Review: Mr Yolk – Self Portrait

Having previously produced work for Velvet Morning and Rocket Ship TV,  Samuel Jones has already had plenty of opportunities to illustrate his song writing talent.

With the release of Self Portrait, however, he can proudly flaunt his music making skills while gaining full recognition from all listeners and critics alike. What a gifted artist and performer his latest project proves him – and his fellow band members – to be!

Jones has explained that Self Portrait was basically recorded during long, lonely travels to Peckham in what was mostly a secluded environment. While there was some collaboration with other band members during the writing process, the songwriter created the album predominantly on his own.

So, in a sense, the finishing product is precisely what it says on the tin: a (sonic) “Self Portrait” of Jones’ own thoughts, dreams and sentiments in the form of eleven oneiric psych-pop tunes. Upon listening to the album in its entirety, it becomes evident that he has firmly set out to create a collection that emphasises the importance of both humour and artistic expression in the voyage of self-discovery – something that he does with sharp capability.

Opening with the chilled appeal of ‘Baker Street’ – which doubles as a single release – the album exudes a mellow, yet funky electronic vibe from the beginning. Simple, yet effective lyrics carried by soothing vocals are interspersed with jangly guitars to deliver an utterly distinctive example of powerful songwriting.

Whilst its tone shifts throughout, the album manages to remain within the realm of chilled, laid back sound. This varying and complex relationship between form and content is portrayed impeccably by the minds behind Mr Yolk. Allusions  to classic rock and roll are easy to identify in the arrival of bluesy guitar playing in both ‘Star Light Head Light’ and auditory homage to the 60s, ‘Bees’.

Similarly, a dreamy, almost psychedelic atmosphere is created by the exotic sounds of ‘My Sweet Honey Sugar Pie’, where sugary guitars interlace with soft, John Lennon-esque vocals. ‘Don’t Play With My Emotions’ and the titular track of the album, conversely, are dominated by cleverly crafted clashes between hazy tones and coarse singing.

Jones and his fellow band members  illustrate their creative flair once again in ‘Green Valentine Blues’, in which cheerful, albeit relaxed guitar playing weaves an undercurrent optimism contrary to the seemingly governing emotive monologue. ‘Change is Going to Come’ and ‘Rocket Ship’, in contrast, are each more mellifluous; both represent the inviting charm of summery, carefree music.

The group has notably employed a myriad of industrial sounds in the creation of Self Portrait, a feature that suggests influences from bands like Wire, The Fall and White Fence. This nod to such music pioneers is exemplified most fervently in the heavy synth backdrop and careful layering of vocals that fuse to produce the harsh tone of ‘Everything is Blue and Orange’. Various sound effects, including vocals and transmission noises, feature in the track to heighten the harrowing vibe that its instrumentation produces.

‘Hard Drive Revival’ – the shortest piece on the album – succeeds in conveying the challenge of loneliness and self-discovery with its precise blend of intentionally clumsy, yet somewhat chilling vocals and manic guitar riffs.

Self Portrait exhibits the musical genius of the collective that comprises Mr Yolk – here is a sequence that captures a cluster of stunning sounds and lyrics to create a quirky, gratifying album.

Megan Wood



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