The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Mount Matsu Jeremy Allen , January 19th, 2024 09:51

Dutch psych-funk quartet make up in experimental flourishes what they lack in grit, finds Jeremy Allen

From the Lowlands comes an album from the elevated, fictional Mount Matsu, where the sounds of Bangkok, Chicago and Berlin all converge. YĪN YĪN actually hail from Maastricht and entreat us to dance from their studio in the Belgian countryside where all of their music is recorded. In recent times, there have been some changes in the lineup, with co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Yves Lennertz leaving and YĪN YĪN turning from a trio to a four-piece. Most significantly, it has shifted the songwriting dynamic, with all members reportedly contributing equally to the songs along with the band’s stalwart drummer Kees Berkers.

That arrangement brings variety but it doesn’t always hold together as well as it should. You sense YĪN YĪN are still finding their way in this new configuration, and while they’ve established a tight unit when playing together live or in the studio, some of the little instrumental studio embellishments feel as though they belong to different songs, such as the swooping strings on the otherwise buttoned-up ‘The Year Of The Rabbit’.

Tracks like the Afrobeat-inspired ‘Tokyo Disco’ or the more difficult to pin down ‘Takahashi Timing’ feel rhythmically looser and more laid back as we find ourselves sitting behind the beat rather than up front with the driver. On that latter track everyone appears to be having fun, with an outro that transcends the mechanics of the groove as the squelchy electronica and cowbells drop. But then on a song like ‘White Storm’, the rhythmic structure is too rigid to relax into, and you find yourself thinking about the undoubtedly adept playing when you should be losing yourself in the groove.

Indeed, YĪN YĪN are often described as a “psychedelic funk and disco” group, and while cosmetically that’s true, it feels less true when you examine it closer. All too often any semblance of filth is eschewed for overzealous paradiddles on a fluctuating hi-hat. Things are certainly more interesting when they go off-piste, like on the intimate little number ‘Komori Uta’ with its breathy vocals and lubricious swing, and that carries over into the moody and enigmatic ‘The Year Of The Tiger’, but you’d be hard pressed to find any proper funk on Mount Matsu. Funk music surely has to be sexy, and YĪN YĪN negate sex by embracing tweeness on tracks like ‘Tam Tam’. Psychedelic too is a word that lacks any clear delineation, where it can just as easily be applied to Hawkind or Hendrix as it can to Tame Impala or the Teletubbies.

Classification of genre is of course not YĪN YĪN’s main focus or concern, though you do wonder if they find themselves at a crossroads where more experimental avenues are opening up to them though they’re also hedging towards the ground already occupied by the wildly popular but bafflingly anodyne Khruangbin. In that sense, Mount Matsu feels like a stepping stone, but it’s an awkward lunge with one foot still firmly on what came before. Nevertheless, even if we don't quite reach the heights, there are enough diversions along the way to keep things interesting at least.