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Dream Again Will Salmon , July 16th, 2021 07:58

The artist formerly known as Yews moves to Italians Do It Better for an album of uptempo dance numbers and downtempo emoting

Sound designer and co-founder of the Malta Sound Women Network, Yasmin Kuymizakis has also been quietly producing her own electronic music for more than a decade, originally under the name YEWS.

The early YEWS material matched delicate piano and string compositions with vocals that sounded like a fairy choir singing from beneath the surface of a mildewed pond. As the project progressed, however, a stronger pop element started to emerge, with a bolder palette of synth sounds and her voice moving front and centre.

Dream Again is both a rebirth and the next stage of this development. It finds Kuymizakis working under a new name and for Italians Do It Better, who, between this and the recent Glüme and Jorja Chalmers albums, seem to be having a very good year. Split roughly fifty-fifty between soft-focussed, dewy, contemplative tracks that feel like an evolution of the YEWS sound (indeed a couple of them, ‘Whisper’ and ‘Watch The Sky’, are reworks of older songs) and glittering, 80s-tinged dance numbers, it unites both sides of her persona.

Last year's single, ‘E.T.’, opens the album with a propulsive three-note bassline and the sci-fi whirr and whine of a theremin, while Kuymizakis’ yelps and howls like no wave hero Lizzie Mercier Descloux. She repeats the trick on ‘Wait’, where she sounds alternately unhinged and imperiously detached, while fat stabs of synth explode around her.

‘Good Times’ and ‘Watch The Sky’ wear their synthpop influences loud and proud. ‘Good Times’ skirts the edges of genre pastiche, but ends up as a catchy cut of indie disco, while ‘Watch The Skies’ has the addictive satin shimmer of Goldfrapp circa Supernature.

But it’s the constant push and pull between these big, brash tracks and the quieter, stranger moments that make Dream Again so intriguing and rewarding. Both ‘Orqod’ (the only song on the album sung in Maltese) and the peculiar robotic shanty, ‘Me & My Sea’, recall The Knife’s haunted cabaret. ‘Meaningful Life’ is a simple electronic ballad, understated but full of emotion. Best of all is ‘Home’, a woozily lovestruck ode to another woman, set against an uncanny backdrop of synth and sampled vox. “For as long as I’m with you, I’m home,” may not be an original sentiment, but it sure is an affecting one.

The two approaches unite on the closing ‘Worse Things’. Over another 80s-inflected synthline, Kuymizakis offers a gentle consolation to the listener – and perhaps herself. “You feel you’ve been left behind / just try to keep in mind / there’s worse things than feeling lonely.” It’s one of her loveliest vocal performances and a quietly graceful note to end the album on.