Album Review: YĪN YĪN – The Age of Aquarius (Glitterbeat Records)

by | Oct 2, 2023 | Album Reviews, Blog

Journeying through thesecond album from YĪN YĪNThe Age of Aquariusis navigating an intricate maze where every turn reveals a fresh cultural or genre nuance. Hailing from Maastricht, Netherlands—a city renowned more for its historical significance than its contemporary musical culture—YĪN YĪN has broken the city’s stereotypical mold across their two albums. With founding members Yves Lennertz and Kees Berkers initially finding common ground in the rich underground nightlife of the country, YĪN YĪN eventually emerged from a confluence of non-conventional pathways: electronic and East Asian music. On Saturday, October 7, YĪN YĪN joins the 15th-anniversary celebrations at Control Club with their first performance in Bucharest.

The Dutch quartet’s multi-cultural journey through the cosmos kicks off with Satya Yuga, a track that lightly brushes against Krautrock sensibilities while subtly introducing the listener to the awaiting global tour. Auditory elements disparate as mournful melodies and electronic textures crescendo into an electrifying thunderclap, revealing the album’s DNA. Throughout, YĪN YĪN showcases an artistic maturity that belies their relatively recent entry into the music scene. And that’s saying something for a band that doesn’t rely heavily on vocals. Instead, their vision comes to life through layered compositions that utilize an array of electronic textures, samples, and altered voice lines.

From there, Chong Wang taps directly into the band’s penchant for danceability, emphasizing groove as its core element. Its post-post-punk echoes, perhaps akin to early-noughties counterparts like Altın Gün and !!!, are interwoven with subtle Asian elements. The exploration theme continues with Shēnzou V., a cosmic musical voyage that ventures where few dare to go. It is a celestial landscape not unlike those traversed by the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre.

This particular blend of motifs also resonates thematically with Faiyadansu and Declined By Universe, tracks that delve into existential queries while remaining deeply rooted in corporeal experience, almost in a Bowie-esque fashion. Faiyadansu, for instance, is an aural hodgepodge featuring a YouTube Thai language tutorial blending seamlessly with Asian string and oriental melodies. Meanwhile, Declined By Universe brings a dystopian touch with surf guitars that sound like Ennio Morricone scoring a space western. These multi-layered tracks dare listeners to view them within a context that’s as global as it is controversial, subtly challenging the comfort zones of geopolitical and ideological demarcations along the way. 

The electro-funk danceability of Nautilus and The Age Of Aquarius, the album’s titular track, are arguably the album’s centrepieces. Both undertake a complex compositional strategy that verges on the scholarly. Yet, the ensemble’s knack for rhythmic cohesion ensures intellectual stimulation never comes at the expense of visceral pleasure. Here, the band shares a kinship with other rhythm-focused acts like Khruangbin, although YĪN YĪN ventures more boldly into thematic abstraction. It’s a world where Afrobeat can sit comfortably next to disco, where Asian motifs seamlessly blend with electronic textures.

The album culminates as it began, with the Hindu Cosmology of Kali Yuga, a track that feels like a reflective pause, asking listeners to ponder what they’ve just experienced. As you catch your breath and cool your dancing feet, the album leaves you with more than just a collection of catchy tunes—it leaves you with questions, thoughts, and a sense of wonder at the complexities of our increasingly interconnected world. 

Recent changes in the band’s lineup, including Erik Bandt replacing co-founder Yves Lennertz, hint at YĪN YĪN’s constant evolution. But the core remains unchanged: a fearless journey through a labyrinth of sounds, ideologies, and dance moves, a journey that shows no sign of slowing down. With The Age of Aquarius, YĪN YĪN doesn’t merely invite us to the dancefloor; they expand on their well-received 2019 debut, The Rabbit That Hunts Tigers, beckoning listeners to a new musical frontier. In this realm, the possibilities are as expansive as the universe itself.

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