Dreampop duo UMMAGMA release an EP of ethereal delights…
In a world of landfill indie and ‘retro electro’, it’s always a pleasant diversion to stumble across an aural oasis that occupies its own distinct territory, which is certainly the landscape that Ummagma inhabit.
Consisting of Shauna McLarnon (originally from Canada) and Alexander Kretov (hailing from Ukraine), Ummagma first emerged on the music scene in 2012. The pair crafted their own particular brand of dreampop, beginning with their debut releases Antigravity and Ummagma (both simultaneously released in 2012).
Their latest release, in the form of an EP titled Frequency, continues this trend – and also adds in some surprising guest remixes as a bonus.
‘Orion’ unfolds with pastel melodies and rhythmic flourishes accompanied by subtle guitar sounds. Its simple arrangement and vocal delivery calls to mind acts such as Rough Trade wonder duo Shelleyan Orphan. Meanwhile, ‘Lama’ is a much denser, layered affair with washes of warm synth sounds and a hypnotic vocal from McLarnon.
The pair managed to secure the talents of both Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Mal Holmes (OMD) to lend their own touches to remixes based on ‘Lama’. Guthrie is, of course, no stranger to the world of dreampop and ethereal soundscapes and brings washes of layered guitars to give ‘Lama’ an immersive atmosphere.
Mal Holmes, meanwhile, has been on drumming duties as part of synthpop pioneers OMD for over 30 years. Health issues (including a traumatic heart stoppage while performing in Toronto in 2013) resulted in Holmes stepping back from percussion duties, instead focussing on working in management and production roles for other artists (something he’s done on and off for a number of years previously).
It’s not surprising that Holmes’ take on ‘Lama’ gives the track more of an electronic tone and mood, albeit crafted in the trademark warm synths that OMD proved so good at across their musical career. There’s even some subtle choral effects thrown in for good measure.
Ummagma occupy the unusual territory of being a band whose members hail from different countries. It’s something that hasn’t stopped other musical outfits from working together (the Canadian/German duo of Lola Dutronic spring to mind) although McLarnon and Kretov initially lived in the Ukraine before moving to Canada together.
The pair describe Frequency as being “a slight departure from the first two albums, which whisked the listener through the romanticism of first meetings, big love, adventures abroad and optimistic dreaming through to the realities of birth, loss, death and departure. In contrast, Frequency explores such themes as space and distance, timelessness, escapism, and the search for tranquility”.
For fans of outfits such as Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, Frequency will feel familar. At the same time, Ummagma have managed to develop their own unique sound and style across a series of tracks that embrace mood and atmosphere.
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He is responsible for design outfit Arc23 as well as writing for outlets such as J-Pop Go, Electronic Sound, All The Anime, Manga Entertainment and The Electricity Club.
He has been featured in a variety of press and media features including the Metro and Japan Update Weekly.