Yelmur - How We Hide (Album Review)

Berlin has long been a hotbed of cultural activity, particularly electronic music. Artists from all over Europe and the world flock to the artistically vibrant capital to stake their claim in the healthy experimental scene. One such artist, Dutch composer and producer, Yelmur (Jelmer de Haan on his birth certificate), has recently released his debut album "How We Hide", which mashes together smooth-as-warm-butter electronic production, expressive guitars, and offbeat arrangements across its twelve tracks. Though there are echoes of the darkly temperamental electronic dance music of Trentemøller and the more musical-forward constructions of Fourtet, Yelmur operates on a sonic plane all his own.

While few of the tracks on "How We Hide" are wholly danceable, with the rhythms often suddenly being replaced with moments of quiet scarcity, there are sections that are impossible not to move to. Such is the case with the opening track "Insomnia", with its sinister four-to-the-floor kick, gnarly guitar tones from collaborator Christian Kühn, and menacing bass line, which create a nightmarish investigation of what can happen to our mental state when sleep evades us. However, Yelmur builds everything up in this track with patience, eventually dropping and reintroducing the groove with electronic splutters and ambient strikes that fizzle and fade out as harmonics, odd sounds, and distorted tones call and respond across the stereo.

The brief "Give In", with its impressions of jazz guitar and blissfully minimal but manicured drum programming is an artistic foray into succinct abstract expressionism. Several of the tracks on the collection ("Distorted Reality", "Cessange", "Hermannplatz") are very short yet too highly characterized to be considered interludes and help add texture to the album as a whole, whether through bird sounds on "Distorted Reality", or the haunted house ostinato of "Cessange". On the energizing title track, frenetic drums mix with saxophone from contributor Omri Abramov and disturbing spoken word pitched down to demonic depths, comments on the escapist nature of our digital world ("Social media, always on display") before the vocals are pitched skyward, discordantly singing out an eerie, dreamlike chorus. At times, the atmosphere of these tracks can feel like characters in a Tim Burton movie, manically smiling, transmitting a sense that not everything is right or as it appears. 

The harmonic bass playing of "The Price We Pay" is seemingly free from the constructs of tempo, falling like unpredictable rain into an ocean of soundscapes. "Reflection", perhaps the most straightforward and rhythmically unswerving track on the collection, fuses expertly calculated drums, strange electronic curiosity, hand claps, and heartbreaking felt piano from Brian Trahan before the closing track, the aptly-named "Epilogue", ends the album on an upbeat and optimistic tone. 

Like the black and white photograph of waves by Nick Tauro Jr. featured on the cover, "How We Hide" ebbs and flows in and out of darkness and light. The mood is purposefully tense, and Yelmur fluctuates between playful musicality and unhinged experimentalism. While some of these tracks feel directionless, lacking any accessible edge or repetition onto which to hold, the results are often mind-bending and relaxing, beautiful and ugly, inviting and terrifying. These dichotomous sentiments crash together to produce a marvellously unique collection of left-field electronica.