Released: 10th Sep, 2012
Label: Tru Thoughts
‘Equilibrium’, out 10th September on Tru Thoughts, is the debut solo LP from Croatian singer, songwriter, producer and pianist Yannah Valdevit, co-produced by long-time collaborator and mentor (and now label-mate) Zed Bias.
Yannah takes an inventive approach to song structure, using her fine voice in unconventional and multi-layered patterns – another instrument in the mix alongside cutting edge beats, jazz inflections, melodic hooks and lush string arrangements. The emotive style nods to the Balearic sound she perfected in a previous incarnation as part of Eddy Meets Yannah (who released three successful albums on Compost Records between 2003 and 2010). With UK garage and dubstep pioneer Zed Bias (aka Maddslinky) on board, it would be easy to assume the killer basslines and beats on ‘Equilibrium’ were his work; in fact, Yannah – a highly in-demand producer in her own right – built this sound from the ground up. While the man like Bias donated his legendary beat-making skills to two tracks on the album, his main role was to add that magic touch with a nuanced and soulful mix-down at his Manchester studio.
On album opener and first single “Gotta Keep Me Goin”, deep bass, dramatic strings and multi-layered vocals evoke the upheaval and surrender of falling in love; “Interaction” introduces Yannah’s skills as a jazz singer, with scatting and freeform vocal patterns; and on “Pick Flowers” – which also graces the double A-side single, out 23rd July – a minimal, staccato vocal hook weaves into a shifting and lilting downtempo soundtrack of keys and beats, rising to a crescendo of strings. Tiptoeing closer to the club, the driving 4/4 beat of “Butterfly” supports a delicate, melodic vocal; followed by the funky drums and sugar-coated R‘n’B sway of “Two Days”. “Let Me Down” unleashes serious UK Funky dancefloor heat, and “I Don’t Know” takes things back down to head-nodding territory before the abstract vocals and pounding bass of “Delima” switch the pressure cooker back up. The deep soul of “Snowland” matches delicate harmonies and emotive strings with a heavy crunch of sub bass which continues into the euphoric “Wonderful Life”. “Western Horizons” closes the LP with a plea for change in the world, ending on a soaring, inspirational note and showcasing Yannah’s vocal dexterity and compositional freedom, not to mention skills as a pianist.
Yannah’s life has been immersed in and defined by music, having studied from the age of seven up to degree level; it has taken her from her hometown of Zagreb through Croatia to Europe, the US and Japan. Becoming hooked on jazz as a teenager, she made a name for herself singing in clubs and as a guest vocalist, from underground projects to televised shows with the Croatian National Big Band. Starting her own acid-jazz band was the next progression, allowing her to immerse herself in the club culture of the era and get into songwriting and arranging seriously.
In the early 2000s Yannah began collaborating with deep house/jazz producers Eddy & Dus. Eddy Meets Yannah was soon formed, their sun-soaked, house-tinged songs becoming ubiquitous in the Balearics and beyond with support including Gilles Peterson (then BBC R1), XLR8R and Café del Mar. This sparked a new learning curve in which Yannah worked to accrue full credentials as writer, programmer, musician and arranger. Initially this was to gain the freedom to make her own music, but in the process she became a sought-after producer and songwriter (credits include Atjazz & Domu’s big selling “Info People”/”City Madness” and a remix of Chicago legend Craig Loftis’ hit “Mary Mary”). In the mid-2000s she met Dave Jones (aka Zed Bias), which led to various collaborations and ultimately to this solo work.
A recent scholarship to study for a year in Japan – having learnt Japanese to a high level as a hobby – gave Yannah space and time to rediscover her inner music geek and listen to all sorts, devouring mixes by Benji B and Lefto and getting lost in Mixcloud. Following a spell of creative and personal difficulty, the liberation she felt from this trip led to a songwriting spree, the fruits of which were honed into the ‘Equilibrium’ album. Yannah is booking solo live shows, to add to festivals including Outlook, Soundwave, Dimensions and Sunce Beat (Southport Weekender).