Amsterdam-based electronic producer Yaleesa Hall has spent the two years leading up to this debut album ‘Woodall’ (the first full-length release for Will & Ink) with a series of 12” EPs. While he’s spent those previous releases establishing a reputation for stripped back breakbeat-laced techno though, ‘Woodall’ offers a considerably different listening experience, with many of the 14 tracks collected here coming across more as sound structure experiments than anything aimed at a dancefloor. Frequently the arrangements are reduced down to the interplay of just a few elements, with Hall combining synthesised sounds with ambient field recordings, to the point where it’s difficult to tell where one component starts and the other ends.
‘Woodall 0217’ opens this collection with one of the more deconstructed compositions as a distorted bass tone swells and lurches against a droning backdrop of digital hums and static, occasional synth squelches flickering at the edges as the bass howls and creeps towards the redline. If the aforementioned track manages to generate a queasy sense of claustrophobia, ‘Woodall 0244’ gets even more jarring as what sounds like treated brass lurches and squeals against ominous sub-bass drops and digitally-manipulated flickering noises, the constant sense of unpredictable motion calling to mind some huge creature struggling to escape from its bonds.
Hall isn’t just interested in pushing your limits here though, elsewhere ‘Woodall 0302’ sees melodic percussion tones being blurred into a rush of textures against a slow bass drum pulses as colourful ambient trails hang in the foreground, while ‘Woodall 0224’ generates a gauzy sense of reverie as ghost treated chords and reversed harmonic tones cycle slowly around each other, the entire arrangement gradually drifting out of tune as dark synths prowl at the very edges. Some of the most impressive moments here arrive when more techno-centred rhythms make an appearance.
‘Woodall 0618’ sees what sounds like the field recorded sounds of a clattering train gradually merging with a subtle 4/4 kickdrum pulse as tumbling arpeggios roll against distant whistling tones, the entire track juddering as the brittle layers almost seem to come apart at the seams at points. It’s ‘Woodall 0508’ that offered up my favourite track here though, sending dark electro bass sequences bouncing around an eerie backdrop of swelling phase modulated tones, the harsh snare bursts that slide into focus adding a dark EBM undertone coloured with traces of machine funk. An intriguing, occasionally perplexing album that sees Yaleesa Hall showcasing a far more abstracted take on his sound, ‘Woodall’ is well worth investigating.