Album Review – Yuni Wa’s Yuniversity 2 Is The Record You Need Right Now
The way that Yuni creates a base for the listener’s mind to be simultaneously engaged yet wandering is incredibly inspiring to me. If Yuni’s prolific output is any indication, he’ll be back with something even better and brighter in the near future.
If you glance at Yuni Wa’s Bandcamp page or scroll through the available albums on Spotify, you’ll find the list goes on longer than you thought possible. Hailing from Little Rock, producer Yuni Wa has managed to create a treasure trove of instrumental songs that defy categorization. One minute, you’re listening to chill-hop. The next it’s disco. After that, you’re grooving along to synthed-up jazz. On his newest record, Yuniversity 2, the producer manages to create an instant classic that engages the mind, body, and soul of the listener.
Opener “Lost in the Cosmos” is almost an onomatopoeia. Giant synth pads swell and release, accompanied by some of the thickest snare hits I’ve heard in a long time. I know there’s no sound in space.. But if there was – this would be it. Yuni is obsessed with the small details of production, and you can hear his excitement in the mix. Everything is balanced so well – fine tuned to perfection. A minute and a half into the record, and I’m already hooked. The follow up track, “The Space Base,” features electric piano chords alongside a splatty synth lead and a danceable groove that will have you moving around your apartment. There’s a synth melody that comes in halfway through the song that almost sounds like a Clarence Clemons saxophone solo. Yuni has such an ear for melody, taking songs into other dimensions as new synth leads rise and fall. “Starships” continues in the vein of the first two songs, but adding aux percussion and booming toms to the beat. While this opening trio of songs sound reminiscent of 80s soundtracks, Yuni stakes out his own piece of the sonic landscape. His ear for detail informs all of these songs, carving out his own space in the synthscape universe.
As I listen to this record more and more, I’m noticing that it follows almost Shakespearian narrative structure. The first three songs are exposition, introducing us to the outer space environment. The middle of the record, however, is all rising action. Yuni turns up the intensity with songs like “Solar Energy” and “Holding On.” The songs shift in tone, moving towards minor keys and quicker rhythms. “Look Over” might be the part of the story where star-crossed lovers meet on some distant planet – their hearts beating as erratically as the expertly engineered drum sounds on this track. During “Spacesuit,” the hero is called back into action, forced to don the helmet and other trappings of astronauts. This song in particular is stunning, as Yuni finds a beautiful and transcendent chord progression.
And finally, the last four songs are the climax and denouement. “Party On The Moon” is a funk-influenced masterpiece, with a Thundercat-esque bass melody. “Floating” is a breath of fresh air, slowing the album down for a moment. The song breathes – it feels very human. In the background, we hear voices uttering unintelligible words. It’s a song for the dream montage in the movie version of Yuniversity 2. The penultimate “Let it Go” sounds like a danceable version something off of Radiohead’s Kid A. The synth melodies that play above the rhythm are simultaneously haunting and gorgeous – a balance that Yuni has perfected by this point in the record. The final track, “Late Night Lover” is possibly the best track on this record (that is full of best track material). With pulsing sub-synth and consistently building synth pads, Yuni proves his skills are complete. From start to finish, I didnt stop enjoying this record. My attention never felt divided. I was immersed in these songs. And, in an era where humans have become highly distractable creatures, that’s saying something.
I don’t know why Yuni Wa hasn’t been hired to make every movie soundtrack from here on out. Charming rom-com with surprising emotional depth? Yuni Wa has you covered. The next Marvel Cinematic Universe action-packed flick? Yuni probably already has the perfect beat. The way that Yuni creates a base for the listener’s mind to be simultaneously engaged yet wandering is incredibly inspiring to me. If Yuni’s prolific output is any indication, he’ll be back with something even better and brighter in the near future. But, for now, I’ll keep spinning Yuniversity 2 whenever I need to ascend into the cosmos. I suggest you do the same.
Below is our exclusive interview with Yuni Wa:
What were you listening to while you wrote Yuniversity 2?
I wasn’t really listening to much of anything outside the project because I was trying to get a pure sound. I didn’t want any outside influences, I just wanted a clean canvas.
I love the space-themed songs. Were you watching a lot of sci-fi while you worked on this record?
I wasn’t really watching sci-fi, I was more reading philosophy. The idea behind this album was just afro-futurism, I see myself as trying to make the music of the future. I was trying to make a album about the advancements and next stages of human history. I’ve always been into technology since I was young so coming up with Yuniversity 2 was very natural. I pulled most of the inspiration from the inside.
You’re a pretty prolific artist. What keeps you motivated and inspired?
The fact that I know my evolution as an artist isn’t done keeps me motivated. I love the creative process I have but I know I’m not at my peak yet. Just the idea that I’m getting closer to it motivates me and makes me feel like every step is worth it. I still have the creative wonder that I felt when I was kid and being able to go back and capture that feeling so effortlessly is truly an inspiring feeling.
What’s next for you?
Going to drop more music, going to do even bigger things. I want to reshape electronic music one project at a time and I want to blur the lines of genre even more than I already have. I’m focused on releasing the most quality records and inspiring as many people as I possibly can. I have 1 single and a album planned so far for 2021. My first release of the year is a single called “Computer” and it releases January 1st.
What is it like being an artist from Little Rock? How’s the scene there?
Its hard you know, the scene isn’t as big as the scenes in other cities. You really got to grind for a long time to make it in the Little Rock scene and sometimes I felt frustrated when I was coming up in it. But I love it for what it is. It’s probably one of the smallest scenes in the country but the scene is passionate and tries to come together whenever possible. The music people like here the most is more geared towards country and rock also so growing up being an electronic musician here was very interesting and I’d even say it has been very hard for me for that exact reason. But I still make stuff happen and I try to do events for the small minority of people that do love electronic music and rather more experimental sounds.