Ummagma - Compass - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ummagma - Compass

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:2019-07-26
Ummagma - Compass
Ummagma - Compass

The Canadian/Ukrainian duo’s third full length scratches their seven-year itch (although there’ve been over half a dozen EPs since their first two albums were released on the same day back in 2012) with another glistening collection of pop sheen (don’t let that Floydian moniker fool you), sure to have fans of their previous collaborators (members of Cocteau Twins, Curve, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Swerve, and AR Kane) swooning with delight! The multi-award-winning duo of Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon offer up an eclectic mix of dream pop, ambient, occasionally cinematic atmospherics, funky grooves (opener ‘’Rolling’ is an immediate Euro disco dancefloor-magnet), and gothic tribal beats (‘Caravan’ is tres-Cure-ish ca. ‘Hanging Garden’ with a shimmering, soaring vocal from McLarnon).

Guitarwork throughout slides seamlessly from flickering waterfalls (‘another ‘Caravan’ highlight) to cocktail jazz space-age bachelor pad grooviness (‘Otherwise’, which also slips in some heavy-lidded reggae vibes). McLarnon scales dizzy heights with the rappy ‘Elizabeth 44’, a sexy Debbie Harry ambience filling the air, while the acoustic-based ‘Blown’ marries come-hither cooing with OMD synth swashes before the whole thing is “blown” sky high with a standstill detour into the casbah or some other Middle Eastern soiree.

I’m not sure five minutes of ‘F-Talking’ (yes, it’s what you’re thinking) was necessary; it’s some weird, ambient Eno-esque electronics that sound like gerbils on the loose across the studio floor, scurrying around McLarnon’s repetitive titular F-word whispering. Sorry, this one’s more filler than killer. But the navel-gazing space-capades of the amorphous ‘Galacticon’ restore sanity and a lovely sense of floating calm for those in a Krautrockin’ Tangerine Dream mood. It’s a lovely cinematic experience that suggests another side to the band that should encourage future manoeuvres in the film world of soundtracks.

Tucked discriminately on the back side of the album is the glorious floating Cocteaus-y vocal pyrotechnics of the all-too-short ‘High Day’ (all manner of meanings welcomed!), and the anthemic ‘Colors II’ crawls up the walls and your spine, leaving shivers in its wake. A bit of Genesis, me thinks in the inspiration and execution, and quite well done at that. Digi fans will benefit from the downloaded bonus cut, ‘Bouquet’, which features another soft and inviting McLarnon vocal wrapped in a marshmallow overcoat of ambient electronics and float away melodies.

So, many inspirations, a fantastic personal library pilfered for a note here, a melody there or a guitar line and vocal over there, but all welded together in a pleasing package that will have many fans of any of the aforementioned in ecstasy. The perfect summer record for cruising through towns and back alleys with the top down and the car stereo way up.

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