Release Date: Sep 30, 2016
Record label: Polydor
When a band have been active as long as Swiss electronic pioneers Yello, you pretty well know what to expect. For almost forty years, Boris Blank and vocalist Dieter Meier have been producing curveball pop way, way before the trend of more familiar 80’s synthpop duos. There are moments of greatness in their back catalogue with singles such as 1984's timeless "Wicked Game", the ubiquitous "Oh Yeah", techno classics such as "The Race" and their sophisticated production on The Associates' "The Rhythm Divine", a track they went on to cover with none other than Shirley Bassey.
What is Yello’s secret? Dieter Meier and Boris Blank are well into their pension-drawing years, and yet their desire to make cutting edge electronic pop music remains as strong as ever. Their latest return from the wilderness feels as though in the wake of a long absence, but in reality the duo have kept at close quarters, plotting their next album even while pursuing solo ventures. And here it is, the brightly coloured Toy – where after a brief intro we alight on planet Yello with some vintage Meier vocals, given from the soles of his boots.
Most North Americans seem to believe Yello's career began and ended with "Oh Yeah," the 1985 tune from their album Stella that became unavoidable in movies and television for years afterward. But the truth is, Yello have been a presence in international pop music since 1980, and with their 13th album, 2016's Toy, they've reminded us that they're still making smart, well-crafted, and politely subversive electronic pop more than three decades after their biggest hit. Stylistically, Toy doesn't sound radically different than the work Yello did in the '80s and '90s, though their touch has grown a bit lighter with time.
Iconic Swiss electronica mavens Yello have been slowing down gradually, it’s been seven years since their last studio LP, so there’s a buzz surrounding their return. Happily, the duo sound unaffected by time’s passage, coming over all sonic angles and depth. Elsewhere, the music is custom-built to drift under Balearic parasols, the brushed drums of 30,000 Days conjuring an atmosphere not unlike that of X-Press 2’s Lazy.
The Swiss electronic music pioneers’ 13th album and first since 2009 retools their influential, experimental roots. Keyboard wizard Boris Blank, 64, brings an avalanche of sounds and samples to Limbo’s trademark, inimitable absurdist pop, accompanying Orson Wells-voiced Dieter Meier’s typically droll, surreal lyrical narrative. With much of the album sounding like the sort of music that might play in a futurist casino, Blank’s sonic palette stretches from eastern pipes to Balearic comedown music to (gulp) sexagenarian dubstep.
Yello 'Toy' (UMC)The peculiar Swiss electropop duo of Boris Blank and Dieter Maier have been operating since the late 70s, and have got around a bit since then: who else, for example, could have both featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and been remixed by Andrew Weatherall? On this showing, they’re just as weird and just as wonderful as ever. The first thing that’s noticeable is just how inventive Blank’s synth work still is: whether for floating sunrise ballads, darkly rippling ambient pieces or pumping glam-pop, his sounds bubble and blurt in super surprising ways. Meanwhile, despite being 71, Maier’s urbane persona is as funny, funky and disquieting as ever, and this album is a righteously fresh addition to their catalogue.