Sometimes I am baffled by those genre descriptions you get on band’s Facebook Pages, Huddersfield’s Yellow Cafe are a case in point, they description themselves as being alt-pop, and I have not the faintest idea what that is. They also describe themselves as being ‘Hip Hop’, and I get that, but alt-pop, no idea. But before everyone sends me emails or messages LSF on our Facebook Page telling me, perhaps in a way that implies that if I write music reviews I should know what alt-pop is and if I don’t I have no business reviewing music, the thing is that I just don’t care what alt-pop is, all that matters is that I took one small listen to what Yellow Cafe had already released, thought it was wonderful, and said yes to reviewing this EP.
So why did I think what they do is so wonderful? Because I think what they do has depth and more importantly is quietly elegantly beautiful. What they do is produce these lovely down tempo songs using a hip-hop beat, really sparse layers of sound and add these vocals which are so hypnotic, so compulsive, you are drawn in. Their songs are so much an illustration of why less is more. Obviously ‘less’ isn’t easy – I’ve said that before and it’s a certainty I’ll say it again – ‘less’ takes care and attention. Yellow Cafe do that.
The title track of the EP ‘Soap Bubble’ is musically just a simple beat, simple sounds which are delicately layered, and these popping sounds which drift in and out, while Bella sings. How she sings is the thing that, as I said, will draw you into their music. She just sings with this lovely voice, it’s almost casual, it’s certainly laid-back, but it’s pure. But listen again, and listen more closely, and you start to notice stuff you didn’t hear properly before – like the backing vocals, that are just there, and there fabulously. The words she sings paint a picture, a mood.
‘Orange English Light’ sounds a little, how shall I put this, stronger, less delicate musically. But it still has that sparse elegant beauty. What this song is about I have no idea, I’ve listened to it so many times in an attempt to work that out, because what I’ve managed to get sounds a little scary but I still have no idea, even what I think I’ve got may be wrong.
‘Elastic’ is faster, you could dance to this, gently, but you could dance. It sounds deliciously sunny in places but it has this edge, a slight edge, of sadness. It just has these lovely bits where it it just stops, it stops, and then it starts. These are thrilling people.
‘Concave’ is slightly more complex, more dense, it had me thinking briefly of Portishead. This by the way isn’t a bad thing, I love Portishead. It’s not how it sounds, it’s how it’s put together. What it isn’t, in case I’ve given you the wrong idea, is vastly layered with complex sounds. It’s still full of space, those layers are put together with such care.
The songs on this EP are beguiling, they are beautiful. They are clever, clever in the way they are put together. They have a depth that demands repeated listening, and there’s always something new every time you listen. I mean sure you could just listen to them as background, and that would be fab, but to get the most from them you need to listen more closely. Listen to this and then go listen to Yellow Cafe’s other songs, you won’t regret it.
‘Soap Bubble’ is available on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes, and Bandcamp.
When we do reviews we ask bands to send us a biography, Yellow Cafe sent us a link to their website. I was so taken by what I read that I have no choice but to reproduce it in full:
‘Yellow Cafe was created as a project, symbolising our relationship together. Bella always thought I was like sunshine – hence yellow and she likes coffee, too – hence cafe. We thus became Yellow Cafe and have made music together ever since in our bedroom at the top of our house. Surrounded by plants and fresh inspiration each day. Everything else after that is a product of our collective creativity and that’s for the people to interpret themselves. We just provide the soundtrack to small-town living.
We quote from a conversation with Fleeting Media “I’d say that our creative process begins with an idea in terms of musicality. This is often accompanied with a line or two of lyrics by Bella. We bounce ideas for a number of days and then begin the “process”. We live in close proximity to one and other and so we’re always in our creative space – as far as “recording” is concerned. This, much to the excitement of ourselves, means we’re always frantically setting up our microphone to record lines in. As for me, [Jakob] focusing on composition where the production is concerned, I, more often than not, sit and write loops with field recordings and bounce the audio between Ableton and the Sp-404. It provides me with the freedom to create, whilst not in the confines of a 15 inch screen and that really helps me to “feel” the sound. A lot of our influence comes from jazz, anti-pop and sparse sound and so an idea is frequently generated from inspiration, paying homage to existing artists. This is our melting pot and our environment. Engulfed by plants, with wires cutting through the middle. It’s our little big planet and we call it Yellow Cafe Studios – as much as at attic bedroom can be. In terms of our releases, we don’t really do much prior, and our days consist of bouncing ideas and finding the sweet spot between “it’ll come naturally” and “we need to fucking pull a track together”. Most of the time, the stress pays off and we get the vocal line down in a few takes. It mixed in another day, mastered in the next and a final export in the next. That’s how we work. Organised or not, but reflective of the environment we live and work in… with some tea mixed in for good measure and always a little Bella for Jakob and a little Jakob for Bella”.
We’re currently in the process of developing a live sound performance, which is our current major focus along side our releases bimonthly.’
Yellow Cafe are
Jakob Winder – Writer/Composer/Producer
Bella Hirst – Lyricist/Vocalist
Website – https://www.yellowcafe.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/yellowcafesounds
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/_yellowcafe/?hl=en
NME Emerging – https://artists.nme.com/artist/yellow-cafe/
BBC Introducing – https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/af339c4b-a169-4bb1-a5aa-fe060b9472d0
Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/artist/1NSoOfRqjhkKIHJbyaYQhB?si=kK15X0QXTaWqbUwAv7ahdg
Bandcamp – https://yellowcafe.bandcamp.com/
Apple Music – https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/yellow-cafe/1394545288
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/yellowcafe