Reviews

Ummagma


Ummagma

Loaded with positive indie pop vibes and electronic-laced alt rock, Ummagma present their  new ‘Compass’ album via Manchester-based Leonard Skully Records. This is the duo’s first album in seven years, following up ‘Antigravity’ and their self-titled LP, both released on the same day in July 2012. This is also the first time Ummagma’s music is available on vinyl.

Comprised of 12 tracks with a bonus track (‘Bouquet’) offered for the digital version, ‘Compass’ is beguiling in its post-genre nature. This is an album of grace and change, of familiarity and exploration, of emotion and euphoria, of sky-scraping cinematic highs and intimate and intriguing lows. This is the sound of a band allowing themselves to jump creative divides, to kick down musical barriers, and rip up the rule book or perhaps just ignore the fact that there ever was one in the first place.

This album follows on the trail of their ‘LCD’ EP with Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Dean Garcia (Curve), and ‘Winter Tale’ EP with 4AD dreampop pioneer A.R.Kane. Both of these were released in 2017 to critical acclaim.

They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company that they keep, and the same holds true for a band. Ummagma’s collaborations speak volumes. Apart from these three dreampop-shoegaze icons, they’ve worked with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Malcolm Holmes, Swervedriver’s Graham Bonnar, and nudisco kingpin Alexander Robotnick. They’ve also collaborated with Beauty in Chaos, a project that involves members of The Cure, The Mission, Ministry, The Offspring, Bauhaus, A Flock of Seagulls, Cheap Trick, Ice-T and Van Halen, among others.

This forward thinking collection of songs is not bound to fad nor fashion, time or place. Every shimmering dreamscape found here is balanced with more robust and driven grooves, sometimes even within the same song. ‘Otherwise’ projects a drifting, woozy platform through which they thread reggae infusions and delicate distant Spanish guitars into something sultry and solid yet ethereal and chameleon-like. ‘Galicticon’hints at Vangelis-inspired soundtracks, ‘LCD’ is a strident rock urge, warped and woven with strange musical motifs and gorgeous glitches, and ‘Bouquet’ is an otherworldly slice of balladry.


Formed in Moscow in 2003, Ummagma is Shauna McLarnon, hailing from the Yukon Territory in northern Canada, and Alexander Kretov, who is originally from western Ukraine. Now based in Ontario, the couple completed this album over five years and multiple moves, ultimately hauling their studio with them across the Atlantic and setting up all over again. With such transience in the real world, how could their sonic world reflect anything other than the same fluidity and movement?

Earlier Ummagma released two singles. ‘Caravan’, along with b-side ‘Ty i Ya’, for which Alexander Kretov performs in his native Ukrainian language, making this the first time they have released music in a language other than English. The second single ‘High Day’ is a unique dreamy waltz with ballroom-style orchestration and gossamer Sundays-esque vocals. It is reflection on how short life really is and the need for reconcilation before it’s too late.

“High Day was inspired by a stupid argument we had as a couple. I don’t even recall what it was about, but it was frivolous and I conscientiously chose to stay mad at Alex for a few days, carrying around this negativity with me. As we sat in separate towns, it dawned on me that it could be that way – we could be separated permanently – if we don’t just learn to let go of what is not important. I wrote this song and sang it to him. We got past our pride really soon and moved on. Music can be such a healing force,” says Shauna McLarnon.

Ummagma’s music has always presented an exhilarating positive vision, showcasing their ability to wander diverse musical pathways. Representing Ukraine among 23 countries, they won the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio in 2013, and have been featured in a full-page spread in Rolling Stone Russia. In 2015, their collaborative ‘New Born’ album with Sounds of Sputnik also received a Jagermeister indie award, Russia’s most esteemed music award.

As of July 26, ‘Compass’ can be obtained on CD, on vinyl or digitally via Bandcamp. In the UK, Leonard Skully Records on vinyl, which will also be carrried by Norman Records. It will go live via iTunesAmazon and Spotify as of August 1.

TRACK LIST
1. Rolling
2. Caravan
3. Otherwise
4. LCD
5. Elizabeth 44
6. Blown
7. F-Talking
8. Galicticon
9. Lotus
10. High Day
11. Colors II
12. Cretu
13. Bouquet

Ummagma – High Day

Ummagma – Caravan

Ummagma – Lama (Robin Guthrie Mix)

Ummagma links:

Band location – Ukraine

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