JOON is the artist formally known as YEWS and the musical vehicle of Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis.
In a similar epiphany that Brian Eno had with ambient music, Kuymizakis was involved in a car accident and while recuperating, she appreciated how precious life was and decided to make music her vocation.
She opted for synths as her tools of self-expression, buying a Stylophone, Moog Sub Phatty and a Korg Poly800 while also teaching herself how to use recording software and VSTs, with the Novation MiniNova being the most recent addition to her armoury.
Without any electronic music role models locally to look up to, Kuymizakis co-founded the Malta Sound Women Network with composer and academic Jess Rymer in 2017 to bring like-minded women together on the island.
This brought focus to JOON and the attracted the attention of Italians Do It Better, home to CHROMATICS, DESIRE and GLÜME. While there was a considered approach to her music, Kuymizakis also had a sense of fun as exemplified by her NEW ORDER meets MARSHEAUX styled cover of BANANARAMA’s ‘Cruel Summer’.
So the debut JOON long player ‘Dream Again’ arrives after a 10 year musical journey, capturing a shimmering stream of consciousness towards escape and self-fulfilment with a template of mostly angelic vocals and otherworldly auras.
With many voices in her head, the blippy avant pop ‘ET’ comes over like an oddball variant on Berlin-based Nordic duo ULTRAFLEX; with wonderfully eerie Theremin tones that make the concoction creepy yet fun, this inviting lo-fi number was used in a digital fashion show for the Nintendo simulation game ‘Animal Crossing’, adding to its aural surrealism.
The electro-funky ‘Watch The Sky’ is a bouncy club tune inspired by Róisín Murphy and its ending kicks courtesy of a wonderful distorted synth solo accompanied by a burst of cowbells. However, while JOON’s sense of fun and escapism comes over in a girly cover of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, apart from putting more cash into the bank account of Vince Clarke, it seems an unnecessary inclusion on ‘Dream Again’ when she has quality material of her own.
There’s a charming innocence to ‘Good Times’ with a wonderful Mediterranean take on Japanese city pop about more carefree pre-pandemic times with fewer responsibilities, but with a gentle canter, ‘Whisper’ is classic Italians Do It Better and has the vulnerable air of label mate GLÜME looming on this wonderfully atmospheric set piece with a hypnotic arpeggio.
Built around a waltzing church organ, the Bjork-like ‘Meaningful Life’ provides the Gospel of St Joon but featuring almost screaming monologues with our heroine sounding rather cocooned, ‘Wait’ captures an uneasy tension, although relief is provided by the sung chorus for a hybrid of shade and light.
‘Home’ recalls Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ being dropped into The Bang Bang Bar from ‘Twin Peaks’, while sung in Maltese and meaning “sleep”, the gentle lullaby of ‘Orqod’ is gorgeous and reflects on the need to let go but just as the ethereal mood is about induce near sleep, the darker consciousness acts as a reminder of harsh realities.
A quirky rhythmic percolation shapes the instrumental ‘I.You’, showing JOON’s diverse musicality with gliding portamento hooks and drones provide a suitably gothic soundtrack that could easily work in film.
The nautical jaunt of ‘Me & My Sea’ comes with an artful allure but then takes an unsettling turn with layers of pitch shifted vocals in the manner of FEVER RAY as seagulls swoop by. Closing with the blurry Julee Cruise inspired ‘Feathers’, a wispy falsetto and crystalline textures capture a South East Asian winter rather than a Mediterranean summer.
Melancholic but ultimately positive with a mix of upbeat tracks and more personal songs, JOON looks hopefully forward without forgetting the lessons of the past. ‘Dream Again’ is an optimistic dose of inspiration and a universal message for everyone as to how to overcome. As Yasmin Kuymizakis herself says “Even if I’m sad or heartbroken, I remain optimistic. I want to grow old with no regrets”
Yes, the time is now right to be able to ‘Dream Again’.
‘Dream Again’ is released by Italians Do It Better on the usual online platforms
It is time soon for more ‘Good Times’ and JOON, the electronic solo project from Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis does her best to remember them.
Written and produced by Kuymizakis with the ubiquitous Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, ‘Good Times’ captures a charming innocence in a dreamy Mediterranean take on Japanese city pop about more carefree pre-pandemic times with fewer responsibilities.
The song comes from the upcoming debut album by JOON which comprises of both fun upbeat tracks and more personal songs composed over the past 10 years.
In a similar epiphany that Brian Eno had with ambient music, Kuymizakis was involved in a car accident and while recuperating, she appreciated how precious life was. So she taught herself how to use audio software and synths as her form of self-expression. Her experiences led her to co-found the Malta Sound Women Network to bring like-minded women together on the island.
In a self-directed and edited video filmed by Neo Borg Bonaci, a floodlit tennis court acts as the setting for JOON to consider the love of her life as she reflects on “The way you sing your songs and make me dance, the way you take a chance on a little romance” before affirming “You remind me of the good times”.
Previous singles from JOON have included the quirky lo-fi hypnotism of ‘ET’ which was used in a digital fashion show for the Nintendo simulation game ‘Animal Crossing’, a NEW ORDER meets MARSHEAUX styled cover of BANANARAMA’s ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Watch The Sky’, an electro-funky nod to Róisín Murphy. Meanwhile, there have been regular collaborations with her compatriot BARK BARK DISCO on tracks such as ‘Til The End’ and ‘Another Play’.
Coming soon from JOON is ‘Orqod’, her first composition in Maltese. Having gained some forward momentum in the past year or so, the future looks bright for the artist formally known as YEWS as she settles into the Italians Do It Better family.
‘Good Times’ is released by Italians Do It Better via the usual digital platforms
A dark reality check swathed in largely improvised synths and sax, ‘Human Again’ was a fine debut long player from Jorja Chalmers released in 2019 by Italians Do It Better, home to CHROMATICS, DESIRE and GLÜME.
Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers was a member of HOTEL MOTEL, a stylish new wave pop trio that also featured front woman Marika Gauci and guitarist Oliver Blair who as RADIO WOLF recently recorded a joint award winning soundtrack with PARALLELS for the film ‘Proximity’. She then joined Bryan Ferry as his sax and keyboard player for live work.
It was while touring the world with the ROXY MUSIC leader that ‘Human Again’ was conceived, capturing the hotel room comedown after facing adulation from concert crowds only hours earlier. Her recently issued second album ‘Midnight Train’ was a product of lockdown and recorded nocturnally at her spare room studio.
Although a natural development of its predecessor, ‘Midnight Train’ added more refinement, structure, sax and vocals, as well as three cover versions of songs made famous by artists as diverse as THE DOORS, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and ENYA.
Jorja Chalmers spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about feeling ‘Human Again’ and taking the ‘Midnight Train’…
Looking back, you’ve had an amazing musical journey, coming to London from Australia, opening for Claudia Brücken of PROPAGANDA and Paul Humphreys of OMD, joining Bryan Ferry’s band and now releasing your own music on Italians Do It Better…
It’s been full of surprises! I’ve been fortunate to work with so many great artists like Marika and Oliver from HOTEL MOTEL and Bryan Ferry and his incredibly talented band. All of these encounters shape the music that you make. Italians Do It Better have helped me to be able to share the music I’m making which is a dream come true.
Is sax your first instrument? What led you to becoming more of a multi-instrumentalist?
Actually, piano is my first instrument. I started playing when I was really young and learnt mostly by ear which helped me to start writing my own songs. I joined the school band when I was 11 and asked to play the saxophone and fell in love with the sound. It’s nice to be able to play a few different instruments if you’re producing your own music. I’m also learning to play guitar so there may be some guitar in the live shows soon.
Your first band in London HOTEL MOTEL attracted some interest, Mark Moore from S-EXPRESS was a fan while there were some recording sessions with producer Bob Kraushaar who worked with PROPAGANDA, ERASURE and PET SHOP BOYS. There was also a video for ‘Sucker Man’, so are these nice memories to look back on?
Absolutely, HOTEL MOTEL will always be dear to my heart and I’m lucky to call Marika one of my closest friends after all these years.
One of the last HOTEL MOTEL tracks was ‘No Way’ in 2006 which you had a prominent role in, but the band appeared to lose momentum after that, what happened?
It was a shame, really. ‘No Way’ was a fun song to write but we could have taken it so much further. It was at a time when many bands were still leaning heavily on outsourcing engineers to make the music. I think if it had been a few years later, I would have had the skills to help Marika craft the songs. I was also at the early stages of getting into synths and wanted to write darker, more experimental songs and it didn’t really fit with the HOTEL MOTEL sound.
How did you come to work with Bryan Ferry? Are there any particular Ferry or Roxy songs which you particularly enjoy playing live?
HOTEL MOTEL were playing a gig at Bar Music Hall for Marika’s club night, ‘Computer Blue’. I think it was 2007. Bryan’s PA at the time came to the gig and the next day I got a Myspace message asking me to audition for Bryan’s band. I got the job and have been working with him ever since. My favourite songs to play live are ‘Don’t Stop the Dance’, ‘Windswept’, ‘If There Is Something’, ‘Editions Of You’, ‘Bitter Sweet’… too many to name! They are all so fun to play. Andy Mackay is a genius at writing lyrical and simple melodies that say so much. I always try to do the same with any sax parts that are in my songs.
Much of your debut album ‘Human Again’ was conceived while touring with Bryan Ferry, what had been the catalyst to start composing?
There can be a lot of time spent alone in hotel rooms on the road which can be a bit isolating. I started taking a mini studio with me on the road and wrote the album on days off and after shows.
The ‘Human Again’ title track was quite an abstract song but captured many emotions and is almost ‘Blade Runner’ like? Was the film or Vangelis an inspiration at all?
I read a book called ‘Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness’ written by Richard Yates and it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me. It’s a series of short stories that explore the human condition. I’ve always been interested in these themes of connection and isolation and it runs through a lot of my music. That coupled with my love of Vangelis and ‘Human Again’ was born.
At what point do you decide that a piece of music remains instrumental or needs a vocal, however abstract?
I’ve never really identified as a singer so when I sing, I see it more as an extension of an instrumental which is why it often sounds abstract. The new album is different from ‘Human Again’. There’s a lot more singing and saxophone. It feels good to sing out finally.
‘The Sum Of Our Sins’ from ‘Human Again’ with its doomy synths could have come from a horror movie, is that a film genre you enjoy?
I do love cinematic music. It originally stems from my love of classical composers like Rachmaninoff. The sense of melodrama really appeals to me as fun and not at all gloomy. The funny thing is I’m not particularly into horror films, although I love the aesthetic of the old horrors like Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’. So it’s the look and sound I love.
How did Italians Do It Better become interested? The connection naturally points to ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Drive’, but what soundtracks have musically touched your soul?
I wrote the demo of ‘Human Again’ and thought nothing would come of it but quite spontaneously sent it to Italians Do It Better and Johnny Jewel got back to me right away to say he loved it and wanted to release it. I was of course thrilled to be working with them as I’d been following the label for a number of years. The ‘After Dark’ compilation, released in 2007 was THE soundtrack for our friends and the London party scene we were in at the time.
Composers like Goblin, John Carpenter, Angelo Badalamenti, Brad Fiedel and of course, Vangelis had a huge impact on my musical taste.
While your new album ‘Midnight Train’ is a natural progression from the last record, there is undoubtedly an increased sound to it, especially in the use of your voice and the wider palette of instruments. What were the main inspirations behind this new record?
The first album is more a series of jams and this one is more considered. I think I got a little braver with my song writing for this album so there’s more meat on the bone.
There’s also the use of live drums on this album too, like on ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ which does have a rather lovely floaty feel?
I wanted to introduce some live drums for this album. I asked my friend Joe Ryan to play and gave him a reference to make it sound like Bill Ward from BLACK SABBATH. When Joe plays drums, he’s adding so music musically. His parts are so beautifully interesting. He helped me to create a back bone for what could be a light and fluffy song without drums. It makes a hypnotic and emotional ride.
Your sax style evokes Berlin-era Bowie, had those instrumentals like ‘Subterraneans’ and ‘Neuköln’ influenced you?
I’m heavily influenced by Bowie and Eno, mainly because they didn’t worry about following the rules. It was strange music even back then but people trusted them as artists and listened and loved what they heard.
The dramatic sequence of ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’, ‘Boadicea’, ‘Love Me Tonight’ and ‘Nightingale’ could almost be considered movements of a much bigger piece, had the idea of a 10 minute track been the original concept?
Not really. The order of tracks wasn’t decided until the very end.
What inspired you to do ‘Riders On The Storm’?
I’ve always loved this song. My dad had these amazing speakers he built and one rainy day when I was little, he sat me down and played that track and I fell in love the sound and memory of it. When I was writing this album, I thought I’d like to add some covers and ‘Riders On The Storm’ felt like a special tribute to my dad and his love for music.
There is more song-based material on ‘Midnight Train’… some of it like the wonderful ‘Rhapsody’ comes across a bit like eerie avant garde Cyndi Lauper and that is meant as a compliment… how did that one come together?
I was asked to contribute to a SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES covers album that’s coming out this summer and it gave me a chance to cover one of my favourite tracks. I loved it so much it had to go on the album.
‘On Such A Clear Day’ and the ‘Midnight Train’ title song, there are some great synth passages and arpeggios, what were you using to construct those?
I’m using the arpeggiator for some elements of those tracks. I like to write long instrumental tracks where you can explore themes and variations, just like in classical music. I’d love to hear these tracks played by an orchestra one day.
Both ‘Human Again’ and ‘Midnight Train’ are albums in the true sense, they have to be listened to all the way through, but do you have any personal highlights from either?
My favourites from ‘Human Again’ would have to be ‘She Made Him Love Again’ and ‘Copper Bells’. Favourites from ‘Midnight Train’ are ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, ‘Riders On The Storm’ and ‘Rhapsody’.
With everything going on, it is difficult to make plans but what do you hope is on the cards for you in the future?
Since I’ve been off the road, I’ve been enjoying teaching saxophone and piano. I hope to keep writing and releasing music and play some live shows, too.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Jorja Chalmers
Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity
Although a seasoned musician as the sax and keyboard player for Bryan Ferry over the past 10 years, Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers did not release her first album until 2019.
Released by Italians Do It Better, ‘Human Again’ captured the lonely hotel room comedown after facing adulation from a concert crowd only hours earlier, a dark reality check swathed in largely improvised synths and sax. Jorja Chalmers’ second album ‘Midnight Train’ develops on its predecessor and adds more refinement, structure and vocals, as well as perhaps unexpectedly three cover versions.
Constructed during lockdown in her spare room studio after she put her children to bed, the stark nocturnal atmosphere proved to be inspirational, capturing a decadent European mood not far off the instrumental suite on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ album which itself was recorded in the then-divided Mauerstadt of Berlin.
Gentle synth introduces ‘Bring Me Down’, a marvellous and captivating opening waltz. “It’s about the fragility of the perfect housewife” said Chalmers, “It’s basically about a woman that’s trying to be everything, and is cracking psychologically”. By inhabiting that persona away from her own domestic bliss, it harks back to the stylish artifice of classic pop; after all David Bowie did not actually come from outer space and Gary Numan was not a real android. In these days where authenticity is over-craved, this element of imagination and role play (which is lauded in acting but often dissed in music) is most welcome.
Bringing in the extra dimension of live drums from Joe Ryan and expressive sax straight out of ‘Neuköln’, ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ signifies that this album is indeed a refined progression of ‘Human Again’. Then the next section of tracks acts like a four movement suite…
With minimal bass pulses and sporadic percussion, ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ is given resonance by Chalmers’ appealing voice that comes over like a avant garde Cyndi Lauper; then her slinky multi-tracked sax harmonies takes centre stage. Seamlessly merging into Enya’s ‘Boadicea’, the windy air and unusual shuffle presents an otherworldly interlude before the arpeggio laced ‘Love Me Tonight’ offers place for a vulnerable soprano and powerful drums that manage not to overblow the atmosphere. The suite concludes with the eerie sax collage ambience of ‘Nightingale’.
Then there’s a wonderfully ghostly reinterpretation of ‘Riders On The Storm’. Known as the last song recorded by all four members of THE DOORS with lyrics inspired by the spree killer Billy Cook, the sinister overtones are conveyed while smothered in reverb, reflecting human existence at its most basic disturbed state.
The superb take on SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES ‘Rhapsody’ off their ninth album ‘Peepshow’, uses an intriguing electronic warble within its stripped down arrangement; from its claustrophobic cocoon, Chalmers sounds trapped in an unsettling icy soundscape of synthetic strings and choirs.
‘The Poet’ instrumental evokes more Berlin-era Bowie before leading into ‘The Wolves Of The Orangery’, a song that retains that air of mystery while being hypnotically alluring. Playing with a sequence of modulars, ‘On Such A Clear Day’ sweeps and bends in homag to German electronic exponents like Klaus Schulze and Wolfgang Riechmann.
The ‘Midnight Train’ title song is a more sedate variation on the theme of ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ before the speedy sequences return as the backbone like a more understated ‘On The Run’ for the 21st Century. ‘Underwater Blood’ acts as the abstract if hypnotic closing instrumental with cascading keys that leaves the listener wanting more.
Mixed by Dean Hurley, who is best known for his work with David Lynch including ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Unstaged’, ‘Midnight Train’ is a shimmering and elegant body of work with the right balance of darkness and light. With surreal cinematic unease sitting side-by-side with arthouse glamour, it is a transcendent triumph that is the running to be one of the best albums of 2021.
Described as “black lodge music for the blue youth of the internet age”, GLÜME is the Los Angeles-born “Walmart Marilyn Monroe”.
Like a tattooed Norma Jeane Mortenson dropped into Twin Peaks, having been a child actress and studies music before being diagnosed with a serious heart condition, GLÜME often reflects on her fragile hold onto life and how it keeps her detached from the real world in which she has live in.
But while her music often projects a tragic heartfelt quality, it is also strangely engaging and delightful.
Beginning with the forlorn Marilyn homage ‘Arthur Miller’, the afflicted drama accompanied by electric piano, organ, solemn strings and music box signals the forgotten yesterday mood that colours her first long player ‘The Internet’. Meanwhile ‘What Is A Feeling’ places GLÜME into a synthwave backdrop of sombre staccato bassline sand melancholic counter melodies. Highlight her own insecure emotions with the world are “my undoing”, this contrast of Norman Jean meeting ‘Drive’ only makes the scenario even more otherworldly and engaging.
The indie synth anxiety of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ dials largely down the Marilyn coos for some appealing melancholic pop while more off-kilter and detuned is ‘Crushed Velvet’ which recalls Nordic artists such as FARAO and GRETA.
Constructed around a distorted synth arpeggio, the haunting ‘Body’ reflects on illness with an emotive resigned acceptance with further tension provided by electric guitar. But things get glorious for the brilliant roller coaster of ‘Get Low’, the combination of rumbling synthbass and electronic stabs musically not that far off an experimental OMD B-side or LADYTRON!
The eerie chill of ‘Blossom’ outlines American suburban wifey aspirations like a ‘Twin Peaks’ song that Lana Del Rey wouldn’t shy away from and as the dream decays, GLÜME asks “which god do you prey to?” before stating “you can be really mean?”.
The vibey ‘Don’t @ Me’ is a metronomic spoken word piece with echoes of JOY DIVISION’s ‘Decades’ in its repeated riff while utilising real strings blended with sparkles of synth, the finger-clicking album title song confronts online trolls and stalkers with references to a “worldwide bitch”.
A burst of a brass ensemble punctuates the film noir atmosphere of ‘Heatwave’ with some frantic if understated guitar work to accompany GLÜME’s Lana-like delivery albeit without the rasp. ‘Porcelain’ offers Trans-Atlantic trip-hop, before the orchestrated ballad ‘Chemicals’ closes ‘The Internet’ with the frustrations of medication and wanting them to “play nice”.
While it does not include her marvellous chilling cover of THE FLEETWOODS’ ‘Come Softly To Me’, ‘The Internet’ will satisfy anyone intrigued by GLÜME’s singles. With a variation of atmospheres and tempos plus an aura of charming vulnerability, featuring one of the best songs of the year in ‘Get Low’, the album is more than consistent with the Italians Do It Better brand identity and showcases GLÜME as their shimmering new star.
‘The Internet’ is released by Italians Do It Better on 30th April 2021