All things being equal, we should have been listening to Yes In French’s debut EP a whole lot sooner than we are. But the now-duo of Bas Van Oudenhove and Sebastiano Zanasi have undergone many evolutions of their own since they first burst onto the burgeoning, yet at times stifling, live electronic music scene. On the Vredehoek 5-0 EP, they have tightened their fold once more to plunder darker depths of their range, and they’re all the more inscrutable for it.
Between minding a quiet, yet earnest web presence and musical forays as Hessien+ (originally Plant Life and Hessien), Yes In French haven’t been made to feel in any rush going about their business. There’s a tangible sense of belief and ambition that is reflected in the coherence of the Vredehoek 5-0 as a whole and they’re obviously thriving off of it.
However, their penchant for sun-dried guitar riffs and a deft ear for a drum machine groove clearly remain their strength. And it’s a strength that is shared within the niche that the like-minded artists have created for themselves in the musical collective-cum-subgenre that is Quit Safari (which includes Christian Tiger School, Fever Trails and Damascus). It has also allowed listeners to hear some early versions of the tracks that have been primed for this EP – namely the intoxicating, off-kilter R&B swagger of ‘There Seems To Be A Problem Here’ that has made a welcome appearance on a Quit Safari podcast or two before now.
It would be tempting to think that Vredehoek 5-0 – title notwithstanding – would tend to take itself too seriously. That certainly seems to be the case on opening track, ‘On Patrol’, whose slow, atmospheric build-up eventually dovetails with a crisp sounding synth line in an effort to immediately acquaint us with a fresh sounding Yes In French. Yet it’s quickly belied by ‘What’s The Problem Here’’s keyboard riff that only has but a moment in the spotlight before it’s mobbed by urgent synth bells and chimes that make the track swing and bounce in an impressive display of dynamism. Oudenhove and Zenasi combine for a little ditty that ties up the track and shows a glimpse of the roots of the understanding – almost intimacy – of the partnership that has allowed the band’s sound to grow and adapt.
For all of Yes In French’s newly-found range, it’s still surprising that one of the highlights of the EP would sound like a warped and coded distress call from the underworld as the duo adopt a darker, more predatory mien. ‘000-145-145’ bides its time perfectly – drum machine hi-hats hitting menacingly until the lurching beat catches a gust of wind, and we’re swept into the tight spiral of spiky synths and droning bass that the band now seems capable of flexing at will.
Thankfully, and after a lengthy spell on the proverbial backburner, Yes In French have resisted the temptation to be heavy-handed in their production. The mastering process seems to have made the bass guitar of some tracks a little tauter, the drums snap & kick just half a moment sooner, and the EP benefits from all this without losing much of its raw essence.
Make no mistake; they’re still all about their worn New Balances and samples of a half-embarrassed, half-frantic 911 call concerning a rabid cat. And by the time it’s through with us, it’s hard not to feel that their intonation on ‘There Seems To Be A Situation Here’ of, “Oh, I’ve been waiting, waiting,” is just little too on-the-nose. They’ve certainly whet the appetite for whatever comes next.
Check out the Popsicle At Home Session from May: