Singer, songwriter David Ivar aka Black Yaya used to write, record and perform under the name Herman Dune, recording more than ten albums and travelling far and wide. Black Yaya was born out of David Ivar’s desire to go back to recording everything himself without the pressures of time or cost.
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With a suitcase of weird metaphors (“waiting like a tomato on the market”, anyone?) and a few thousand instruments equipped to various parts of his body, David Ivar reincarnates as Black Yaya, a new project with more bluster (and more electro-pop!) than the anti-folk Herman Dune. This record goes between brash, noxious indie rock with ambitions to be performed like a cabaret, and silky synth pop in the style of Destroyer’s ‘Kaputt’ -- only with more balloons and party bags. It’s all united around a dedication to being ever-so-slightly off kilter.
Vocally, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar is a good starting point for Ivar’s tenor, though he also has the sillier and gentler coo of A.C. Newman going for him (he doesn’t have much of Neko Case’s twang, though, so the buck stops here, New Pornographers fans). It’s the less bombastic moments that work in Ivar’s favour on this record; he’s good at making gorgeous folk ballads and estranging them a little bit, and “Watchman” proves that, with full-on strums, harmonies that stay lovely and simple, elegiac choruses. “O & Behold” sounds like a strike of Kevin Morby, sifting through understated bass grooves and sadly receding guitar riffs.
It’d be nice if Ivar could stay like this forever, and he offers us a few good tracks of contemplative pop with none of the silly impersonator shtick -- but you can’t take the quirk out of a Herman Dune dilettante, and so some of the silliness creeps back on, such as the faux-brood of “Gimme A Gun”, which begins with a hilarious bit of harmonica and continues on a path of destructive, pantomimic rock 'n' roll. Overall, though, ‘Black Yaya’ is the sign of a smart songwriter worrying about his presentation -- he needs to chill out, because he's most certainly got this.
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