By Dominic Hall Thomas
Those of you familiar with the local Leeds music scene will know that the northern city is positively brimming with the sounds of UK Neo-Soul. In part, led by a continuous flow of bright eyed students from modern jazz schools in both Leeds and Manchester, and further backed up by well-established music scenes in Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield. All things considered then, Yaatri- hailing from one such school- have done well to avoid the plight many local bands face- simply representing the sound of the city. With the release of their debut EP Reach and the clout of being selected as Jazz North’s introducing artist for 2019, they have clearly made a good first impression.
Immediately you can hear this music is a departure from the surrounding neo-soul. This is not about groove. This is about melody. The music revels in an ethereal brilliance, radiating from the vocalist (also known as B-awhe). There’s an almost choral effect from the unison between herself and the guitar, a sound that highlights the well-crafted melodies and in some cases defines entire songs with its haunting beauty. (Waiting on the Sun, and Broken). This level of musical serenity transcends even the choppiest parts of the EP. Like any contemporary ‘jazz-esc’ music it’s not without its complexities. Odd time signatures and spicy rhythmic patterns pass unnoticed, lost in tantalising harmonies and bass lines equally steady.
Reach, for all its light and airy sound is by no means an album lacking in engaging music. That said, with many of the tunes stemming from one end of the emotional spectrum, the brash, excitement of Dwob Dwob 2 (Forbidden Fruit) is a gem of roug, dynamism that just pushes the EP’s sense of balance into the safe zone, without which it might be slightly too cyclical for some fans.
With a successful 2019 in the rear view mirror for Yaatri and a somewhat cancelled 2020 facing us all, it’s only natural for us to look to the future for some glimmers of comfort. I’m sure Yaatri are, and from where they’re standing, it looks to be a bright one.