Text by Meritxell Rosell
Our next mixtape lands from the Spanish composer, cellist, singer and producer Yamila, with a unique mix inspired by her last album and a soulful vision inside her art.
Dancing between electronic and analogue music, tradition and experimentation. Yamila’s artistic practice “looks over the precipice of pure emotion”, which couldn’t be more accurate. That passion and soulfulness manifest in many (if not all) of her forms of expression.
In her most recent album, Visions (UMOR REX, 2022), Yamila revealed her most intimate catharsis. The album evokes the hallucinatory powers of music. Like an ancient herald, she announces the profound feminine mystique while crossing epic melodies full of pleasure and pain. The album is a journey that prodigiously unites baroque accents, Spanish folklore, such as flamenco, and contemporary electronic music.
Pain and glory, lacerating religiosity, feminism cauterized by power, and hallucinations as a source (or pretext/tool) to be heard (think of Santa Teresa de Jesús, a Spanish Carmelite nun that embodied the culmination of the religious mystic during the 16th century).
All these elements were very present in the Spanish Golden Age, which spanned before and after the Spanish Baroque, one of the most inspired creative epochs in the Mediterranean country, especially in literature, painting and architecture, but in a society lacerated by profound religiousness, poverty and injustice, also filled with mysticism and magic. Yamila’s piercing gaze has the fierceness of those who dared to challenge the established powers of the time.
Yamila’s voice and music –sometimes torn and others buoyant– can also resemble the score for a biblical passage (i.e. visions of the Apocalypse), for they are overflowing with physical ecstasy and sounds one can touch. Visions is composed of different forms and rhythms. Blending aural chiaroscuros with contemporary electronics, Yamila exhibits a profuse aesthetic with her music that calls for a look at the far past with romanticism and nostalgia.
The mix she has prepared for us she tells, es un viaje compuesto integramente por mí, es una mezcla de temas del disco visions, con paisajes entrelazados, de lugares que visité mientras compuse el album (The mix I have prepared for you is a trip composed entirely by me, it is a mix of tracks from the album visions, with intertwined landscapes of places I visited while composing the album).
Visions, your second album, celebrates the hallucinatory powers of music, offering a journey that prodigiously unites baroque accents, Spanish folklore and contemporary electronic music. Sonically speaking, how was its conception and in what ways was the process different from the first album?
This album was inspired by the mystic women of the middle ages. The creation process began with readings of some of these women’s visions. From the beginning, I found it amazing the ability they had to talk about their bodies and what they felt. Many of the descriptions were sublime, full of intensity and strength. It was also inspiring to see how even though many were at risk of being accused of heresy and being killed, they continued to speak and write about what they believed was necessary. All of these strengths and passions were the starting point for Visions. One of the differences between my first album Iras Fajro and Visions, is that in Visions, I had a clearer conceptual framework from the beginning. This framework helped me generate texts, generate the whole visual component, and do the live performance.
Visions is rooted in pain and glory, lacerating religiosity, feminism cauterised by power, and hallucinations as a source (or pretext/tool) to be heard; What compositional and/or musical elements are essential for you to bring these ethereal concepts to your album?
My desire with this album was to make reference to what is not in language but in the body. Physical, abstract sensations that logical language cannot name and that only poetry, music or other artistic media can touch. From the beginning, I thought about the body and tried reconstructing an image of physical sensations through sound. Many of the themes are based on field recordings; that first atmosphere was the one that immersed me in a certain physical state, from sadness to joy, to exuberant happiness or tenderness. The deep intensity and intimacy were something I wanted to explore.
Your creations dance between electronic and analogue music, tradition and experimentation: What are you technically and/or conceptually exploring in your productions?
My background is classical; I spent many years studying a “classical” instrument for European standards. What I appreciate most about this education is the ability to concentrate that they teach you when you study an instrument. Spending hours with an instrument is a luxury, and even more so today, when we are invaded by endless distractions, practising with an instrument is like praying or meditating.
When one spends time repeating something, I think it is normal to want to go different ways and experiment with things. In my experimentations, I don’t try to create new things; I don’t know if that is possible either; what I try to do is to get closer to myself, to what I feel, and hope that there is something universal in that.
There is always a general questioning of what surrounds me and a particular questioning of how we understand music, in the West, for example, or how capitalism understands music. But when I’m in the studio composing, I try not to make my practice too intellectual. I immerse myself in the void and try to work from concentration, listening and openness to something happening.
What are your other main inspirations for your productions these days?
I am inspired by the forms that I sometimes see in other works of art; it can inspire me like in a poem; one word after another makes something disintegrate like a colour, or a void makes something appear… I am inspired by the possibility of something that stays with you without knowing why it touches you. It also happens to me with music. But I never analyze those forms; it’s more like that sensation, and that correlation stays with me. I like it when I hear or see things that move me without knowing why, without understanding why. I feel that there is something ancient or universal in those kinds of forms…
The album includes a collaboration with the New York-based musician Rafael Anton Irisarri; How did you approach the creative agency in this collaboration? And how did your individual background influence each other?
I think Rafael and I are united by a certain intensity that we both have. In the case of Visions I, it was an easy collaboration, I proposed the theme, and he was fine with the proposal. I think the intensity of Visions I matched the depth of Rafael’s music
Is there a way to listen to your work that you consider ideal?
In general, I believe that listening is healing because it takes us out of ourselves, out of our everyday microcosmos and connects us with something outside of our obsessive brains. Listening also takes us away from language and brings us closer to the body, so I believe that any focused and relaxed listening is an exercise to practice, to listen to music or to listen to the world.
What is your relationship with technology nowadays? And how do you cope with technology (screen/digital) overload?
Ufff! My phone is in black and white; I have screen timers, I try to leave it at home as much as I can, and I do as much as I can!….. But we can not fight it, so I try to embrace it and use it as a source of inspiration…I think that the romantic idea of the artist alone in the middle of a mountain doesn’t exist, so I think about how an artist is a today and what we can create with all these things, many times I question if it makes sense to continue creating when it is already so much, but I don’t think that the creation attends to these logics, it is inherent in us to continue imagining new possibilities…I hope that the ones that come will be less aggressive for us and for what surrounds us…