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On safe ground

15.11.2016 – Marko Lehtinen

Let’s be honest: No one expected Yello to stake out new ground on their thirteenth album. Dieter Meier and Boris Blank have been moving in their own musical cosmos since the late 1970s. They developed their sound early on, one that later influenced generations of electronic musicians and that is more than simply a brand. Combined with their extravagant imagery, it is a unique form of expression. The world discovered this years ago. The dadaist avant-garde disco numbers and the high-quality aesthetic video clips resulted in major international acclaim for the duo from Zurich. Today, Yello are one of very few Swiss bands to have helped create their own genre and justifiably enjoy cult status.

So, why change the concept now? Never change a winning team! And so with the new album “Toy”, 62-year-old Boris Blank returned once again to the successful musical components of Yello, in peppy samples that are sometimes jazzy, sometimes house groove, but always rhythmic. To those 71-year-old Dieter Meier added his familiar deep and rhythmic talking/singing. A typical example is the single “Limbo”, a house number with cow bells and unemotional rumblings. In some of the songs there is also the usual ethereal guest singer – this time it is Malia and Fifi Rong. And the song “Magma” features the German trumpet player Till Brönner, who also played on the last Yello album from 2009.

In other words, a lot of familiar stuff. But the mood of “Toy” is somewhat more subdued and quieter than the Yello of the past. Here and there we hear murmuring for several minutes – more like music for the lounge than for the dance floor. These are nuances, however, that do not detract from the overall sound. But even though you can certainly admire the fact that Blank and Meier are still out there creating music, it doesn’t diminish the feeling that you could have hoped for more from these two musicians than the anaemic self-plagiarism of this album.

Yello: “Toy”, Universal Music

As a result expectations for the concert in February in Zurich are even higher. This will be only the second venue they have played at live in their long career. The first four performances were in October in Berlin. Yello had never performed live before due to Boris Blank’s stage fright. So, something is changing in the cosmos of Blank and Meier after all.

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