Yarni ‘Pigna’ LP (EMK) 5/5

‘Pigna’ marks the third full-length album release from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Benjamin “Yarni” Harris.

New album releases are potentially a difficult period for Yarni – for an artist who openly professes to fear being placed within a box or known for just one style of music, you have to ask yourself whether the expectation for consistently reinventing your sound becomes a burden in of itself as opposed to something that is symbolic of an artist’s organic and ever-evolving inspirations.

For instance, the Sheffield native’s debut album, ‘Entkommen’, saw Yarni explore broad electronica-themed soundscapes across some sensational and eclectic tracks like ’28 Years Of It’ and ‘It Takes Time’. ‘Entkommen’s official follow-up came in 2021 through the unexpected ‘Boro’ which, following a trip to Japan, sought to pay homage in part to the Japanese custom of honouring one’s traditions while also looking forward to embracing a forward-thinking and progressive path ahead.

And while Japan served as the inspiration for ‘Boro’, ‘Pigna’ turns to Sicily as its launch pad as the “symbol for openness and welcome hospitality”. When considering the music throughout this release, that concept of “openness” is an inspired theme when taking into account the range of musical styles throughout, notwithstanding the actual process of putting the music together.

Past Yarni releases have found the multi-talented artist assuming the vast amount of instrumental duties himself but, although he is credited on ‘Pigna’ for drums, percussion, synth, guitars, engineering and production, the concept of “openness” is employed with the recruiting of a significantly more expansive ensemble including long time collaborator Rachel Shirley on flute, bassist Ally McMahon and horns by Ben Marks, James Atasharoo and Jonoa. The album boasts an added dimension with the inclusion of Sheila Herzog (‘Space Travel’), Jeff Darko (‘Lady’) and Emily Marks (‘In a Dream’) on vocals who truly deliver some incredible work across some of the album’s numerous highlights.

While many of the album’s ten tracks still showcase some of those signature electronica-fuelled sensibilities, Yarni has created a record that pushes beyond any preconceived notions of what “Yarni” music is supposed to sound like. Heavy in its celebration of jazz while tracks like ‘Midnight Getaway’ and ‘Nova’ tease dalliances into more disco-inspired territory; ‘Chic’ is joyous in its presentation, brimming with personality but perhaps does come in a close second to ‘The Astral’ which is a soul-gratifying explosion of spiritual jazz and hip-hop-styled breakbeats. Incredible.

It would be hard to imagine Yarni hoping for a better outcome than what’s presented on ‘Pigna’. This is an undeniable masterpiece of a record that may place insurmountable expectations for him going forward but whatever Yarni does go on to create next, the one thing we all know is that it won’t be what we think it will.

Imran Mirza