By Melanie Henderson
One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is that enables us to access music being made all over the world. If you look around you’ll learn that great music can be found at any time. Argentina is no exception when it comes to raw and amazing talent, particularly with regard to music. How long has it been since you were able to buy a new album and listen to it the whole way through? I know… That said, just when you feel all music is starting to follow one or two producer’s tune; something comes out of the woodwork to surprise and delight you.
“It all sort of started off as a bit of an experiment. We’d grab our favourite parts out of the Bible and put melodies to the words,” says Max Catalan.
“YEM” — i.e. Yemina Zec and Max Catalan, both originally from Cipolletti, Rio Negro province, have been singing, composing, writing and producing music as a team for over eight years at their home in Buenos Aires. The dynamic duo kick-started their own career independently and now have a whopping seven albums under their belt.
On a balmy Saturday evening, on the sunny side of a street in BA’s Caballito neighbourhood, I caught up with the makers of the electronic duo to talk about the inspiration behind their music.
“It all started off as a bit of an experiment. We’d grab our favourite parts from the Bible and put melodies to the words,” Max explains.
The couple (who weren’t a couple from the beginning, love and marriage later developed after commencing their musical career), kicked off the project as a way of Yem had decided to take a short side step from acting and modelling, whilst Max flexed his singing skills as well as continuing with production, editing, writing and composition.
“I don’t know whether I would have gone through with this project if I hadn’t have met Max. Its success lends itself to our teamwork,” tells Yemina, the lead singer.
The sound is most definitely unique. Blending some poppier tracks along with full-on high-paced electronically pulsed and bass-filled sections, YEM explores a variety of musical territory from album to album.
The duo invites extra musicians to participate in live shows, but at one stage they did have a full band with a bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, saxophonist and drummer.
So how did the idea come about to do electronic music?
“I knew that I wanted to sing and that at the same time, I wanted to make electronic music. On an electronic musical backing track, there are multiple ways to add vocals, without necessarily being a hugely skilled singer. I liked the fact that I could experiment with that, using spoken word and rap,” Yemina explains.
Electronic music in Argentina
The music business in Argentina is just as fickle as everywhere else. Unfortunately, the most recent stars that are being propelled into the spotlight, don’t necessarily paint a true reflection of the current Argentine music scene.
Electronic music has been popular in Buenos Aires and cities beyond for years now, so by no means is it a new genre. However, the way it is being applied to original composition is.
As far as Argentine electronic music goes, the Gotan Project (electronic tango) and Miranda (electro pop) are probably the biggest acts to make it out of BA in recent years.
In terms of the consumption of dance music in Argentina, the electronic boom affected the country in the same way as it did so many others. It is hugely popular. Buenos Aires prides itself as being one of the rising capital cities to host the British dance music festival “Creamfields” every year, receiving party goers in their thousands.
“The process of composition development has changed our style along the way,” says Max.
Their recorded material
YEM’s sound has definitely been and still is, a work in progress. That is not to say that their earlier sound is any less than their newer material. Each album has a unique style, and not just musically speaking. All of the videography and editing has been done by Catalan on each and every album they have put together. It can be put down to his hugely artistic background. A trained and skillful painter, sketch artist and tattoo artist, he also has a natural and keen eye for photography and digital art.
To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, check out the video for their hit song “Escena Camaleon” — (“Chameleon Scene”) — which Max and Yem shot and edited together at their house in Buenos Aires.
By now you’ve probably noticed that the group sings the majority of their songs in English. The base of the lyrics and the compositional creativity stemmed from a gradual process of “musical tennis” where Yem would record pieces of lyrics and melodies and show them to Max, which would then be given back to her to further develop, change or maintain.
“The creative process tends to start one way, but then ends up becoming one massive blend of work between the two of us. It’s very difficult to specifically stipulate who wrote what when for each song,” Max adds.
Comparatively speaking, YEM could be compared to the likes of new wave electronic music groups such as “Le Tigre” or going back further, “The B52’s.” When it comes to inspiration, however, Yem explained that it has never been one particular group that has influenced their sound.
“Our inspiration stems from a whole range of things. I like and listen to a lot of different music, but it’s normally me seeing or hearing something, be it a snippet of something, that gives me inspiration to create something else, something new,” says Yem.
Three of YEM’s albums are available on Youtube for free live streaming and can also be downloaded.
While the group are currently not signed, their music cannot be purchased in hard copy. However, it can be downloaded in MP3 format for the time being.
“The process of composition development has changed our style along the way. What started off as something very electronic and with what could not quite be defined as songs, but moreover, tracks, has now morphed its way into being far poppier. That’s what we tried to acheive with this last album, Escena Camaleon. A poppier sound,” Max tells TMS.
105 — YEM (2006)
Burn in the sea (2007)
Escena Camaleon (2013)
The sheer body of work the couple have created in the last few years is quite amazing, particularly funding, recording, editing, producing and creating it all themselves. The extraordinarily talented two are set for starry heights. Spread the word.
Check back to The Music Stop soon for a full album review of Escena Camaleon, coming soon.
For more on YEM, check out their Facebook page:
To watch more videos, take a peek at their YouTube channel:
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