Vintage Cucumber - Yoki Style

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2013-10-31

Starting with a brief snippet of explanatory dialogue, Yoki Style appears to be a loose concept album about a fatally botched mission into space, kind of Space Oddity – The Album (Oh no, wait, that already is an album). First track ‘Mondsucht II’ starts with some bluesy, desolate guitar before thin, creepy organ drones and crashing drums hove into view while echoing radio transmissions float around us.

The primary influence here is clearly Pink Floyd circa A Saucerful of Secrets, and so, although thematically it’s pretty on-trend right now what with Gravity, it seems safe to assume you can mark Yoki Style down as an exercise in nostalgia. However, second track ‘Geborgenheit’ takes things in a more interesting direction. It’s a warm, beatless ambient piece, very much in the style of Brian Eno’s similarly spacey Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. It may not be any more original than the first tune, but it is completely lovely and perfectly executed.

The self-explanatory ‘Im Garten Eden’ draws on Tangerine Dream and the more bucolic end of 70s Krautrock, bringing in simple padding drums to compliment the blissful synth washes. Fifth track ‘Das Mönchsgebrabbel’ (Mr Cucumber is German, as you’ve probably worked out by now) changes the tone again by dipping into Eastern drones and mantric rhythm, which is another prominent trend of 70s Krautrock, and throws in some Gregorian chanting, which definitely isn’t. Thus, the album develops an original sound for the first time.

The main problem with Yoki Style at this point is that all the music has been incredibly slow to the point of almost total inaction. Thankfully, this changes with ‘Nektar schlürfen​.​.​.’, an album highlight which boasts a sparkling, elemental melody over a tense, deceptively simple, surprisingly funky rhythm in the style of Can. It’s a little mystifying why this vital ray of light comes mid-point on an album whose first half is loaded with long, slow ambient numbers, but maybe that has something to do with the loose concept mentioned earlier.

This lightening of mood continues on the similarly excellent ‘Alles in Butter’ which takes a click-clack, motorik drum pattern and marries it to some gorgeous vintage synth sounds. It of course tips its hat unashamedly to Neu!, and at this point you have to wonder if Mr Cucumber, aka Johannes Schulz, isn’t just working his way through every Krautrock big-hitter. But ‘Alles in Butter’ is irresistible and, with its warped melodies and ambient crackle, pretty inventive too.

Following the disappointing ‘Mutter Grün’, closing track ‘Traumland’ takes us back to the dreamscapes of Apollo, combining weightless synths with bluesy, country-fied guitar picking. It’s a stunningly beautiful piece of music.

Yoki Style is a strange album, one which generally improves as it goes on. Since Schulz apparently played everything on the album, his talent is obvious and impressive. So why does Yoki Style start off feeling like little more than pastiche before it reveals its maker’s considerable strengths? It’s a puzzle, but one you’ll want to solve by hearing more from Vintage Cucumber. 

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