When you learn that Youceff Yunque Kabal, better known as YUS, is studying accounting and economics, it makes sense how precise and organized his chillwave tunes are. Now he's released Talisman, his second full-length, not counting three remix albums. It's the kind of conscientious craftsmanship found in Daphni or Burial -- smooth, slightly dubbed, and extremely relaxing.
YUS hasn't been very active lately, playing shows only here and there, as the 24-year-old producer has been using his time to work on the album, build a marketing plan, and study at Arizona State University.
"I feel like playing shows and recording music at the same time is just a bit difficult. Being in the studio is very introspective, and I feel better when I don't have to go out and perform for somebody," Kabal says. "It's just I'm not able to play live and create at the same time."
Talisman is being released through Manneken Records, Kabal's own label. The name means "little man" in Flemish, just one of many languages YUS learned growing up in Brussels, Belgium. And Manneken truly is a one-man project -- YUS explains he started the label in his bedroom with a CD printer and some jewel cases.
"If I'm doing this and have all these tools, I might as well have a name for this process," he says. "I collaborate with some people, but on paper it's just me . . . I feel like the Internet breaks down those barriers where you only have to find local artists or distribute their music. There's a lot of good local music, but I don't feel like I should limit myself to that. Right now, I'm testing the waters."
YUS tells us he's a huge fan of economic theory and arithmetic. Even his release dates tend to have a deeper meaning -- his music video for "20 Million" was made public on June 2 (6/02) and Talisman came out June 23 (6/23). Both dates are local area codes, picked because YUS feels more at home here.
"I don't feel like moving to whatever big city to make it. I can make it here," he says. "I haven't been diagnosed with OCD. I don't close my doors 10 times . . . [But] I do believe in order," Kabal says. "It helps me think clearly. I like logic. Logic is one of the best things. With things like law or philosophy, there's a lot of abstractness. With mathematics, there's this weird connection to just about everything. It adds up. You can prove it with a few numbers." He adds, "I think it's great for people to have that, a bit of order. It helps my music, I think, makes it more cohesive, united, a clear direction. If you're not clear with your direction or goals, you're not going to get there."
That's part of the reason YUS wrote "Vees and Exes" about the stats in a soccer video game.
"It was Ws, Ds, Ls for wins, draws, loses. 'Vees and Exes' is about wins, losses . . . Oftentimes, what you want isn't what you want later, once you have it," he says. "That's a defeat in a sense. I talk a lot about defeat in my music. The first song from my first album is called "Ndeftid" [Undefeated] -- I think people face defeat more than victory."
YUS has said before that he wants to make other musicians in the local music scene "uncomfortable," explaining how breaking up the status quo will help everyone develop. "That's the way we all progress," YUS says. "People don't like the music of the future when it comes out."
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