A journey through the endless expanses of the sea to a magnificent island: this image appears in the mind’s eye when "Ysla" is spinning on the record player. The new album by Yumi Ito has become a true tidal current of personal stories, impressive improvisations, and the unique voice of the Swiss-Polish-Japanese singer, composer, and improviser.
"In recent years, I’ve worked on new music in Iceland, Galicia (Cies) and Greece (Milos), which - like my father's country of origin, Japan - are all islands. Traveling there has generated distance and time to get to know myself better. " Yumi Ito
"Ysla", from the Old Portuguese for "island", deals with the themes of loneliness & separation, the world ending, and rebirth, linked with metaphors from nature, psychology, and sociology, as well as current contemporary history. The seven original compositions are closely connected to Yumi Ito's personhood and tell of her path of reflection and self-discovery. In this process, Ito has also developed her vocal improvisation into a "universal" language that can be understood anywhere: She uses it in a highly conscious, virtuoso, and incredibly powerful way, improvising with apparent effortlessness across genres, keys, and rhythms of all kinds - like a Zen master in harmony with her surroundings.
"The times on the islands and during the pandemic have made me reflect intensely. One realization has been that when I improvise and scat, I can connect with people across nationalities and borders in my own wordless language - much like traveling - and thus be at home anywhere."Yumi Ito
Moreover, Ito recorded all the piano parts herself for the first time, and impressively so: when the often complex piano patterns ring out and the musician sings over them in a completely detached way, a world is conjured up in no time at all. She is complemented by Kuba Dworak on double bass and Iago Fernández on drums, both of whom already formed the rhythm section of the Yumi Ito Orchestra. Effortlessly, this trio maneuvers through a veritable genre ocean of ambient sounds, mystical grooves, and soulful parts between art-pop, jazz, and neoclassical. Among those on board: illustrious guests like Chris Hyson (synths; Jordan Rakei, The Magic Lantern, Snowpoet) and Szymon Mika (g), with whom Yumi Ito also plays in a duo. Mix & mastering was done by sound engineer Daniel Dettwiler at Studio Idee und Klang, using the same mixing console that Queen and Supertramp already used. For all these reasons, "Ysla" (release: 14/04/2023 via enja records) isn’t simply Yumi Ito’s fifth album under her own name, but marks a new peak in her opus. Profound and immensely fresh - like an island: proud, stoic, and strong amidst the powerful waves of the ocean.