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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a little context from a forty year old, September 11, 2005
This review is from: Stella (Audio CD)
In 1985, if you wanted the best and most amazing production available the choices were Trevor Horn and Quincy Jones. I was a devoted follower of Horn and in some ways a bit snobbish about things he produced. I didn't think anyone else could capture the magic on vinyl (c.d.s were still too expensive then...), could summon all the angels and demons that lay within the musical spectrum, or could make me feel like I was living in the very present and moving quickly toward the future.

I also was just beginning to realize that darkness in music was a thing to celebrate (if for no other reason than to relieve the grinding boredom of everyday life). That is the exact state of mind in which I discovered Yello and, lo-and-behold, the magical keys to musical magic no longer lay in the hands of one or two producers, but were in fact distributed by God to a vast assortment of clever minds hiding in undiscovered places. Think of Quincy Jones as Windows, Trevor Horn as Mac, and Boris Blank (of Yello) as Linux...

Later I would do the back-research and come to fully appreciate the full importance of this group. If you hear ANYONE in pop music using a synthesizer in such a way that you can't tell it's a synthesizer, it is a direct result of Boris Blank's contributions and it's extremely hard to argue otherwise. Jean Michel Jarre was making great strides simultaneously, but his foundation was firmly established in the same obvious vein of contemporaries Kraftwerk, and he wouldn't stray outside that mold until 1985's "Zoolook". Also, he wasn't aiming at a pop/rock audience. The aforementioned Trevor Horn and company were pushing the limits of the Fairlight and the Synclavier as early as 1982 and the first ABC album, but it was "supplemental" to the established method of instrumentation. Also in that year Kate Bush delivered what many feel to be her most important (though not penulitmate) work with "the Dreaming" and it's relentless manipulation of the Fairlight (that can move and disturb with the same intensity today as when it came out twenty three years ago). It should be noted that synths had obviously been around a long time and Giorgio Moroder had established during the 70*s the "legitimacy" (read "marketability") of using synthesizers in pop, but again, one could always tell what they were when one listened...

Mr. Blank was inventing his own sounds and loops and using them exclusive of "normal" instruments before even having a group to work with (this would place in the mid 70*s somewhere) and Yello's career begins in 1979 with obvious inventiveness and mischievous part-swapping between organic instrumentation and machine-made mayhem: all fully-formed and ready for public consumption. Blank arranged music fundamentally from found and manipulated sounds, using live instruments as a "garnish": exactly the opposite of others who would use the synthesized sounds to pepper their classically arranged instrumentation, often with a purist attitude that kept the synth "in it's place".

1985's "Stella" was the notable highpoint in the group's evolution, but from the very beginning Mr. Blank had a joyful (and economical!) irreverence for the source of a sound; a fact proven by the delightful "belch" that quickly became a Yello trademark. We may even be hearing sounds from the "other end" of Mr. Blank and not even know it. The only thing that matters is the sheer musical, dramatic, and artistic scope of an amazing record. I haven't even described the tracks for you, nor have I mentioned (Yello lyricist and vocalist) Dieter Meier's twisted storytelling and unabashed "arty" approach to pop, or the sensual and soulful elegance found in the guest vocals of Rush Winters . For that matter I won't.

Just imagine the possibilities...
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