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Youth + Power Ammar Kalia , November 23rd, 2017 18:55

Bristol producer David Corney’s third album as Hyetal, with more bass, extra melody and added vocals. By Ammar Kalia

The voice is often described as the ‘human instrument’, one which in its inextricable ties to the body expresses the means of its making – the human – and the emotive capacity that lies therein – the humanity. Finding your voice as an artist can be a fraught and never-ending process though. Alternatively, you can have a voice and just not realise it until your third album. Such is the case for Dave Corney, aka Hyetal, whose latest release, YYouth + Power, is a departure from his previous two largely instrumental LPs. Instead, a song-based narrative takes shape featuring Corney’s vocalisations front and centre.

His previous LP, 2013’s Modern Worship, was a glittering, maximalist work, layering synths on top of weighty bass foundations to create abstract sonic structures. Four years later Corney has abandoned abstraction to bring himself closer to personal lived experience. Expressing frustration at the grid-based “escapism” of his previous music, Corney took to the vernacular of popular melody and songwriting to reconnect with music as medium and means of living itself. Youth + Power, then, is littered with bright melodies, crafted lyricism, and the occasional strumming guitar.

Not all of this is apparent on the opening title track as rattling bass drums usher the listener into what resembles a techno-scape similar to those of Corney’s Bristol contemporaries Peverelist and Kowton. Yet, it is when Corney’s falsetto enters the frame that the song is transported into soaring melody and an optimism that tonally jars with lyrics like, “While one hand caresses/ You’re choked by the other.” This underlying current of unease, reflected in the use of early dubstep motifs (a genre which Corney immersed himself in while living in Bristol), continues further on numbers like ‘Trust’ and ‘Hold’.

For a record premised on connecting with lived experience through vocal expression, it’s perhaps surprising that Corney’s voice is abstracted throughout. ‘Near Water’ sees Corney in subaqueous territory similar to Washed Out or Panda Bear, while on ‘Devils’ his simple refrain and distorted harmony forms a repetitive hook to accompany the propulsive, arpeggiated backing. This distancing in service of connectivity is authentic though. For Corney, experience can be brutal, and so proximity is only achieved through mediation, a mediation that displaces surface-level, shallow optimism with textural and atmospheric depth.

Youth + Power marks a significant and welcome departure for Corney's music as Hyetal; in its vocal textures he mines a rich seam of personal expression, finding his perfect means to connect music to life.