Our expectations for Yotto’s debut LP, Hyperfall, could not have been higher – and he smashed them into a million pieces with a magnificent record.
Ever since he broke into the scene in 2014, Finnish house music artist Yotto has proven himself to be nothing short of brilliant. Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe that he released his first EP just four years ago; it seems a bit like he’s been here forever, doing what he does so well. So, then, it seems only fitting that today, he has released his debut LP Hyperfall with the label that has been with him since the beginning.
Setting himself apart through his keen ear for transcendent melodies and his uncanny ability to craft productions that envelop the listener entirely, Yotto has quickly made a name for himself while becoming one of the most beloved artists in the Anjunadeep stable. Characterizing his music often feels like it requires a better grasp of human emotion than anything else; those spine-tingling melodies, heart-rending transitions, and effusive interludes are unlike anything you find in most music, putting Yotto in a class all his own.
We couldn’t wait to dig our teeth into Yotto’s debut and see what the new release (and his adorable dog) had in store for us. With Yotto’s undisputed history of exceptional tunes combined with his incredibly weird promotional materials for Hyperfall, one thing is for certain: this was a release unlike any other. Read on after the jump for our take.
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I’ll go ahead and call it out early on – I have incredibly high expectations of albums.
All too frequently, artists smash together a smattering of random tracks that they have worked on over the last year or two and declare the compilation an “album,” serving only to diminish what I consider to be a bit of a dying art form: creating a listening experience that draws on a combination of emotional and sonic themes, musical motifs, and other such devices to transport the listener from the scenery of their day-to-day lives.
Fortunately, this is not the case with Hyperfall – not that I would have expected it to be after having listened to Yotto’s other meticulously crafted work. The construction and flow of the album as a whole is remarkably cohesive, drawing on a variety of elements in different configurations and juxtapositions to create tracks that hang together as one record while also standing out from one another. It gives the listener the feeling of traversing different environments in the same world, all linked together by similarities while separated by their various dispositions and sounds.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about Hyperfall is the surprising way in which the album flows between moods, feelings, and emotions.
One of the primary benefits of an LP is that it gives us ample opportunity to sample a vast array of different sounds from a single artist. As we meander through the soundscapes of Hyperfall, I am struck by Yotto’s ability to twist a smattering of elements into vibrant, dynamic tracks that all take on their own character. Perhaps the best way to illustrate that, then, is to walk through them, in order, and take you on that journey with me.
As soon as I press play, I am transported to another world, and maybe even another chapter of space-time.
Dark, synth-driven melodies and harmonies fill my ears, and I’m captivated by the sounds of “Hyperfall,” the album’s intro. It’s a bit of music that sets a scene, and, perhaps a bit surprisingly, it has something of an 80’s vibe to it. Maybe it’s the synth, or maybe it’s that dark, sinister bass underpinning the whole thing, but it reminds me of the theme song from Stranger Things with a sophisticated, atmospheric twist. It’s a fantastic intro, filled with wonder and even a little bit of foreboding. Needless to say, I’m already hooked.
We drift across the expanse of space into the gorgeous “The One You Left Behind,” and everything takes on an extraordinary depth and an unexpected shape.
The track first floats through a shimmery, resplendent starscape, occupied only by the smooth, haunting vocals of Vök’s Margrét Rán before taking off. With the addition of an understated kick drum and a deceptively simple, tireless arp melody set in the perfect minor key, “The One You Left Behind” manages the uncommon feat of perfectly matching voice to lyrics to production. All at once it feels beautiful, mournful, and solitary.
“The One You Left Behind” was the first track released off of Hyperfall, and it’s not hard to see why; even without the rest of the album, it stands alone as an extraordinary club tune that has a depth and an emotional weight that shatters all expectations. This is my favorite track off the album, and honestly, probably of 2018 so far. It’s enough to send chills up your spine and make your heart catch in your throat. It is just that good.
“Kantsu” and “Nada C” give us a taste of the wild and unexpected, relying on rhythmic percussion and intense layering to create a vibrant scene.
Intermingled layers of synth chords, airy vocals, and tribal-inspired percussion give “Kantsu” the feel of a track you want to just lose everything and dance to while retaining some of the darkness that underscored the intro at the same time. It’s an interesting play on the earlier motif, and it won’t be the last time we hear it, either. I’m fascinated by Yotto’s ability to transition between feelings and sounds while also drawing a clear line to the other tracks on the album.
Meanwhile, “Nada C” features some extremely unusual chord progressions alongside a remarkable drum pattern that gives the track a wild-eyed, vulnerable feeling. The stripped down instrumentation in the beginning and the bizarre vocals in the periphery provide a feeling of anticipation – like something is about to happen. It’s strange and captivating all at the same time, like finding a fascinating wild animal somewhere deep in the forest.
Stranger still is the interlude, featuring the same drum beat with the voices of an angelic choir and sweet, melodic instrumentation that eventually bursts into something that I can really only describe as synthwave. It’s almost like the rays of the sun breaking through the clouds. “Nada C” has an unexpected structure and progression that makes for a track that only fits on an album, which is by no means a bad thing – it provides a counterpoint to some of the other tracks without deviating too far off the central themes.
The haunting feeling returns in full force with the one-two punch of “Turn It Around” and “Epilogue,” both of which are clear standouts from the very beginning and are without a doubt some of the best tracks on Hyperfall.
Some of the motifs from other areas of the album make a return in these two tracks, but they’re variations on a theme – the minor-key synth line; the insistent, tribal-centric drums; and, perhaps best of all, the glimmering atmosphere that fills all the spaces between. Incredibly, if you listen to both tracks, they each feature those elements, and yet they sound quite different from one another.
Paired up with a shadowy, understated vocal from an as-yet-unknown artist, “Turn It Around” is a gripping track that stands out from the rest, just from the sheer mood of it. It feels like an incantation of sorts – solemn, sorrowful, and fatalistic. The tireless synth melody is one of the most compelling on Hyperfall, but it’s the layering of the different elements of sound that makes this track something special.
Not to be outdone, “Epilogue” takes that same quality and bends it even further toward the melancholy with a gorgeous melody. Featuring the effortless, sensual vocals of CAPS (who also happens to be Yotto’s brother), it tells the story of a love that will never be realized, and the combination of singer and song are enough to make your heart ache. It’s the sort of song you listen to on repeat when there’s someone you just can’t shake – soul food for the broken-hearted. I can’t stop listening to it. It’s outstanding.
As we move through the middle of the album, we get several different instrumental tracks that each deliver different feelings while continuing on with the same motifs present earlier in the album.
“Outsight” and “Odd One Out” share some similar qualities – that shimmering synth makes an appearance again, and both feature ethereal melodic lines that seem to float on air. “Outsight” plays a lot with clustered chords juxtaposed against a lovely, understated piano line. With “Odd One Out,” Yotto toys with these same concepts but adds in more assertive melodic elements and percussion for a solid club track. I can already tell this one will get plenty of play in the Anjuna boys’ sets.
When we round the bend to “Hyperlude,” we get a mid-album reprise of the 80’s synths from earlier, but in a whole new way. Resplendent waves of chords wash over me; it’s like watching the aurora borealis and the world’s most incredible sunset all at the same time. When I said that this album evokes a feeling, this is exactly what I meant.
“Radiate” is another standout, and it’s one we’ve heard before on Yotto’s previously released Radiate EP.
This is probably one of the best tracks on the album, and will clearly be a huge staple in sets in the next year or so. It takes us back to some of the more upbeat tracks on Hyperfall with a persistent synth melody and a dark, steady bassline that grounds it. Yotto again returns to those choir-like vocals, but this time, something about them sounds just a little bit mysterious. Rippling and undulating, “Radiate” never stops moving – not for a single second.
“Hear Me Out,” featuring Yotto pals Sønin and Laudic, is a case study in suspense and drama, and another one of my favorites.
Make no mistake: this is a big, dramatic record. In fact, Yotto himself even expressed some confusion about how he and his mates managed to make something so melancholy. Regardless of how it happened, it’s exceptional, featuring another superlative vocal that works perfectly with the production. There is so much revealed by the chord progressions, the brilliant minor-key melody, and the hypnotic harmonies.
Although the entire track is fantastic, I absolutely love the interlude. With the vocals split an octave apart from one another, it takes on even more intensity than anywhere else in the album, perfectly setting the stage for the last two tracks.
With “Walls”, we finally turn back toward a major key, but with many of those layered, glimmery elements that make Hyperfall so remarkable.
We start off by floating in that endless starfield again. But as we move into the track itself, instead of a sad song, we get a beautiful, shimmery tune with a serious groove and a sunny melody that is enough to put a smile on your face. “Walls” has got some ODESZA vibes to it, and I mean that in the best way possible; it feels like a celebration of sorts, and you know, maybe it is.
As we round the final bend with “Waiting Here,” we get a serious dose of emotion, but all at once, it just feels like everything is finally going to be all right. With just under two minutes of dazzling, golden synth chords and the gentle, Lion King-worthy choir singing, it feels almost like we got to the end of this incredible journey and, miraculously, it has a happy ending. I want to cry with relief, but also with sadness that it’s over.
I don’t know if I can put it any more plainly: Yotto’s Hyperfall is a triumph – a stunning example of both his musical skill and his command of the unspoken language of human emotion.
I don’t know what expectations I had going into listening to this record, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that they were insanely, perhaps impossibly high. And yet Yotto has managed to give me everything I wanted and even quite a few things I didn’t know I did – and in 13 tracks and 52 minutes, that is no small feat. And at only a few years into his professional music career, I will be waiting here with bated breath to see what, exactly, he does next.
- The One You Left Behind feat. Vök
- Nada C
- Turn It Around
- Epilogue feat. CAPS
- Odd One Out
- Hear Me Out feat. Sønin & Laudic
- Waiting Here