Music

Soak up Yumi Zouma’s Yoncalla, a mind blowing debut that beats all the odds

Yumi Zouma are living, breathing proof that geography doesn’t have to get in the way of an innate desire to create music, and that borders are there to be warped and broken.

The four-piece grew up together in Christchurch, before life swept them up and scattered them across the globe: to Auckland, New York and Paris.

Yumi Zouma

Yumi Zouma have beaten the odds to create Yoncalla – a beautiful, magical record that radiates an innate sense of togetherness.

Despite time differences that would make most long-distance couples call it a day, they used email to write, assemble and launch a handful of EPs, which sought to capture the quintessence of each member’s life.

Their resulting ascent to success was so swift, the band’s first jam sessions took place on arena stages after they were asked to tour with Chet Faker and Lorde – which is pretty mind-warpingly unconventional considering the basements, bedrooms and garages most bands emerge in.

They showcased their music on tours that spanned American, Asia and Australia. But then they did something totally new: they holed up, all together at last, in Paris for three weeks to work on their debut album, Yoncalla.

“Yumi Zouma has always been an exercise in refining ideas and collaborating,” says guitarist Charlie Ryder, “but this was the first time we weren’t limited or protected by distance.” It was also the first, unnerving time, that they got to present raw concepts to each other, and that their material could be inspired and evolve together in the same room.

Self-recorded, self-produced and mixed in Philippe Zdar’s studio, Yoncalla radiates togetherness, acting to meld Yumi Zouma into a singular voice. And given that the band members were sharing oxygen and time zones for the first time, it’s fitting that it’s an album about being close to people rather than kilometres apart.

Crafting electro-laced dream pop, it’s etched full of sunny, hazy harmonies, amplified by Christie Simpson’s warm vocals.

It’s irresistibly chilled, oozing with synthy beats and cut with sentiment, thrumming with a joyful, pulsating underbelly – like lying flat on your back in a rowboat letting the current gently ease you where it wants; or grabbing your mates for a misty, mid-afternoon picnic that descends into an impromptu dance party in some daisy-peppered meadow.

Keep It Close To Me, released as the album’s debut, ebbs with a synth-driven heartbeat, shimmering chords and gentle, sweet vocals.

Text From Sweden pairs handclaps with gooey, cosy soundscapes and melancholic lyrics; laidback, lustrous Haji Awaji will drift you along joyfully as your ultimate road trip track, weaving cliff edges and watching the world ease past; Yesterday washes over in mellow, ethereal layers that are stripped back and built up.

Iridescent Short Truth is addictive and punchy, tumbling into seductive synth-led bursts; and Hemisphere is intimate and polished, set to softly nudge you into dance.

Ultimately, Yoncalla has been nurtured by a band strewn across the world, only made stronger and more integrated with distance erased.

Yoncalla is out now.