Article by KevW
It could be said that new material from Ukrainian-Canadian duo Ummagma has been a long time coming, since their two debut albums (both released on the same day) are now over three years old, but they've hardly been inactive. A substantial fanbase has been built since then, thanks in part to a brace of remix EPs and a collaboration with Sounds Of Sputnik. One familiar track does appear here, the excellent 'Lama' which has been a long time favourite. There have been remixes of this track made in the past, but the trio we're given here are impressive not just because of the names behind them. A mellower, more chilled take is served up by former Cocteau Twin (a band Ummagma have often been compared to) Robin Guthrie who adds sparkles and a woozy drone. OMD's Malcolm Holmes takes a more electronic approach, utilising a sharp, 'Blue Monday'-esque beat and bringing the vocals right to the fore whilst also giving plenty of room for the song to breathe. Welsh shoegazers Lights That Change ensure that we're given a trio of alternate versions that vary and all bring something different to the table, in this instance a hazy dreampop vibe that switches to electronic shoegaze with a keen ear for detail.
The new original songs show an evolution for the duo, without totally changing direction. The subtle, twinkling and spacious 'Orion' is as cosmic as the title suggests but in a very laid-back way where everything is crystal clear. Likewise, 'Winter Tale' lives up to its name by having a certain icy sparseness that, paradoxically, is warm, full and cosy at the same time. This is perhaps more in keeping from what people might expect from the dreampop genre but feels incredibly fresh and modern despite harking back to several acts, from Nico right through to Exitmusic and a whole lot more. On 'Galacticon' we're treated to what could be an ambient sci-fi soundtrack; it's a sleepy atmospheric instrumental, but sleepy for all the right reasons. 'Ocean Girl' may be short in length but you're not short-changed when it comes to the music, and here we find Ummagma at their most organic with strummed guitar and a rare male vocal being filtered through frosted glass production. 'Frequency' is, on the whole, a welcome deviation from life, taking you on a pretty sonic journey where daily worries fade away. With the amount of attention the last few years has afforded them, Ummagma could well become (deservedly) better known than they already are.
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