YT: Moment for Change EP Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
UK-based YT is perhaps one of the most seasoned Reggae/Dancehall artists to emerge from these shores in the past few decades. And now, he’s just cemented his status as a legendary name with the release of his new EP.
Moment for Change, released via Oneness Records, sees YT team up with the also legendary label across six tracks. It’s a bold move from the artist who started off on Sound Systems. But it has totally paid off – because it has shaped up to be one of the best EPs of 2021 so far.
Credit must be given from the off to the Oneness team. Moritz v. Korff, Benjamin Zecher and Guiseppe Copolla are always incomparable. And here is no exception: the quality of the production and engineering are first rate; they perform many of the instruments themselves and the compositions are inventive and appealing. Overall, Moment for Change is a cleverly crafted, detailed affair.
The EP opens with the title track, in a wholly fitting manner. You can read Pauzeradio’s full review of it here. The track centres around Roots as its main style, with elements of Dub and Soul also brought in – including its grandiose, Funky Soul opening and closing. This actually sets the overall tone for the EP well. The rhythm section works around a Roots vibe, with various musical devices included – like the keys’ bubble rhythm and a bass on a syncopated one drop. Moment for Change has some delicious additional instrumentation too: check the low-pitched theremin creating some unsettling vibes. Jahcoustix’s backing vocals are pure Soul/Doo Wop and YT’s performance maintains a constant state of urgent anticipation – mirroring the vibe of the composition. Overall, the title track is a very strong opener – leading into the rest of Moment for Change perfectly.
Next, and Don’t Shoot takes the EP in a different direction entirely. It is an overly Hip Hop-led track with inflections of Afrobeats thrown in. It’s grimy, grim and brooding. A bass runs a strung-out, rasping rhythm that flows unnervingly across the track. It’s been engineered to quickly peak and trough in terms of decay and is low-passed and EQ’d to create that grating, almost distorted sound. Then, drum programming (as opposed to live instruments) from DJ Drk is fascinating. It veers between aggressive Hip Hop and stuttering Afrobeats (check the claps) in its rhythmic arrangement – with some Trap hi-hat buzz rolls thrown in for good measure. The inclusion of some ominous, thunderous timpani is perfect, too. The keys give the faintest nod to Roots – providing a brief, heavily reverbed, broken bubble rhythm at points (then mimicked by an electric organ). Stefan Tavra’s electric guitars lilt arpeggio chords and then mimic the bass too. What sound like strings (or they could be high-passed horns) glissando across notes towards the end of the track. And well-placed synth sounds complete the wholly haunting feel. YT is rapid, urgent and forthright – delivering a rap-come-singjay which is rhythmically complex and melodically astute. And the track shows that when Oneness and YT veer away from Roots, the result still feels perfectly at home and well-executed.
Apreshelove is the only love song of Moment for Change – and YT and Oneness have channelled some Lover’s Rock vibes in the process; albeit interestingly composing the track in a minor key, not the usual major one. The rhythm section provides the basic Roots musical devices: keys on a bubble rhythm and drums performing a steady march. The bass is interesting, performing a double drop-beat rhythmic motif which misses the two and three entirely, entering and exiting on the offbeats before and after them. This creates a good deal of breathing space in the middle of each bar, allowing the vocals to properly take centre stage at points. A sax from Bost and Bims’ Matthieu Bost takes an accompanying role, responding to musical calls as a rule. An electric organ flutters about in the background. But beyond all this, Nordine Houchat’s electric guitars really stand out here.
Their purpose is dual. At points on the chorus, they run a whining countermelody to YT’s main one. Then, during the verses they enter intermittently with strummed chords and some riffs high up their register. Their timbre is very purposeful, focusing on the mid-treble of the amp and seemingly played nearer the bridge to create that slight whining, Surf Rock sound. But at times the timbre is mixed up again to become raspier and more Bluesy. They really stand out across Apreshelove; as do the backing vocals – doing extremely well-placed responses and straighter, vowel sound accompaniment. YT is on-point, here – removing some of the harshness that has been necessary across other tracks; smoothing his performance out and bringing interesting light and shade to the dynamics. Apreshelove is an attractive listen.
Next, Say Nuttin is more Roots-heavy vibes – but again with some twists. After an attractive, rich opening, the rhythm section is central. Keys run a very choppy bubble rhythm and rarely deviate from this – which in part makes the fairly pacey BPM seem even quicker. The bass is on a drop-beat rhythm, which here misses the three and runs a weaving melody (as opposed to arpeggio chords). Its sound is rich and resonant and the style moderately picked – pushing Say Nuttin forward. Manu Garcia’s drums perform a rolling one drop, with the kick and snare focusing on the two and four – but the latter doing rim clicks versus using the skin of the drum. What’s interesting is the hi-hats run a syncopated rhythm (instead of the usual straight double time or offbeat formations). The drums also focus on the cymbals heavily, creating a very brash feel to the track. Additional use of blocks is a nice touch, too.
But there are several things which elevate Say Nuttin above standard Roots. Horns are generally sparsely used, running a rhythmic skank at the end of some bars. Tavra’s electric guitars are the opposite: there’s not a standard skank in sight. Instead, they run a triple skank that leads into the start of bar one of a two bar phrase, then adding chords on the two and three of bar two. Then, there’s a glorious bridge that’s used throughout. The drums increase their cymbal use; the electric guitar lilts around a countermelody; horns suddenly re-enter the fray and at the end there’s a smooth break. The whole thing feels like pared-back Funky Soul, and works extremely well as a veritable intake of breath before the relentless, driving arrangement starts over. Jahcoustix’s powerful backing vocals work, too: not over-heavy, they generally either mimic YT’s main line, perform responses to his calls or work around vowel sound accompaniment. YT himself is more reserved and pointed in his performance – seemingly focusing more on humility and humbleness, and Say Nuttin overall is a rich, textured fusion of heavy Roots with some inflections of Soul. Glorious.
Balance moves Moment for Change into what seems musically straighter Roots, but with YT upping the ante with his performance. Pay attention though – as all is not quite what it seems. All the main compositional Roots elements are present: keys on a bubble rhythm and the bass running a syncopated drop-beat rhythm, missing the three and have a slightly more rounded timbre and smoother technique than Say Nuttin’s line. Drums have the snare doing those rims clicks again and hi-hat focusing on semiquaver notation, with some nice flourishing rolls thrown in. Horns deliver some rousing countermelodies, a bubble rhythm and responses to the main melody’s calls. Tavra’s electric guitar skanks with some additional riffing in between. An attractive electric organ provides another layer of melodic focus, with the vibrato nicely (and at points heavily) turned up. But what’s been done so well is that the instrumental lines as a whole create a sense of forward motion; the BPM is fairly slow but Balance feels much faster than it actually is. Then enter YT with one of his strongest performances to cement this frantic vibe.
He is very impressive, here. On the chorus, he works a straighter vocal, which rhythmically takes the motif of a skank and then embellishes it further. But on the verses, he breaks out into an incredibly pacey singjay: hitting the equivalent of around 11-12 syllables a second at some points; barely stopping for breath. It almost feels like the track should be Steppers – and therefore, YT has pitched this rapid singjay perfectly. Because if you listen carefully the kick is on an almost constant double time, Steppers beat – meaning YT’s rapid verses feel completely at home. Balance is pure class, and very cleverly arranged too – but YT is the star of this show.
The EP concludes with Pressure Buss; again, you can read Pauzeradio’s full review of it here. But much like the opening title track, it is a fitting piece for the project. Musically, it has all the hallmarks of classic Roots. The bass runs a variable drop-beat rhythm with a melody from the post-Rocksteady style. Frank Pollak’s Keys runs a bubble rhythm, which are at points engineered to nod to Dub. But the drums feel more ambiguous: sometimes Rockers, with their kick driving the downbeats and hi-hats focusing on the offs while the snare occasionally feels like it should be on a Steppers cut. There are also synth horns, which push the track into dystopian Synthwave. But then, you have some glorious breaks; leading Pressure Buss into Don’t Shoot’s grimy Hip Hop territory. So, it’s a veritable musical Smorgasbord. Moreover, YT is furious throughout, taking no prisoners as he delivers his sermon. And overall, Pressure Buss brings the entire EP together perfectly.
YT’s performances throughout are all superb. He’s a very versatile artist – having honed his style over the years and now having the ability to completely adjust it according to the track. On the title song he exudes urgency but with a sense of humble self-confidence – compelling you to sit up and take notice. He then shows his versatility on Don’t Shoot – being completely at home across the Hip-Hop/Afrobeats composition. He gives off the love and passion that he lyrically breaks down in Apreshelove, showing a softer side than on the rest of Moment for Change. Say Nuttin is more reflective than what’s come before it; on the track Balance, YT is clearly imploring us to remember the lesson he is telling, as his urgency is stepped up to the max. And on Pressure Buss he perfectly encapsulates in a performance what many of us feel in real life.
But it’s perhaps the lyrical content which is the glue that binds Moment for Change together. Because the six tracks are all part of one, larger narrative which YT has expertly laid out.
He sets the scene with the title track: explaining that the ‘here and now’ could be crucial in human history, as we’ve reached a major crossroads and “can’t afford to wait no longer”. But this will only happen if we stop “living like these wolves and sheep”; that is, stop being servants of the system and our infighting. He then cleverly follows this up with Don’t Shoot (“the messenger”) – a cautionary tale about how those of us who are conscious often get shut-down by the system, its proponents and those who know no better – while they use and obsess over “weapons of mass distraction”. YT has created a compelling narrative about the often hard and troubled path those of us who have woken up have to tread.
Then, YT reminds us with Apreshelove that a fulfilling, spiritual relationship is just as much a part of being politically and socially conscious – and that to maintain our paths we all need this. He delivers the track in such a manner that it feels like the logical next step on the EP. And the next, logical step after this? Say Nuttin: another advisory track during which YT proclaims that when we’re faced with the full, negative and noxious force of the system, but more importantly its proponents, it is best just to ‘say nuttin’ as opposed to unnecessary confrontation – because eventually, these negative people will wake up, be woken or face “judgement”.
Balance then provides the listener with the most central part of dealing with the system’s situations and people that Moment for Change has documented previously. YT proclaims that ‘balance’ is the key to staying on the path we have been put on in life – and that you mustn’t lose it. Finally, the EP’s closing track, Pressure Buss, is almost a summation of what’s come before it. Gone are the lessons and the detail. Instead, YT has expertly broken down the situation for human society and the planet into a furious, bulging sermon (specifically focusing on racism at points) that sums up why we need to listen to everything he has said before this point.
Ultimately, YT has created a six-chapter musical novel with a start, middle and finish; fleshed out characters and a fulsome, engaging narrative. It works superbly, and is undeniably thought-provoking.
It’s no understatement to say that Moment for Change may be YT’s seminal work. Not only have him and Oneness created a technically brilliant, artistically gorgeous project – but YT has also captured the mood of much of society in just six tracks. We all know that right now could be a moment for change. And with this EP, YT implores us to listen to our hearts and souls and be that change. It is the sentiment and pure passion that really stands out across the EP – which should be marked come December as one of the best of 2021. And it cements YT’s status as one of the strongest UK acts of the past few decades. Stunning work.
Read the press release here.
Listen to Mr Topple’s radio show here: The Topple UnPauzed Show
YT Moment For Change EP Review by Mr Topple (6th May 2021)