Wednesday, 28 October 2015

UMMAGMA – FREQUENCY EP (Raphalite Records CD, D/L).

Frequency is the first release from Canadian/Ukrainian Shoegaze/Indie duo Ummagma for quite a while and we are thrilled and confused in equal measure. We are not sure if it is meant to showcase Raphalite Records (the new, innovative boutique label they are involved with that puts out excellent Shoegaze/gothic Electronica albums), an introduction to the band for new listeners who may have missed out on their early records or a pointer towards the “new direction” Ummagma are heading………maybe it’s a combination of all three. We first came across Ummagma when their first two albums were released simultaneously back in 2012……………..they were both full of an inventive and imaginative mix of late 80s/early 90s inspired Shoegaze/gentle Electronica but also with a nod towards current bands like Melody’s Echo Chamber and School Of Seven Bells, with the excellent tracks ‘Orion’ and ‘Lama’ really catching the ear. Their burgeoning reputation on the Shoegaze scene was cemented with a series of creative remix work with other artists in addition to recording their own material. The new EP appears to be the sound of a band in transition as it includes the aforementioned tracks ‘Orion’ and ‘Lama’ (plus a curate's egg of 3 x ‘Lama’ remixes) in addition to three new tracks which mark a change from the sound of the first two albums………nothing overly dramatic but a change nevertheless.

‘Orion’ and ‘Lama’ are peerless songs and a perfect introduction to Ummagma for anybody new to the band……….The dreamy ’Orion’ is a beautiful song underpinned by gentle electronica and jazzy bass lines that gives it quite a late 80s feel while ‘Lama’ is an excellent Shoegaze tune where blissed out guitars dip and soar, it’s part the ambient soundscapes of the Cocteau Twins, part the Indie smarts of The Sundays ………however it is in a way unfortunate that these tracks have been included as they tend to overshadow the new material. ‘Lama’ gets the remix treatment from the Cocteau’s Robin Guthrie who adds his patent ethereal swirl to the song and Wales based ambient Shoegazers Lights That Change take the track and pile on the gothic. At Strange Things we always try to be very positive about the music we write about but the remix of ‘Lama’ by ex-OMD drummer Malcolm Holmes is horrible…….he has taken Ummagma’s singer Shauna McLarnon’s stunning voice and auto-tuned it to death while ripping apart the soaring beauty of the original tune and turning it into a Euro-Disco monstrosity……..it’s a real buzzkill and sounds so out of place with the rest of the gorgeous soundscapes on the EP. Two of the new songs (‘Winter Tale’ and ‘Galicticon’) see a move away from Shoegaze to a more ambient electronica vibe while the final new track, ‘Ocean Girl’, is closer to Psych-Folk than anything else. If anything, the Frequency EP has the feel of a “stop-gap” release while Ummagma spend studio time working on new songs; however it is a good chance to introduce new listeners to this wonderful band.

Released on Raphalite Records early next month, the Frequency EP is available to pre-order from the Ummagma Bandcamp page at https://ummagma.bandcamp.com/album/frequency, where it will be for sale as either a digital download or as a very limited edition CD (50 copies).


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