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Positive Feedback ISSUE 7
june/july 2003


By Danny Kaey


My musical enjoyment ranges from the eclectic—Dead Can Dance, Bill Laswell (thanks to my good friend Dave Clark)—to the almost trivial—Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc. Typically, if something is recorded well, I explore the genre in order to decide whether it suits my taste. Since beginning to write for PFO, I have expanded my musical library considerably.

Today's topic will be a two-man duo. Back in 1978, two Swiss fellows, Dieter Meier (vocals and lyrics) and Boris Blank (arrangement and engineering) formed the now legendary synth/pop group Yello ( Their life outside of Yello is nearly as non-mainstream as their performances. Searching through various newsgroups, etc., I had a difficult time finding information about them, other than what is publicly known, which is that both live in Switzerland and both have a special taste for music. I own five of their albums: Essential, a hits collection; Zebra, a 1994 classic; Pocket Universe, a very strange, Salvadore Dali-style album released in 1997; Eccentric Remixes, a new take on previously released material; and Motion Picture, their last studio release, from 1999. I am missing a few albums, notably One Second.

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I guarantee that, at some point in your life, you have heard at least one of Yello's famous tracks. Let's start with "Oh Yeah," with its rhythmically enchanting melody, last heard in… c'mon now… ahh, yes of course, The Secret Of My Success, with Michael J. Fox. To refresh your memory, it is played during the scene in which Fox's character is being seduced by his uncle's wife during a limo ride to their estate. "The Race," off the One Second album, is an incredibly well arranged and orchestrated track that tests the dynamics of your system when the cars are whooshing from one side of the room to the other. All of Yello's music is electronic, and most if not all of it is of reference quality. I frequently use their albums as evaluation material because of the pristine way that they are recorded, mixed, and mastered. Boris Blank leaves nothing to chance, and is not satisfied until each track sounds absolutely perfect. I would love to know what gear they are using.

"The Rhythm Divine" is one of my all-time favorites, not least because Shirley Bassey was asked to do a quick stint. It is full of an aura that only Yello can achieve. The dynamics and bass, and the air in which the performance takes place, are incredibly preserved. Listen to the bass line at around the 15 to 20- second mark, and feel your room shake, provided you have a sufficiently full-range system. As I said, Boris doesn't leave anything to chance. Bassey's vocals are incredible, her voice carrying over the entire range without a sign of constraint.

One of my favorite albums, Pocket Universe, is staged in the cold vast space of the universe, hence the name. It opens with "Solar Driftwood," eloquently narrated by Dieter Meier. Dieter's voice is enriched with a spacious Star Wars/ Star Trek-type orchestral arrangement suggesting wide open space, akin to Leonard Nimoy's narration towards the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In fact, this track was used a couple years back by German television for a Star Trek special. The recording quality is top notch, with effects that are nothing short of amazing. "Beyond Mirrors," the closing track of the album, is a narration much like the opening track, except that it offers a more surreal version of cosmic blah, intertwined with physics-book text about the cosmos and our part in it. Carl Sagan would have been proud of these guys. To get a taste of this dynamic duo, you might as well start with Pocket Universe.

One factor that is almost universal in Yello albums is the attention to detail and the quality of arrangement and engineering. From their very first albums to the last, their style remains ultra high-class. I don't know of any cover bands for Yello, nor do I believe that anyone could cover them adequately. They are so far beyond the pop mainstream that there can only be one band playing on their level. Their musical is very addictive, and always unequivocally original in nature.

I suggest that you go to your favorite online music site and sample their repertoire. Do me a favor and check their availability, and email me with your findings!