a Planet Mellotron Album Reviews: Samples Y


album list


Yacobs  (Germany)

Estella  (2007,  43.53)  **
Clouds  (2012,  46.00)  ***½

Drummer Ulf Jacobs (also of Argos) uses Yacobs as his professional moniker, presumably tired of English-speakers mispronouncing his name. Estella is pretty bloody awful, if truth were told, mainstream pop with progressive touches (!); More Than Beautiful, with its cheesy narration, is so bad that I wonder whether it's meant to be a parody of the likes of James Blunt and his ilk. Or mabe not? The instrumental Mellomania, The World is Flowing Though Me and closer Estella My Fairy are rather better, but they're pearls amongst swine. Jacobs plays upfront, obviously sampled flutes on Telephones, flutes and strings on Mellomania (unsurprisingly) and elsewhere. Five years on and Clouds is a massive improvement, roughly comparable to Genesis on the cusp of their '80s commercial period, ubiquitous Yamaha CP70 piano (or reasonable facsimile) and all. 'Pop/prog'? It's not a new appellation, but remarkably appropriate in this case. The album's samplotron use consists of no more than background choirs on several tracks and the upfront flutes on the title track.

Yeah NO  (US)

Swell Henry  (2004,  38.42)  ***½

Yeah NO are an NYC-based brass-driven jazz outfit led by noted saxophonist/clarinettist Chris Speed, who have nothing obviously to do with John Medeski (isn't that illegal in that city?) Their fourth (and to date, latest) album is 2004's Swell Henry, a pleasingly not-overlong collection of deceptively mellow instrumental pieces for brass section and rhythm section, with the occasional more uptempo piece like Flanked or He Has A Pair Of Dice to keep you on your toes. It's difficult to pinpoint any 'best tracks', as stylistically, most of them are much of a muchness, but opener She Has Four Thorns is probably typical enough to sum the album up as a whole. Keys man (at least on this release) Jamie Saft (Mat Maneri, Bobby Previte) plays samplotron on two tracks, with flutes on Born In The Air, only really audible towards the end of the piece, with more of the same, more obviously this time, on Camper Giorno.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs  (US)

It's Blitz!  (2009,  41.48)  *½

Going by their third album, 2009's It's Blitz!, New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs are every inch as tiresomely, predictably indie as you might expect from their shitty name, typified by the crapulent sub-electronica of opener Zero and Soft Shock. Karen O's voice does nothing to help proceedings, but then, she and they are very successful, so what do I know? 'Mellotronically' speaking, we get really obviously sampled strings on Zero, Runaway and Heads Will Roll, so much so on the last-named that I'm wondering whether they've made sure that the samples sound like exactly that, since there's no way you'd mistake it for a real machine. Unless you're of a seriously masochistic bent or have the worst taste in the world, you're unlikely to find out for yourself, anyway. Avoid.

Yes  (UK)  see:


Yeasayer  (US)

Fragrant World  (2012,  48.29)  *½

Brooklyn's Yeasayer (OK, good name) are sometimes described as 'psychedelic pop', which paints a very different picture to yours truly from the infuriating indie-vocalled electro-pop nonsense of their third effort, 2012's Fragrant World. Less offensive tracks include opener Fingers Never Bleed and Reagan's Skeleton, which is as near-as-dammit identical to saying that something of only medium shitness is less shit than something of considerable shitness. Anand Wilder is credited with Mellotron on Folk Hero Shtick, but if I'm expected to believe that the speedy, multiply-repeated flute line on the track emanates from a genuine machine... Not recommended on any front, then. Sorry, chaps.

Yeongene  (S. Korea)

Bonnie Gene: Yeongene in Scotland  (2010,  56.31)  ***

Yeongene sings with Korean cutsie-popsters Linus' Blanket alongside her solo career, the first (?) fruit of which was 2010's Bonnie Gene: Yeongene in Scotland. The first half sees her take on the Burt Bacharach songbook, recorded with members of Teenage Fanclub, while the remainder pairs her with The BMX Bandits, the end result being, well, cutsie pop. Highlights? I don't know - I'm really not the man to ask, although I'd feel churlish giving this anything less than three stars. Yeongene's credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Paper Mache and Ally Ally Oxen Free and strings on Reflections are clearly sampled. And I didn't use the word 'twee' once.

Stephen Yerkey  (US)

Metaneonatureboy  (2006,  47.36)  ***

Metaneonatureboy is an album of wind-blasted, jazz-inflected desert Americana, at its best on Alice Macallister, Link Wray's Girlfriend and lengthy closer Stinson Beach Road, Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, of course) playing distant samplotron strings on the last-named.

Yesterdays  (Romania)

Holdfénykert  (2006,  54.21)  ****

The female-fronted Yesterdays consists of ethnic Hungarians based in Romania, some of whom played in You & I; not a hotbed of prog activity, you would've thought, but Holdfénykert is actually a beautiful, folk-influenced and jazz-tinged progressive record. They sound like a composite of several '70s bands, although I'm struggling to recall specific acts; PFM, maybe? I have to say, a good few melodies here remind me slightly too strongly of ones I've heard before, not least the flute part in Don't Be Scared that cuts Yes' Close To The Edge a bit fine and I'm sure I heard A Groovy Kind Of Love somewhere, too, although that's quibbling, really. Top track? Difficult to define, as it's all good, but the two-part Seven is particularly nice.

Zsolt Enyedi (listed on the sleeve, in Hungarian fashion, as Enyedi Zsolt) plays various (real or virtual) vintage 'boards, including Mellotron on just about every track, although I'm quite certain it's sampled. Strings across the board (ho ho) plus a brief choir part on Infinite and flutes on Just Stay, quite distinct from the real ones prevalent on most tracks, the 'Mellotronic' exceptions being It's So Divine (a beautiful acoustic guitar piece) and Moonlit Garden (er, a beautiful acoustic guitar duet). Now, as good as the Mellotron here sounds, where did they source one in their part of the world? Why do the notes cut off so sharply? Assuming it's sampled, the samples are leagues ahead of any used before the last couple of years, but I suppose they are, aren't they? However, Holdfénykert's a lovely album, well worth hearing, whether or not any of its instrumental sounds actually emanate from a device other than as advertised.

Yeti Lane  (France)

Yeti Lane  (2009,  41.13)  **

Yeti Lane's English-language indie rock leaves next to no impressions whatsoever, its lack of ambition accumulating throughout their eponymous album's length, losing it half a star in the process. Any bright spots? Closer Heart's Architecture is about the best thing here, which isn't saying much. Someone calling themselves Cyann plays samplotron strings on Lucky Bag and Solar.

Yevgueni  (Belgium)

Aan de Arbeid  (2007,  42.12)  **½

Yevgueni play a kind of Flemish-language rootsyish pop/rock with a cabaret edge, seemingly named in honour of Serge Gainsbourg's Evgueni Sokolov. Their second album, 2007's Aan de Arbeid, is a perfectly acceptable effort, if somewhat unexciting; I'd imagine that an understanding of the lyrics is central to its appreciation, which leaves most of the world at something of a disadvantage. Geert Noppe is credited with Mellotron flutes on Vergif, but his part is so low in the mix that it's as near-as-dammit inaudible and quite certainly sampled.

Yoko Absorbing  (Russia)

Kruchenykh-125  (2011,  74.45)  ***

Yoko Absorbing are the avant-garde Russian duo of Mikhail Lezin (principally guitars) and Evgenij V. Kharitonov (principally synths), whose third album, 2011's Kruchenykh-125, is a celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Russian futurist poet Aleksei Kruchenykh. Take that, pretentious indie bands and stick it in the usual place. Although every track is different to every other, they're alike in their uncompromising dedication to uneasy listening, blasts of white noise intermingling with distorted rhythms and skronky synths, notable examples including the twisted folk melody weaving its way through the glitch on Der Teer and the '60s-esque organ fighting its way through the mix on closer Dolphins In An Interstellar Dust, while Yoko Droning is exactly what it says.

Although Kharitonov's credited with Mellotron, it not only quite clearly isn't, due to their location, but isn't audible anyway. What Mellotron? Where? Rating this album isn't the easiest job ever, as it pretty much defies categorisation, to the point where much of it wouldn't even be described as music by more reactionary listeners. One for the avant- fan in your life, then.

Kate York  (US)

Sadlylove  (2006,  45.30)  **½

Kate York's debut album, 2006's Sadlylove, starts well enough, but like so many other modern singer-songwriter efforts, it slumps into a slough of despond all too soon, mid-paced fluff such as Will I Always Love You and All Dressed In You letting the side down somewhat. York's at her best when she sticks to acoustic arrangements, better examples including Wished For Song, Stay With Me and What Love Was, although, as you'd expect of the genre, her material seems to be more about the lyrics than the actual tunes, making for a rather anodyne listen for those who demand a certain level of musical interest. Neilson Hubbard allegedly plays Mellotron (as he does for several other artists), but the strings and cello on I Will Wait sound faker-than-fake to my tired old ears, particularly a shrieky high note, repeated several times, a tone above the Mellotron's range.

Pete Yorn  (US)

Musicforthemorningafter  (2001,  57.31)  **
Day I Forgot  (2003,  42.49)  **

Pete Yorn rose to undeserved prominence at the beginning of the new millennium, largely by providing songs (note: not incidental music) for various Hollywood blockbusters, which probably tells you more about his music that I ever could. Bland, safe, predictable... I'll tell you who he reminds me of: a less offensive Daniel Powter. I keep expecting him to start whining, "You had a bad day...", although, luckily, he's not quite that bad day-ish. Not quite. His 2001 debut, Musicforthemorningafter, features some of those songs and is every bit as tedious as you might imagine. Why does anyone buy this stuff? Because it's commercial, stoopid... I don't understand and nor do you, but people who don't actually like music do. R. Walt Vincent plays samplotron, with background flutes on Murray and much more upfront ones on EZ ('easy', presumably), plus faint strings on closer Simonize. Yorn followed up in 2003 with Day I Forgot and, it has to be said, it's pretty awful. More whining, more insipid songs, more mid-paced, dreary nonsense. I can't be arsed to even attempt to say anything nice about this, frankly. Drivel. Two obvious samplotron tracks from Vincent again, with background strings on Committed and much more upfront ones on (at last!) closer So Much Work. Yorn? I almost dropped off. Dull, dull, dull.

Otomo Yoshihide Invisible Songs  (Japan)

Sora  (2007,  52.49)  ***

After playing in Japanese avant-heroes Ground Zero, Otomo Yoshihide has formed or worked with a plethora of artists, many of them, like Otomo Yoshihide Invisible Songs, one-off recording projects. After a brief, oddball intro, Sora starts off relatively normally, but by the fourteen-minute Suika Wo Motte Shinda Otoko-no Yoru, things have taken a (fairly predictable) turn for the weirder and noisier, a state in which the album stays for the rest of its duration. Two samplotron tracks, with skronky, clearly sampled strings on the title track and cellos and strings on Suika Wo Motte Shinda Otoko-no Yoru.

You am I  (Australia)

Live Electrified  (2015,  126.34)  ***½

Live Electrified is a ripping, if lengthy live album from Aussie powerpop heroes You am I, the band playing both of their Mellotron albums (coincidentally?), Hourly, Daily and Hi Fi Way in their entirety, adding a handful of songs from EPs to round out the set. It is, of course, excellent, the material spiced up in a live setting, in front of a rabid crowd. Davey Lane is credited with Mellotron. What, live? I think not. Anyway, we get flutes and strings not only in all the correct places from the studio versions, but on several other tracks, too. Recommended.

Justin Young  (US)

Makai  (2013,  38.51)  **

Hawaiian Justin Young's tenth or so album is light-as-air pop/reggae of the 'much falsetto vocal' variety. No, there are no best tracks. Will Gramling's 'Mellotron' flutes on Lose This One (fuck me, lose all of them) are bogus, too.

Mary Youngblood  (US)

Beneath the Raven Moon  (2002,  46.20)  ***
Dance With the Wind  (2006,  51.45)  ***

Mary "Youngblood" Edwards is a native American flautist from Northern California, whose second studio album, 2002's Beneath the Raven Moon, places her highly competent traditional playing into a rather new-agey setting, the end result being the kind of album you'll find in gift shops at the Grand Canyon. It's at its best when she plays unaccompanied (Within My Heart, the lengthy Dream With Me) and at its worst when singing enters the equation (Walk With Me) or it all gets rhythmically inappropriate (the reggae-ish And We Shall Dance). Chief musician Tom Wasinger allegedy plays Chamberlin, although it's near-impossible to tell where, despite the sparseness of the mix. Backing up the real violin, viola and cello on Dream With Me? Most likely sampled, anyway. Two albums on, Dance With the Wind is another perfectly pleasant, if slightly unengaging release, slotting all too well into the 'new age' format. Youngblood's flute playing is magnificent, in fairness, evoking the Irish whistle and other non-orchestral flute types, although, once again, the album's vocal tracks are rather less necessary than its instrumentals. More Wasinger fake-Chamby, with string parts on opener Misty Rain and On Our Journey.

Adrian Younge  (US)

Something About April  (2011,  41.56)  **½

Adrian Younge's 'Selene'

Multi-instrumentalist/producer Adrian Younge expanded a 2009 EP into 2011's Something About April, credited to Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn, best described as psychedelic soul, I suppose. Does that combination work? In places, is the short answer, although songs such as Anna May, Two Hearts Combine and Lovely Lady are only ever going to appeal to soul fans, I suspect. The album's at its best on material like opener Turn Down The Sound, the dusty Reverie and Mourning Melodies In Rhapsody, where the psychedelia's combined with early '60s influences, not least the surf guitar sound heard on several tracks.

The vaguely Mellotronish sounds on the album are apparently played on a one-off device Younge has had built, the Selene. I quote... "The keyboard is called the 'Selene'. It is a modern day mellotron (look that up, one of the first sample keyboards). I recorded all of my keyboards to analog tape (through vintage tube compressors and vintage mics) and trigger each key using a controller embedded into the Selene". Which makes it sound like it plays tapes, although I'm quite sure that it's no more than a custom hardware sample player, in which case, what's the point? Anyway, hard to tell where it's being used, but more Mellotron-esque parts include the high-end flutes and highly unconvincing strings on opener Turn Down The Sound, cellos on Reverie, flutes on First Step On The Moon and upfront string and flute parts on Sirens and Mourning Melodies In Rhapsody, the latter complete with a direct Strawberry Fields quote from the flutes. Worth hearing? Despite its unique samples, only for those with a high soul tolerance, I'd say.

Sherri Youngward  (US)

Six Inches of Sky  (2002,  43.16)  **

Sherri Youngward is a CCM artist, which is Planet Mellotron shorthand for 'her music has zero intrinsic value'. Does Six Inches of Sky have any less appalling moments? Possibly I'll Fly Away, with its Byrdsian 12-string, but that's hardly a recommendation. Jay Clarke plays pretty obvious samplotron strings on closer This Dream Of Mine.

Your Team Ring  (US)

Homelife  (2002,  40.16)  **½

I've seen Your Team Ring's Homelife called 'psych/pop', which seems to be as good a description as any, quoted influences including the Elephant Six Collective, Ween and Eno. It seems to be some kind of SF concept album, for what it's worth, at its best on This Apartment Will Rise and Mobile Home. Justin Russo's 'Mellotron'? Obviously sampled flutes on The Big Drift and Lost In The Ocean Of Bone and strings on the closing title track.

Yugen  (Italy)

Labirinto d'Acqua  (2006,  50.15)  ****
Yugen Plays Leddi - Uova Fatali  (2008,  48.13)  ***
Iridule  (2010,  47.47)  ***½

Yugen are a thing of wonder: a modern progressive band who actually understand progressive rock and play it with verve. Formed by ex-Night Watcher Francesco Zago, their debut, 2006's Labirinto d'Acqua, combines more 'traditional' prog elements with avant- or chamber prog (think: Univers Zero), featuring an extended lineup including violin, cembalo, bass flute and clarinet, subcontrabass sax and several mallet instruments. The overall effect is Gentle Giant duking it out in a dark alley with Henry Cow, eventually losing by a whisker, yet emerging bloodied but unbowed. Picking out individual tracks is pointless; I can't imagine anyone putting one or two faves on their iPod. The overall effect is what's important here and what makes this album a winner. Although Paolo "Ske" Botta is credited with Mellotron, the Chamberlin solo male voice on Brachiologia is very clearly a stretched sample. Oh what a giveaway... The more regular Mellotron samples are used on most tracks, the particularly good Crimsonesque overdubbed strings/choir part on Quando La Morte Mi Colse Nel Sonno standing out; this would probably get TTTT were it genuine.

2008's Yugen Plays Leddi - Uova Fatali, concentrates on compositions by mandolinist Tommaso Leddi, a man sitting at the more chamber/avant- end of the spectrum. As a result, the album, while good, lacks the variety of their debut and is a more difficult listen all round, although opener Escher is as good as anything on this album's predecessor. Francesco Zago's 'Mellotron' use this time round is limited to literally a few string chords on Mattarello; hardly worth the credit, really. 2010's Iridule is a half-way stage between their first two releases, certainly more melodic (I use the term loosely) than Uova Fatali; the playing is a delight throughout, of course, the jaw-dropping Overmurmur being a particular highlight. Zago on 'Mellotron' again, with strings on The Scuttle Of The Past Out Of The Cupboards, Overmurmur and Becchime, sensibly never too upfront, given its sampled status.

So; Labirinto d'Acqua's a very worthwhile prog release, as long as you don't object to the more 'out there' elements of the band's sound, Uova Fatali's rather hard work, but Iridule is more listenable. As far as their debut goes, though, sampled Mellotron, but more than worthy of your time and money. Excellent.

Yung & Moore Show  (US)

Yung & Moore Versus the Whole Goddam Stinkin' World  (2006,  63.40)  **

In Yung & Moore Versus the Whole Goddam Stinkin' World, Terry "Yukio Yung" Burrows and R. Stevie Moore's collaborative project has produced a wildly overlong set largely consisting of piss-weak indie nonsense crossed with electronica, at its least infuriating on the crazed Subjectivity. 'Yung' plays credited Mellotron flutes on opener Schwann Catalog, I Wish Marvin Gaye's Father Had Shot Me Instead and closer I Go Into Your Mind/Quite Nice Dream (Extract), plus flutes and strings on Divorce Court, the flutes on Marvin Gaye repetitive enough to've been sequenced.