Yellotone: Tar File Junction
Ai Records

Ai Records follows up impressive releases like Claro Intelecto's electrohouse Neurofibro and FZV's nouveaux electronica Precedent with the equally strong Tar File Junction by Yellotone (Simon Harding). He flits from one style to another, often many times within the same song, on this meticulously crafted album yet, in spite of its diversity, Harding's melodic and arranging talents keep the music from splintering apart into so many disjointed fragments. That he chose to leave no breaks between songs obviously helps create a sense of fluidity and gives this solid sequel to his Ai debut Geen Mayo a unified feel.

The raw electric guitar strafings and jittery breakbeats in “Gail Force Porter Lou Carpenter” signal immediately that the listener's in for a challenging and hard-edged trip, and also reveals Harding isn't afraid to expand his electronic arsenal to include 'natural' instruments like guitar and organ. Without pause, the piece shifts to “Crunk,” a massive, clanking, head-nodder that's deepened by the phattest keyboard bass lines and some sweet turntable action from Buddy Peace. Any thought that the album might settle into a singular style is dispelled by the tribal drum rhythms, roller-coaster vibes, and mournful trumpet solo that grace “When We Danced.” Pushing the stylistic envelope even further, “To Term A Coin” pairs bluesy harmonica wails with gospel-tinged, Mike Garsonesque piano trills. Harding even merges harmonica with acidy electro (“Grenade Hams”) and works some New Order bass lines into the manic “Power Nap” and the brash “Witterin,” an intricate piece whose opening guitar-driven episode of frenetic breakbeats slowly evolves into a blissful chill-out coda.

Aside from “Crunk,” two songs in particular emerge as especially strong. In the episodic “Sinking Spring Farm,” Yellotone anchors stately guitar themes with irresistibly tight beats and funky bass lines, but the closer “Quench” is even better, arguably the album peak. Opening unassumingly with a rapid clockwork percussion pattern, Yellotone intercuts propulsive double bass lines by Roger Harding with elegantly sparse piano chords before adding funk beats and gliding hi-hats. Further layers of melancholy electronics and breakbeats appear in turn, each one amplifying the song with greater euphoria until the song rides out on a huge cresting wave. Here and elsewhere, Harding packs an astonishing amount of musical detail into Tar File Junction's eleven tracks, making for an exhausting yet thoroughly satisfying forty-five minutes.

October 2004