Ummagma hail from Peterborough, Ontario – about 80 miles northeast of Toronto. The town’s nickname is “The Electric City” because it was the 1st town in all of Canada to use electric streetlights. In the present day, the town is where technology & manufacturing coexist comfortably. Fittingly, the duo of Shauna McLarnon and Alexander Kretov offer up an intoxicating mix of electronic & organic sounds. The Ummagma story begins in Moscow in 2003 where Alexx and Shauna were residing. The met at an acoustic guitar concert and quickly the relationship became a personal & professional union. Alexx handles composition, instrumentation, arrangements, and vocals while Shauna handles vocals, composition, and lyrics. The music recalls bands such as Lush, Cocteau Twins, and Kraftwerk but the overall vibe is one of originality. The background of the band members has a great deal to do with that uniqueness – Alexx hails from the Ukraine and began making music in the wake of the USSR collapse, while Shauna hails from the Yukon, Canada and began composing music while spending time in Siberia, Moscow, and northern Canada. Frequency is the band’s new EP and it is the strongest offering from the duo yet.
Frequency is the band’s follow-up to 2012’s dual debut albums Ummagma and Antigravity. The press release states that “…this release represents 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”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I didn’t even try. The new EP is a jaw dropping work of beauty, it’s originality shining through. Ethereal vocals sitting comfortably with acoustic guitar flourishes. Sinister electronic soundtracks give way to optimistic pop leaning nuggets. It is perfect all the way through.
Orion opens the EP with a repetitive electronic refrain and plaintive vocals from Shauna with a jaw dropping opening couplet “Cosmic lover / Made up my mind / I’m not going home / This is where I’ll stay / With you”. The electronic vibe never goes away, but there is stunning acoustic guitar work also on display here. The song sets the tone for the brilliance to follow. Lama is the obvious single – epic in scope, hitting the touchstones of the listener’s emotional palette. The song features an absolutely killer bass line – in tandem with the synthesizers, it sounds like the greatest song New Order never wrote. The song is also featured on the EP in various remixes – notably, there is a Robin Guthrie mix that lends the song a Cocteau Twins feel. Galacticon hasn’t been mentioned in too many other reviews, but I absolutely love it. It is a brooding instrumental piece featuring washes of synths. It would fit comfortably onto a Kraftwerk album or the Battleship Potemkin soundtrack that the Pet Shop Boys put together a while back.
Verdict: Cosmic Music
For Fans of: Cocteau Twins, Ride, Lush, Pet Shop Boys, Kraftwerk, Swervedriver
- Winter Tale
- Ocean Girl
- Lama (Robin Guthrie Remix)
- Lama (Malcolm Holmes’ OMD Remix)
- Lama (Lights That Change Remix)