Review: Yonderboi: Passive Control

Finally, the time has come for me to be able to review the latest album by one of Hungary’s finest, namely László Fogarasi Jr., or as we all know and listen to him; Yonderboi. The album was released on MOLE Listening Pearls, the German label known for keeping the flame of quality downtempo and general electronica alive and fuelled.

This time, however, here in Hungary, the album seems to have got the sufficient amount of attention and coverage (or somewhere near that): some magazines even had a cover story for it, for example Hungarian music news blog, Recorder, to which Yonderboi gave a lengthy interview explaining the ins and outs of what we now know as ‘Passive Control’.

In that interview (and its 2nd part) Yonderboi – among others – mentioned that Passive Control is a closing part of a trilogy of albums, bearing the colour red as its principle element in the artwork (also shot and produced by Yonderboi himself), thus closing the trilogy of RGB (the debut, titled ‘Shallow and Profound’ being primarily organised in green, and the sophomore effort, ‘Splendid Isolation’ sounding out blue). However, there’s also a generational and gender-related aspect of the three: ‘Shallow and Profound’ was the child (having been made “100% out of instinct, with nothing at stake” as Yonderboi put it), ‘Splendid Isolation’ was the man (“[…] when I listen to the album, I consider it an absolutely credible print of myself – the storms of emotion and passion of my 20s are there”) and now ‘Passive Control’ is the woman where Yonderboi “handed over the controls to music itself”. Question is, can we submit ourselves to the music?

Popping the album into the player (either physically or virtually, however it should be noted that the CD release looks really decent), the experience kicks off with ‘Sustainable Development’, a mellow, piano-led song with beautiful additions of – probably synthesized – double bass, strings, pads and guitar. These songs – especially when written and produced so well – serve as perfect kicks-off of albums, this time however, the song has sort of an in medias res atmosphere as the spoken word part is performed by the same Edward Ka-Spel (yes, from Legendary Pink Dots) who closed ‘Splendid Isolation’ the same way. This notion accompanies us throughout ‘Passive Control’ and this is where Yonderboi grabs us by our guts and ears: this really the closing part, with a feeling of departure and letting go shining through every single moment of this album. And this is why ‘Passive Control’ works perfectly only when it’s played in its entirety.

Not that the album consists of bad songs though, not at all. ‘I Am CGI’ serves with a great example of how creatively the individual pieces are structured: it starts of as a gag with a vibe usually a characteristic of  folk songs from the Balkans, but after 1/3 of the song, it changes into a rather nice house 4/4 with the synthesized cowbell sound guiding as through till the end. Same happens with ‘Roast Pigeon’ (one of the high points on ‘Passive Control’, besides ‘She Complains’, ‘Brighter Than Anything’, the hip-hop of ‘Inexhaustible Well’ which might remind us of Gorillaz’s better moments or ‘Come On Progeny’, the only song per se on ‘Passive Control’)

At this point, Yonderboi’s faithful professional companion, singer Charlotte Brandi should definitely be mentioned who is versatile, creative and lovable enough to serve the concept of the ‘woman’s album’, her voice adds a lot to the two more uplifting and complex songs which give the album sort of an ‘inner frame’, namely ‘She Complains’ and ‘Come On Progeny’.

The album quits with ‘After The Snap’, a cello-led song (cello parts played by Hungarian musician Albert Márkos) written in 3/4, during which we can almost see some sort of end credits.

Truth is, ‘Passive Control’ is a cohesive whole that was released just in time: mere ‘singles’ and ‘EPs’ have not yet taken over our lives, the habit and tradition of whole album experience is still followed by many and this situation helps the album somewhat. Nevertheless, the production and musicians are all great and the album makes a great and successful attempt of fusing acoustic – or at least acoustic-like – sounds with electronica and genres of electronic music. Fellow Hungarians, and fans of solid, enjoyable, yet complex music from all over the world: we still have someone to be proud of.

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