Joy Wellboy: Yorokobi's Mantra
Yorokobi's Mantra is the debut full-length from Brussels-based romantic partners Joy Adegoke and Wim Janssens. Put simply, any vocal electro-pop collection pretty much lives or dies by a small number of criteria—the strength of the songwriting, the arrangements, and the singing—so let's consider Joy Wellboy's opus one criterion at a time.
For starters, the songwriting's pretty good, at times very good, with a handful of the album's twelve songs getting under one's skin after a few listens (e.g., the melodically haunting “Mickey Remedy”). As a singer, Adegoke's purr isn't unappealing: she's hardly the greatest singer to step up to a microphone, but she's far from the worst either. In a few songs, Janssens also contributes vocals, and the contrast between his low-pitched voice and Adegoke's is striking, especially when his singing subtly recalls the nicotine-stained delivery of Serge Gainsbourg. Adegoke and Janssens alternate throughout the plodding opener “Before the Sunrise” and do so even more memorably during the haunting “Lay Down Your Blade.”
As far as arrangements are concerned, Yorokobi's Mantra impresses well enough, with the songs treated to wide-screen and stripped-down presentations where appropriate, though there are times when the songs come across like bedroom-produced demos in want of a beefed-up instrumental attack. Having said that, the songs do feature a rich blend of acoustic and electronic instruments (guitar, piano, synths, drums), and the simulation of a full band sound is executed convincingly. “Caress Me Sweet” finds Joy Wellboy unexpectedly threading a drum'n'bass groove into the song's synth-heavy arrangement, while “What Baby” is elevated by a breezy bridge that finds Adegoke's wordless vocal paired with instrumental sounds.
Also a plus is the album's stylistic diversity. “The Movement Song” and “Disconnected” come across somewhat like PG-13 variants of The Knife, with the songs hinting at certain similarities in style (Adegoke's singing sounding a tad similar to Karin Dreijer's, for example) without completely surrendering to the cryptic and disturbing universe of a typical The Knife production. At the opposite end of the spectrum are heartfelt ballads such as “My Heart Ran Away” and the stark, piano-and-vocals setting “Raindrop Races.” Yorokobi's Mantra, all things considered, is a debut outing of consistently solid quality from the Brussels duo.