Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yonlu - A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre

I'm going to take a bit of a departure from my standard review system for this one as it falls into a very unique category. Yonlu is actually the Internet screen name of the late Vinicius Gageiro Marques, who lived in the Southwestern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre as the only child of a professor and a psychoanalyst. At 16, Vinicius took his own life, leaving behind a collection of music he had written, of which 14 songs have been selected for the evocatively titled album, A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre. The record is a compelling collection of songs filled with emotion, and is a surprisingly sophisticated display of Vinicius ' obvious musical talent. Though I've foregone giving the album a rating, it's not for lack of great music, it just seemed irrelevant and perhaps inappropriate considering the circumstances.

Yonlu's music features an almost impossibly broad range of influences. Though Vinicius learned to read, write, and therefore perform in English, his music still feels quite grounded in the bossa nova and Tropicalia genres more prevalent in Brazil. He even covers a personal favorite of his, Vitor Ramil, on the beautiful "Estrela, Estrela." Songs like the smooth, groovy opener "I Know What's It Like," the easy-going "Ole Por Nos," and the brief, but lovely "Phrygian" fill the record with well-played guitar, pleasant vocal harmony, and melodies that hint at musical maturity well beyond his age. A variety of instruments make an appearance in the album, including bass and drums which Vinicius played and recorded himself in his bedroom-turned-studio.

Many of the more comprehensible lyrics (at least those in English) carry some serious emotional weight and deal with heavy subjects like loneliness, heartache, and death - as you might expect. The song "Suicide," written only a month before Vinicius took his own life, or the beautifully sad "Humiliation" more than hint at the pain this young man experienced and dealt with on a constant basis. Even the sunny, low-key "Little Kids" or the song for a friend "Katy Don't Be Depressed" feel underlined by a sense of anguish, though it's also clear that the joys of life and love weren't lost on Vinicius, just difficult for him to obtain.

The record also features several more experimental tunes that show a playful side to Yonlu's music. "A Boy and a Tiger" shifts wildly from passages of subtle folk music into moments of raging operatic rock and bizarre rap verses, while "Qtip" focuses on what sounds like a weather forecast over simple guitar lines. "Deskjet Remix with Sabrepulse" is a brief blast of instrumental electro-rock that is good enough you might wish the song had been expanded to feel more complete. Not all of the music makes much sense, and the record obviously feels scattered given its origin, but A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed is thoroughly fascinating and usually quite enjoyable as well.

To end, I'd like to quote an adaptation from an article that appeared in an issue of Rolling Stone Brazil:

Yoñlu is a disc that should have been a post card, but transformed itself into a testament. It’s the celebration of a life with the talent for a banquet that stopped at the appetizer. It’s a showcase of sound and poetry of the kisses that Vinicius never gave, the dreams he never realized, the anguishes he couldn’t get over, his passion for art and especially for music, like he expressed in the letter he wrote to his parents: “I believe that the right cadence and harmony at the right moments can awaken any sentiment, including happiness in the most somber moments.”

To hear some of Yonlu's music, check out his MySpace.


Anonymous said...

I dig your review of this tragic cd...

I heard this cd for the first time just yesterday...

It is simply amazing...

Thanks for the review