James Yuill - These Spirits

Where other works were distinctive and refined, These Spirits feels confused and clunky.

They say it only take 20 seconds to decide if you like a track. London-based producer James Yuill’s fifth full-length, ‘These Spirits’, proves this but you’ll need a sizeably larger chunk of patience, or maybe just a functional skip button, to appreciate it.

The album announces itself with a flash of 90s power synth via ‘Lost In California’. Intimidating textures and the overly pretentious ‘You are the strangest man in California’ lyrical hook make for a curious introduction, leaving Yuill working hard to gain trust as a credible producer come singer.

Just as the persistent four to the floors and 808s intoxicate ‘Turn Yourself Around’ and ‘Let It Go’, 90s disco is offered contemporary facelift. A flurry of delicate layers dispersed throughout the track are just enough to stop you dusting down your dungarees and fanny pack.

More tasteful production and well placed percussive motives that emerge in act II give ‘These Sprits’ a more relevant context but show the album’s disjointed structure. As elements of genuinely promising song writing are given room to breathe with ‘Carrie’, which draws similarities to early Badly Drawn Boy, offering a welcome detour from attention grabbing, predicatively repetitive keys and riffs.

‘Old Fashioned’ continues in the same vein, encouraging the idea that under a synth-ridden outershell Yuill is ready to slow down. The well-worked stand out track ‘Just A Little Further’ shows that by resting beloved drum machines the producer can control a seemingly overpowering urge to pad tracks with contrasting elements that don’t always agree.

That said, by the time ‘Space Race’ cements the ability to balance the two extremes within Yuill’s work, it all feels too a little too late. There’s a sense that you’ve been on a journey with an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while but you’re tired and there’s something different about your pal.

A forced sense of enthusiasm takes away from any escapism created by more accessible tracks and with such a mixed message spread across the album, it doesn’t feel like James Yuill has decided which path his career is going next. Where other works were distinctive and refined, ‘These Spirits’ feels confused and clunky. If indecision remains such a strong theme to Yuill’s work then 20 seconds might have just become too long.

Tags: James Yuill, Reviews, Album Reviews

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