Ummagma - Frequency - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ummagma - Frequency

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2015-11-18

Translucent dewdrops fill the ambient silence at the beginning of ‘Orion’. A gossamer lining over its ambient core, the keyboard pattern and its subtle dynamics exude the wonder of its celestial subject matter. 

Shauna McLarnon’s vocals are not dissimilar to Sarah Cracknell’s, and like Cracknell’s envelop into the sound of Ummagma like the light whipping of egg white into meringue. Without asserting any pre-eminence over Ummagma’s sound, it’s difficult to divorce McLarnon’s voice from the success of Ummagma’s music as a whole, her voice however a warm swathe, rather than a sassy wardrobe. 

Frequency is an accessible though quite complex work. Layers of electronics and faint instrumentation insinuate themselves; a private confessional revealing more with careful listening. Whilst ‘Lama’ is essentially a great electro-pop song, it is so much more. The distantly echoed guitar picking and ghosted synthesiser effectuate the feeling of first light. McLarnon’s voice is conveyed by these sounds and some judicious deep bass, the ambience giving way to some sublime club friendly pop. By mid-track we’re almost into 12” territory as layer upon layer of guitar effects, and disco beats beckon the dance floor. 

‘Winter Tale’ is more your classic 4AD druggy introversion, more astral in its objective. ‘Galacticon’ transorbits the central portion of the EP, an interlude of minimalist ambience which soothes and refocuses your mind, like some kind of classy mindfulness recording. 

‘Ocean Girl’ mimics a french chanson, and you half expect Serge Gainsbourg to drop in, and the modernist treatment may well have suited the great man. 

Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Malcolm Holmes of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, and Lights that Change provide remixes of ‘Lama’. As you might expect, Guthrie’s additional sound processing adds even more dimensions, and Holmes’ mix is characteristic of the nerdy private schoolboy disco of OMD era, but I say this with great affection. The almost devotional build-up into club stonker is thrilling. Lights That Change add some darker industrial tones.

'Lama' is one of the singles of the year.      

Out this Friday on Raphalite Records. 

Comments (4)

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Great review, Rob!

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Thanks Jim . I was hungry, that explains the meringue thing !

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Dang, you weren't lying. The Robin Guthrie mix is pure Cocteau Twins.

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The whole shoegaze Mark II thing suits him well. I actually didn't really respond to Cocteau Twins at the time. More now strangely.

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