Short Takes (Yassou, Qualia, Elessar Theissen & Andre Chrys)

Yassou

Yassou

Yassou – “To Win/ Young Blood”

San Francisco/New York-based, experimental indie-pop outfit Yassou (formerly named Yassou Benedict) offers a twofer with “To Win/Young Blood” in a video-only format for the release of the songs.  This video is the second in a series of 5 songs that Yassou is delivering in video form.  Band members Lilie Bytheway Hoy (lead vocals, bass), James Jackson (guitar, drums, vocals), A.J. Krumholz (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Patrick Aguirre (drums), and Theo Quimby (drums, piano, vocals) shape wandering electro-pop numbers that enchant due to frontwoman Lilie’s light-to-ethereal vocals.  She is sometimes coolly distant, sometimes sharply immediate with her vocal delivery, changing up her intonation and pitch depending on the flow of the instrumental settings.

On the first song in the video series, Lilie was gasping for breath in staccato fashion, but on the “Young Blood” portion of the second song, she’s only mildly perturbed, enunciating with a slight keen the disquieting lyrics that “I can’t move my feet / I can’t feel my face.”  She’s trying to find someone who keeps vanishing without a trace and as she searches for this person, she sighs wistfully that “You must be a specter / Because you’re disappearing again.”  “Young Blood” segues between two sonic passages; one that is calmer and filled with the lilt of strummed acoustic guitar, a slowly knocking beat, and a gentle wash of cymbals and a stronger section with a frisson of electronics, wavering synth notes, and an urgent marching drum beat.  The cinematic video is shot through a glossy grayscale palette in a parade of quickly-cut images, containing visuals of Lilie and others swimming in water and Lilie featured prominently above the mountaintops as clouds timelapse around her.  It ends disturbingly with a shot of a body floating face down at the surface of a swimming pool…

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Qualia - Triptych EP

Qualia – Triptych EP

Qualia is the filmic electronic project of Michael Hazani who is currently based in Seattle.  In mid-September the singer-songwriter released his sophomore EP, Triptych, on his own label Qualia Records.  For the 3-track EP, Michael (vocals, guitar, bass) enlisted the aid of Pier Luigi (keyboards), Shawn Crowder (drums), and Micky Blue (additional vocals, vocal production).  Michael composed all the songs and co-produced the EP with Jay Marcovitz.  It was mixed by Jay and mastered by Fred Sladkey.  The resulting songs of Triptych are full of heartfelt vocals, upbeat tempos, catchy pop hooks, and retro rhythmic grooves.  The most engaging track is EP-opener “Presque Vu” which dabbles in a New Wave 80s sound of arcade game electronic blips, racing guitars, brisk drums, and sweeping anthemic choruses.  Amid brightly chiming keyboards, Michael reminisces about his youth and how it was “…good to be alive.” and that, even 20 years later, he feels “…the same today.” as he did in the past.  The song breezes by sweetly with a cheerful aural uplift and Michael’s light, clear, and engaging vocal exclamations.

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Elessar Theissen - A Rainy Week In Paradise

Elessar Theissen – A Rainy Week In Paradise

Winnipeg-raised Canadian Elessar Theissen is a full-time music producer, but in his spare time he works on his own output as a blues-inspired singer-songwriter.  He’s released the studio EP Head.Heart.Hands., as well as a live version of it, and this past summer he dropped his 11-song debut album, A Rainy Week In Paradise.  For his album, Elessar (vocals, guitar, organ, piano, programming) is joined by David Landreth (bass), Brody Britton (percussion), and Cam Friesen (drums, percussion).  Vocalists Alexa Dirks and Catherine Wylee make appearances on “You Girl” and “Lover Dear”, respectively, while Jordan Jackiew guests on organ and piano on “You Girl”.

The collaboration between Elessar, Alexa, and Jordan on “You Girl” is a winning one with the track exuding a smoky cool, low-key blues vibe throughout its runtime.  While “You Girl” may not feature Elessar on vocals until its very end, he brings a striking resonance to the sharp jags and mellifluous lines of electric guitar that run along with Alexa’s centerstage vocals.  Elessar plays his guitar like a second voice twining around Alexa as she croons longingly “Each morning when I wake / All I think about is you…”  Jordan adds another ‘voice’ to the mix with his subdued, yet expressive organ and piano playing.  It all comes together at the end of “You Girl” with Elessar shadowing Alexa’s vocals and the guitar and organ rising in the mix against steady drums.

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AndreChrys

Andre Chrys

Andre Chrys – “Don’t Disappear On Me”

Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Andre Chrys is a veteran musician who is set to release his Americana/roots rock-steeped album, Window To Nowhere, mid-October.  The songs on the album were composed by Andre on his 60-year old Gibson guitar and recorded and mixed by John Raham at Afterlife Studios in Vancouver.  His longtime bandmates Jeff Younger (guitars, backing vocals), Bill Briscall (bass, backing vocals), and Mike Magnusson (drums) all provided assistance, as well as guest musicians like Aiden Briscall on violin and Tyson Naylor on organ and accordion.

A standout song on Window To Nowhere is the spare alt-folk noir number “Don’t Disappear On Me”.  An undercurrent of foreboding runs through the song as it treads with a measured drum and muted cymbal crash.  An extended shiver of organ hangs in the background as Andre sing-talks in a restrained tone, perceptively pointing out “I need you close / This world is a touch too cruel to go it alone.”  While a Chris Isaak or Nick Cave would push with an expressive vocal delivery (romantically mournful and darkly baleful, respectively), Andre keeps his emotions in check, leaving his words and repressed feelings to do the talking.  The overall mood is stark and reserved, but lightened by a touch of picked guitar.

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