RELEASE DATE: 13/11/15
RECORD COMPANY: Raphalite Records
“EQUILIBRIUM – A state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced / A state of physical balance / A calm state of mind”
The music world today is full of bands / artists from various musical genre’s trudging out pieces of music without looking right or left or even stopping to breathe & take a listen to whats going on within the world around them. Their main goal is to get a physical copy of their musical works out into the atmosphere for all to hear, comment on, critique or even force upon unsuspecting ears. It’s almost like they are afraid that their relevant scene will end in the blink of an eye so they simply must get their music out – RIGHT NOW!!! It gets very frustrating for a reviewer like me to give an honest appraisal of anything at all when nearly every single release sounds rushed? So, for me its very refreshing to hear a release from a band who seem to be at one with both themselves & the musical world around them. Their music is a calming influence on this listener & outwardly it portrays a kind of tranquil state, almost as if every single action was a well thought out process. To me their music has always brought a serine stillness to my ears. That, I suppose, is why I can call myself a fan.
Ummagma consists of Shauna McLarnon, who hails from Canada’s Yukon & Alexander Kretov who is from Ukraine. Since bursting onto the music scene in 2012, they have made a significant impact on the underground music scene. Their potent combination of uplifting & melancholic textured dreampop, shoegaze, postpunk, ambient and electronica rapidly gained them a sizeable international following despite the numerous issues they faced living between Canada & Ukraine. ’Frequency’ follows the band’s two debut LPs, the mesmerising ‘Antigravity’ & the brilliant ‘Ummagma’ which were simultaneously released in 2012 & it represents a slight departure from the first two albums, which whisked the listener through the romanticism of first meetings, big love, adventures abroad and optimistic dreaming through to the realities of birth, loss, death and departure. In contrast, ‘Frequency’ explores such themes as space and distance, timelessness, escapism, and the search for tranquility.
The opening track on ‘Frequency’ is the beautiful ‘Orion’ & for me its this EP’s jumping off point & the beginnings of guaranteed journey into a world of sonically beautiful tone, shape & shuttering foils of shimmering light. The awe inspiring vocal arrangements float & weave through the almost ethereal sounding electronic pulses & bleeps with blissful ease courtesy of the ever brilliant Shauna McLarnon, buffered at times by her cohort & confidant Alexx Kretov in both backing vocal duties & his fleet of hand guitar parts. A truly wonderful track that also deserves plaudits for its overall production quality.
If this EP is your first introduction to the immense sounds of ‘Ummagma’ well then you have been spoilt rotten by the inclusion of this EP’s second track, the brilliant ‘Lama’. Possibly one of my favourite tracks from this Canadian/Ukrainian ethereal dream-gazing duo’s catalogue of immense music. ‘Lama’ swerves through a heady electronically charged psychedelic mix of pounding drums & immense guitar swells, blissful vocals & that highly addictive undercurrent that is ever present in every single track produced by this prolific duo. Recommended by us over & over again ‘Lama’ is nothing short of magical.
Track 3 – ‘Winters Tale’ for me is a continuation of the EP’s opening track. It oozes wave after wave of beautifully intense, almost instrumental like vocal lines (courtesy of McLarnon) that are allowed at first to wash over you but then almost immediately swirl around your senses & in the end comfort you with a dreamlike haze. Brilliant production aside, this track is insanely good!
When I first listened to the cinematically ambient ‘Galacticon’ I was instantly transported into its animated electronic core & suspended in its layers of magnificent symphonic synth swells & glitchy samples. This is an absolutely stunning piece of music reminiscent in parts to one of my all time favourite musical heroes & forefather to this modern day electronic scene, the immense electronic producer & composer – ’Vangelis’. His soundtrack to both ‘Chariots Of Fire & Bladerunner’ are some of the best pieces of symphonic electronica ever created. Jump forward to Ummagma’s ‘Galacticon’ & what we have is a track created with the same electronic ethos but with a musical vision courtesy of Alexx Kretov that is nothing short of brilliant. This track really needs to be highlighted as one of the stand out tracks on this whole EP.
Track 5 – ‘Ocean Girl’ shimmers onto the musical canvas with a trembling, almost frail like acoustic guitar structure interspersed with random percussion hits, wind instrumentation & reverb infused vocal lines courtesy of Alexx Kretov himself. A beautiful track that balances this whole EP perfectly from start to finish by continuing a calming thread first spun within the opening track – ‘Orion’.
Not content to finish the EP with ‘Ocean Girl’, Ummagma close it out with the added bonus of 3 remixes of the immense track – ‘Lama’. The first features a remix from ‘Cocteau Twins’ legend ‘Robin Guthrie’ that oozes confidence & is honestly the best that I’ve heard from him in a while. Up next is a remix courtesy of Wales based dream pop contingent ‘Lights That Change’ who put a very 80’s sounding slant on proceedings & finally an absolutely stunning remix from ‘Malcolm Holmes’ of ‘Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark (OMD)’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last three years not only fronting popular Irish Electronic duo Analogue Wave but also dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the Unsigned or Small Independent Label based Shoegaze Dream Pop Post-Punk & Post-Rock genre’s of music from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog – The Primal Music Blog. His other arm – Primal Radio – has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has hepled him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.