Track by track: Yohuna

“This is meant to say, words fail” Yohuna remarks when discussing her new record’s opening song ‘Knowing You.’ The Brooklyn artist’s sophomore record ‘Mirroring’ is an admission of this failure, its precisely curated sonic palette answering as many, if not more, questions as the words that weave through them. That sound world of spiraling synths, muted drum machines and distorted guitar is refracted to represent feelings of hurt, confusion and disorientation.

In my Line of Best Fit review I remarked that its soundscapes were as easily identifiable as Panda Bear’s ‘Person Pitch,’ however while that album is evocative of a life spent underwater, ‘Mirroring’ is more reminiscent of snowflakes slowly travelling into a ground until they form into a heap. It’s full of such precisions as lead synth melodies that mirror one another, on ‘See Me,’ a song about anger, it descends, on ‘Stranger,’ a calmer song about hurt and confusion, it ascends. The vocals are just another part of the album’s instrumentation, taking cues from Jessica Pratt and Julianna Barwick they’re riff-like, looped so they meld, appear and vanish within each other’s thrall.

It’s a massive triumph and a signal of an artist keenly aware of her own individuality. Below Johanne Swanson, the IRL name of Yohuna, talks us exclusively through each track on the album. Listen and read along.

Knowing U

This is a mostly instrumental piece that sets the tone for the rest of the album, a true opener. The lyrics are, “And knowing you– just knowing you–” and then the instrumental section completes that thought. This is meant to say, words fail. What is knowing you like? It’s an idea boundless and wandering, expressions more fitting for instruments. Knowing you is also worth all the pain and confusion the rest of the album describes. 

Fades to Blue

Is writing about the colour blue a rite of passage? I was so inspired by Joni Mitchell’s Blue as an adolescent, then friends Julie Byrne and Emily Sprague later on. And I did write this song after reading Bluets. A couple people have compared this song to ‘thank u next’. I like that. 

Rain & Prairie Snow

The first song written for this collection. I didn’t know if I’d ever use it, because it struck me as such a traditional folk song– the chord progression and pastoral lyrics. But when I started playing along to an old Univox drum machine, it shifted and came to life. Some of my favorite moments on the record are here, when the drums come in playing the same beat as the drum machine, and then Emily Yacina’s vocals on the choruses. 

See Me 

Anger is a really difficult emotion for me to process. There’s a block. “See Me” is the house I built for my anger. I’m trying to make friends with anger, to understand it as an alarm going off when something is unjust, a reaction to something that is not as it should be. My anger is there to protect me. 

Mirroring 

“Mirroring”, here, is a shorthand for psychological projection. This song is the theme of the album. It’s confusion over boundaries in relationship– What’s my stuff? What’s your stuff? What’s actually in the relationship? And how dizzying those questions are. The dazed overlapping vocal lines in the chorus, the distorted guitar, the playful way the drums fake you out at the end all represent those disorienting feelings.

Dead To Me

I had a falling out with an old friend where we both said, ‘I wish you the best and respect you.’ Some months later I listened to their newest release, and the chorus of the opener called out my childhood nickname and said, “You’re dead to me.” I didn’t take that well. I sat down, wrote and demoed this song in an hour. Everyone I showed it to said it was their favorite song of mine, so I threw it on the album last minute. Cutting people out of your life is a necessary action of self-preservation, it doesn’t have to be cruel, like I was cruel here.

Find A Quiet Place 

This is the one piece on the album I didn’t do all of the writing and arranging on. My friend Eric sent over this lush instrumental and asked me to write something for it. It sounded like a dream-state, so I wrote these kind of longing lyrics in a church-like chant. “Back in the valley” is a reference to the area of Wisconsin I grew up in, the Chippewa Valley.  

Stranger 

This is a companion song to “See Me” – it’s the calmer, more knowing side of seeking emotional availability, the feeling of hurt and confusion when you’ve come up short. The lead synth melody is a mirror pattern of the other; on “Stranger” it ascends, and on “See Me” it descends. The chords are almost the same. 

Waiting

I think of this song existing a bit more in the world of Patientness, my last album, than this one. It is an expressed anxiety over being still and letting go of control. There are a lot of references to childhood and the passing of time. The drums in the chorus are referencing “Sunflower” by Low, one of my old favourites from adolescence. 

So Free 

This song goes, “Biopsy is when you take a piece lying there, I don’t want to be here, or anywhere.” It has to do with healing from trauma, a frustratingly nonlinear process that impacts everything, especially my ability to trust. I had minor surgery surrounding writing this, and I was terrified as it called up my past. There’s not a time when I’ve thought, “I’m free from this, I made it through the maze,” but I’ve rounded the corner on some progress. I close the album with the line, “I wasn’t always so free.” 

Mirroring is out now on Fear of Missing Out Records

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