If there’s a word that best describes Yoav’s third studio album it would be immersion. Faced with the choice of recording Blood Vine at a faster pace, outside South Africa, or submerging himself in an intense, lengthy recording process in Cape Town, theIsraeli-born, South African raised singer-songwriter opted for the latter.
Although location is important to Yoav (he recorded his debut in Radiohead’s studio in Oxfordshire), choosing Digital Forest Studios in the restful Constantia Winelands meant, most crucially, that Yoav was able fulfill the vision he had for the album – without compromise. “I pushed everything – my vocals, my lyrics, and the music,” Yoav says. “The work, at all levels of this album, was super-intensive.”
The result of this intense immersion is the remarkable Blood Vine, an 11-track album that builds naturally on Yoav’s previous two releases, debut Charmed & Strange (2008) and A Foolproof Escape Plan (2010) – yet is sonically and lyrically leaps away from the material that has turned Yoav into one of indie music’s best-kept secrets, earning him a placement on the Sucker Punch soundtrack (a re-imagined cover of the Pixies “Where Is My Mind?”), an appearance on Later With Jools Holland (with the hit “Club Thing”) and loads of high-profile live appearances with the likes of Tori Amos & Imogen Heap along the way.
First and foremost, on Blood Vine, Yoav has moved away from simply fleshing out his acoustic guitar with drums, bass, keyboard and piano sounds that are also created, near alchemistically, on his guitar. This time around, Yoav included an array of instruments, all of which he played – an approach which lends the album’s songs a complexity that’s more than a match for Yoav’s increasingly savvy songwriting.
“I never wanted to be known as ‘the loop guy’,” Yoav says of where he’s mostly been slotted in over past few years, following a stack of live gigs around the globe that saw him masterfully creating trance-like washes, backbeats and other effects with a delay pedal and a live sampler. This new tactic makes for Yoav’s most sonically integrated record yet – the multi-layers that drive songs like “Know More” coming together with ease and also superbly serving Blood Vine’s most intricate tracks, among them the unnerving “Sign of Life”. The latter song is a terrific example of Yoav’s ability to take the currency of contemporary music – in this case the sludgy beats of electronica pop – and embed it with an off-kilter aesthetic that won’t easily be dislodged. Another is “Shiver No. 7” – a song about sex that Yoav wrote when he was 19 and then revived – that manages to incorporate his enduring love for trip hop in a way that’s nothing less invigorating.
While most of the material on Blood Vine is intensely personal, one of the most overtly pop tracks on the album is “Karaoke Superstar”, a biting – and deeply harsh – commentary on the X Factor and Idols culture. “The song is about marketing over substance and it’s unlike anything I’ve done before,” Yoav reveals.
It’s no surprise to find that a large amount of Yoav’s physical immersion into the process of recording – long hours, labouring over details, crafting each word – has seeped into the music. “There is nothing, nothing but malice,” intones Yoav on “Malice In The Garden”, the downbeat, sparse production enhancing the sinister mood created by a tale of love’s destructive ability. Among the songs on Blood Vine, “Malice In The Garden” is perhaps one of the more potent examples of Yoav’s unyielding, near manic, commitment to lyric-writing. Another is “Blink”, a deeply personal song that matches Yoav’s feel for a melody with
soul-searching lyrics that are easily amongst the record’s most affecting.
“I wrote Blink earlier in 2012, in about half an hour,” Yoav reveals. “That’s never happened to me before because I usually labour over a song for six months! I was having a situation with a girl, as you do, and I really needed something special and I didn’t know where it was going to come from. I had this amazing dream, that I was playing in a stadium with one of my favourite bands, and people were screaming. It was very vivid and when I woke up, it was full moon, and I took out my guitar and wrote the song.”