By Eric Blendermann
From the first sounds of Eighty One, the third Ninja Tune release by Yppah (the nom de beats of Joe Corrales, Jr.) – the children’s laughter that opens the lead-off track, “Blue Schwinn” – it’s clear that you’ve entered a very personal and intimate experience, just not necessarily one of your own – the sensation might be described as eavesdropping on someone else’s happy but complicated dreams.
Yppah eases into each track with a simple rhythmic figure of some kind – usually light percussion plus repeating guitar or keyboard notes – then layers on instrumentation and effects, and sometimes vocals, until the musical currents are crossing back and forth over each other, usually with interesting results – these are musical fabrics being woven meticulously. So much is going on in these tracks, you’re going to want to listen in headphones, because the experience is dramatically richer when you have a chance to absorb all the details.
The opener “Blue Schwinn,” as well as the reflective “Happy to See You,” are prime examples of Yppah’s MO – from gentle beginnings, both tracks build to dense patterns of sound, but with a lingering positivity, even innocence – those children’s voices drift in more than once. Another voice appearing here and there on this collection is that of Seattle-based singer Anomie Belle<, whose spectral crooning (as tweaked by Yppah) adds darker hues to several tracks, including the singles "Film Burn" and "D. Song". Yppah is definitely a cousin of instrumental hip-hop experimentalists like Boards of Canada, Nightmares on Wax, and The Herbaliser, but there’s quite a bit of the classic 4AD sound floating around in this collection, too – you’ll swear you heard echoes of the Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil in these dreamy soundscapes.
Eighty One is a personal, ethereal journey, as if Yppah soundtracked his dreams: warmth is intertwined with worry, memories live on, but it’s hard to pin down or even remember specific details after you wake up. Listen again, though – while you’re in the dream, it all makes sense.