Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Cascine
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Writing about Jamie xx’s glowing banger “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” for PopMatters’ Best Songs of 2015 list, I qualified “song[s] of the summer” as “trite and usually reward[ing] formulaic, prosaic pop. ” Leave it to 2016 to seek to prove me wrong, with the dancehall bliss of Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” and the multifaceted worldliness of Drake’s “One Dance” proving refreshing reprieves in the same vein as “Good Times” last year. Even the lesser-known Living Hour’s “Summer Smog” sounds exactly as smoky as its title suggests and deserves a spot on playlists designed for long drives on humid nights.
If there’s one thing the internet and social media’s succeeded in doing, it’s helped create a mix-and-match music culture - people’s tastes straddle genres more than ever and there are fewer tribes. Yes, there are the trolls and the sub-tweeting, but there’s also more open celebration. And less snobbery has helped bring unadorned pop out into the sunlight.
Distance has long defined Yumi Zouma. Two of the group’s founding members moved away from their native New Zealand after the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake, forcing them to piece together tracks across land and sea. It makes sense that gaps between people, both physical and emotional, served a central role across their first two dreamy, disco-accented rock EPs, which caught the attention of Lorde and Chet Faker.
It's easy to hear why the young, fresh-faced New Zealand quintet Yumi Zouma caught the ear of the Cascine label when they first started sending their demos around. The sound is a fresh, young version of the kind of shimmery, lo-key, disco pop that label acts like Korallreven, Keep Shelly in Athens, and Kisses are known for. After a few EPs that served as a warm-up, their full-length debut, Yoncalla, provides a very clear picture of the band's strengths.
In February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, killing 185 people and leaving the rest to contend with a life in literal ruins. Some stayed and rebuilt while others left for greener and steadier pastures, but all remain affected by a legacy of displacement. This includes the four members of dream pop band Yumi Zouma, who have scattered across the globe in the years since the quake.
The origins of New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma are a picture of music in the 21st century. Separated by oceans, the band wrote and recorded their fantastic EPs by emailing bits and pieces back and forth until fully formed songs, like the beautiful debut single “The Brae”, were born. Yumi Zouma, then, is more a collaboration than a band; each member's personal tastes, ideas and self given room to make a mark, rather than being drowned out.