yumi zouma – ep ii

out march 10th via cascine

yumi zouma enjoyed a rather comfortable ascension to prominence throughout 2014.  the new zealand-based trio quietly amassed a stellar debut ep while spread across the globe, relying on word of mouth and the sharp foresight of their label, cascine, to pass the word on to the masses.  the outfit’s aesthetic rests largely on muted synth production reminiscent of nostalgic 1980s pop augmented by kim pflaum’s breezy vocal melodies; it’s a winning combination that yumi zouma tweaks even closer to perfection on ep ii.

three of the ep’s five songs have been readily available for some time; “alena” was let go last fall in conjunction with yumi zouma’s tour with lorde, and both “catastrophe” and “a song for zoe & gwen” turned up early this year.  while all three tracks work extremely well as standalone singles, their context within the ep provides extra dimension of deftness.  opener “dodi” continuously pits a hesitant guitar melody against more aggressive, brassy synth pads, which are ultimately calmed by kim pflaum’s breezy vocal melodies.  “alena” provides a necessary contrast between “dodi” and “catastrophe,” a persistent four-on-the-floor drum beat propelling the song – and the band – to previously unattained anthemic heights.

the secret linchpin of ep ii is “second wave,” the yumi’s most subdued effort this time around.  the marriage of guitar and synth is noticeably more harmonious than on previous songs, and the contours of each line eventually coalesce into relaxing polyphonic bliss.  “second wave” segues well into “a song for zoe & gwen,” a grand finale purported to be an ode to school dance dates.  it’s here that the trio finally links the nostalgia found in their music directly to the nostalgia contained in their thematic content, crafting a song especially befitting of any john hughes film score.

ep ii reads as another smart and concise outing from yumi zouma.  the band’s core members seem content nestled in their respective corners of the world, slowly churning out indelible pop gems.  no progressive boundaries are shattered but none are really in need of being broken; yumi zouma has an exceptionally keen ear for charming melodies, and each one is as captivating as the next.

8.5/10

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