Yello‘s unusual sound was a mainstay of European electronic pop for several decades, but in a way, it had to stop at some point. They had had their low points, but by the time Touch Yello appeared in 2009 – after a six-year break – they were pretty much guaranteed the top spot in their native Switzerland.
Touch Yello opens with The Expert, a traditional Yello piece in many pieces, full of bass, low pads, and those low, low vocals. It’s a good opening track, but ultimately there’s little new here. You Better Hide is more like it in that regard. Roping in Heidi Happy on vocals, this was the first time they had used another vocalist to quite this extent on an album. The resultant sound is lounge through and through.
Some tracks manage to still be classic Yello but with new elements, and Out of Dawn is one of these, but also adds a brilliantly catchy chorus. In a way, this could have appeared on any of their albums – of which, for those counting, Touch Yello is their twelfth of thirteen to date. For an act that a lot of people have barely heard of, that’s quite an impressive back catalogue.
As a nod to this, Bostich (Reflected) takes them back to one of their earliest singles, originally released on Solid Pleasure (1979), and a minor hit in 1981. Including something with that heritage here is bold, to say the least, but it actually does fit well.
But this is, for the most part, lounge music, and so roping in jazz musician Till Brönner, on Flügelhorn of all things, is not quite as crazy as it might sound. It’s not entirely clear where this track is supposed to be going, but it’s gloriously atmospheric.
That is, of course, true for most of the songs on here – Tangier Blue is gloriously evocative of warm, North African nights. Part Love may not be the track that I would have chosen for lead single – it’s hardly the catchiest or most unusual track on here – but it’s pretty good.
Ultimately, and perhaps surprisingly, for a once somewhat novelty act like Yello, this is very much an album, rather than a collection of songs. The soft, slightly trippy lounge music bobs along sweetly via tracks such as Friday Smile, and unlike some of their sillier outings, you’ll find yourself feeling happy and relaxed. I hesitate to use “future jazz” as a genre, but it does seem fitting here.
Having established the guests already, it’s time for Heidi Happy to return, with her slightly hoarse, perfectly chosen voice – Kiss in Blue is a great duet, and a beautiful love song, delivered perfectly. It feels like the soundtrack to a million romantic comedies, albeit with slightly more manic drum fingerwork than normal.
Then it’s time for Till Brönner‘s second outing on Vertical Vision. His tracks on here are definitely jazzier, and while I’m not normally convinced that’s a good thing, it does work well here. The vocals return for Trackless Deep, though, which is a sweetly catchy piece. For those who aren’t quite as keen on jazz, the preceding track can just be thought of as a brief deviation before another full vocal track.
Heidi Happy returns, for the last time now, on Stay, another lush, lovely piece. It’s soft and unassuming, but hides a sweet message. Then Till Brönner is back for Electric Frame, probably the closest this album gets to freestyle jazz, but if that isn’t your thing (it isn’t really mine, if I’m honest) then at least it doesn’t last too long.
Finally, for Takla Maklan, Dorothee Oberlinger appears as a guest, turning up a little late to the party. It’s a suitably atmospheric closing piece, with a curiously North African feel, but an appropriately sweet way to finish off a brilliantly gentle album. It might have taken Yello a few years to reach this pinnacle, and six years since its predecessor, but Touch Yello is honestly pretty much as good as they get.
Seemingly the deluxe edition of Touch Yello is still available, and it’s worth it for no fewer than six bonus tracks and an entire “live” studio album which is worth having too.