Published May 15, 2019As far as dance floor-purposed electronic music goes, percussion is one of the main pieces that make it all work. In the recent past, John Randall, better known as Yak, has been quietly outputting some of the most intricate and creative pieces of percussive wizardry in electronic music.
The Sheffield, UK-based artist began life initially as a DJ in his local circuit, but has since expanded into the realms of production with confidence and poise. Following excellent releases on version and 3024, Yak debuts on the seminal R&S Records with Termina.
"Wide Eye" clearly acknowledges the rave-entrenched records of the R&S of yesteryear. Josh Wink-esque overdriven acid-isms snarl above the hefty breakbeat, all the while accompanying a variety of sounds that you may have heard in the early '90s. If not particularly new, it's unrepentant. "Skooma" is more in line with Randall's previous work, illustrating his expertise in propulsive subtlety. Polyrhythmic percussive layers skitter along in 16th notes, with the bass line coming closest to approaching a melody.
To speak a general rule: Yak's music rarely relies on prominent melodic hooks to make a point. That being said, "Stampede" is a glittering exception: Randall's percussive brilliance is this time accompanied by a liquid hook sound that could rival the staying power of early dubstep records.
The title track, "Termina," shows a different side to Yak's repertoire, with gently-morphing digital arpeggiation and stringed pad sounds eventually giving way to drums at around two minutes in. Certainly a nice change of pace, but it's still clear that the percussion is the star of the show. "Spore" rounds things out with broken beat hodgepodge and shades of John Roberts in the melody.
Yak's sound has an air of refinement that can only be appreciated for one so early in their career. However, it shouldn't be a surprise to suggest that there is room to grow, particularly in the elements of his production that aren't beat-based. Notwithstanding that, Termina is surely a good omen for both the future of Randall's music, and perhaps even for R&S. (R&S)