleu
A riff is set up with pad sounds and Dieter speaks in French. Very strong bass drum beat with a great hook – in French but meaning ‘when I’m with you, I’m lost, just a fool’. It has this warbling instrumental sound which I think is an attempt at trying to produce the ‘flavour’ of an accordion. ‘Aah’ vocal chord sounds in the background on a sampler/synth.

Liquid Lies
Thunder introduces this and a riff full of character. Dieter sings a mono-tone but he has superimposed himself an octave higher. Again, really heavy bass led music. In the second verse, the bass is left down below and it goes REALLY deep. It has a kind of swing rhythm played on drums with brushes so there is this influence of ‘jazz’ style again in this album. This is a good test for speakers/headphones in following a deep bass riff in quite a busy mix. It’s actually played in octaves down there at some points I think. A synth also doubles it at other points.

Squeeze Please
Percussion intro and samples of voice that have been cut so that they become part of the percussion. A great electronic sax riff with Dieter in fine form. I think his voice has been manipulated to be lower since it is SO low. (Like a growl) It kind of reminds you of the Race in the orchestration. Saxes, Latin American percussion, deep bass, brass riffs, samples in and out with plenty of percussion action – in fact, if you imagine the car racing sounds, you can hear how close this is. I really like this track and the Yello sense of humour is a bit more to the front.

Shake and Shiver
An electronic sequenced opening with a fast percussion rhythm. Vocal samples and then the riff starts in earnest. A whistling synth answer to the samples. The chorus is hilarious – ‘Shake and Shiver, – an electronic accordion sound that moves in the left and right stereo image, panting, a massive bass tiff and an instrument that makes an Ooh Ooh sound. Then the Miami theme on brass with a detuned instrument playing in the right speaker. There is a sequence with cut up samples of voice sounds. I love the ‘Hawai Five O’ type brass theme in this that’s used as a link to the hook. Miami vice type stuff.

Bubbling Under
Vocal percussion. (sampled) A repeated electronic note and a bass line added. The mix is gradually built up. Even a wobble board in this if you’re quick. (Electronic – Think Rolf Harris) Strong beats with a mono-tone fast rap, but it’s in the background rather than to the front of the mix. Again, this really deep bass drum beat that rattles your teeth. Some jazz sequences are added later against this background of bass, drums and riffs with samples, including those vocal percussion sounds. (including raspberries!!) The sense of humour has returned!! Rhythmically fantastic. You just can’t help turning this up.

Point Blank
A swing number with eerie sounds fading in and string noises. The bass is extremely low. So low, I found it hard to track. It rumbles away while the swing is going on above with these weird chords on strings and percussion fills. Once the mix settles, you can actually hear that bass line more clearly. Some of the samples are used in other albums if you listen carefully and actually know their other albums. The ‘So What’ chord sequence returns on the organ with all kinds of sounds coming and going around it. This is kind of using Jazz idioms inside the electronic mix and the Yello percussion style. It also includes really dramatic changes of sound. In a way, it reminds me of John Zorn soundscapes stuff where he used to go from one style and then suddenly launch into another. No melodies. Just rhythms and sounds mixed together. Very complex.

Cyclops
High string sounds and rumbles with a choir singing at the start. Some electronic screams with the choir wailing away. The string sounds wheeze away and eventually, it settles into a kind of pattern which is cleared of percussion to leave the strings and choir. It sounds very film-like and dramatic. A beat start up and the piece settles into a kind of ‘drone’ and then more space is left with the kit taken out again before it all starts up again. Very orchestral.

This is an unusual (and bold) album. Rhythmically complex with some challenging mixes. Very deep bass lines and minimalist (almost) writing. Songs that use few chords and some that are totally riff based with no particular melodies, leaving you with complex mixes of rhythms. I really like this album and the quality of the recording is absolutely top notch. Worth getting imo.

 
TOUCH

This is a lovely album with top notch recorded sound. The songs are well crafted and the album as a whole works well. For me it is a one of my reference recordings that I now use to test equipment.

I’ll just outline track 1 for now.

The Expert

Opens with a ‘vocal rhythm’ including sniffs that are also part of the duet. The first vocal rhythm is in a the form of a ‘riff’ where he’s humming as well with the sound and the second vocal is the percussive element. Actually, the second vocal part is imitating a conga rhythm where the word ‘Ka’ is a substitute for what is known as a ‘slap’ sound on the conga. (A high pitched sound you get by cupping your hands when you hit it) A little syncopated rhythm comes in and a very deep bass sound plays a glissando going down before the snare plays a fill to take us into the real riff.

There’s a bass chromatic riff and a synth brass sound, a ‘funky’ guitar pattern with percussion and slaps going on. Dieter goes into one of his mono-tones, low down. A short link where an organ does some ‘comping’ and then sounds are taken suddenly out of the mix when Dieter continues the second verse. It has a much emptier backdrop with just a high hat accompanying him.

The riff returns with the opening vocal riff being played as well. An answering bass riff appears before he raps the next verse and an instrumental link. There are loads of sounds coming in and out of this mix. There is then an instrumental section. The bass riff keeps going and vocal percussion joins in before a lonely synth melody at the top over the riff and some female vocalists join in.

The next verse is two voices in unison and it is answered by a guitar. They are answered by guitar and low grunts before the next verse in unison again. The punch line is solo before the girls join in again and then another final verse before a low glissando and the girls finish the piece with no percussion at all.

I love this opening number because it has such a wide range of sounds in the mix and the stereo placing is quite different with the voices on the edge of the left/right stereo and the guitar riffing dead centre with the bass line.

It has the Yello humour, their brilliant mixing skills and with some fantastically tight rhythms. This is very accurate stuff and played with precision. Sounds come and go so easily in the mix that it’s really easy to miss them.

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Comments
  1. David says:

    Touch has also been my reference track for HiFi setup – it never fails to surprise and enthral.
    Great site and thanks for the Foobar info

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