Well, that’s annoying. I was trying to find descriptive words to explain exactly what this Canadian/Ukrainian duo’s latest EP sounds like, and I hit upon the words “enveloping” and “dark and foreboding“, feeling perhaps a little too pleased with myself. Then as an afterthought, I looked at the press release, and the damn thing uses those two very phrases, so now it looks like I’ve bloody nicked it. As they say in Internet-speak these days, Franz Ferdinand Sparks.
But hey, maybe there’s a reason why these words sprang immediately to both our minds, for there are fewer, if any, better ways to convey the nuance of Ummagma‘s latest, featuring, as it does, remixes by such 4AD luminaries as The Cocteau Twins‘ near legendary Robin Guthrie and the much celebrated Curve‘s Dean Garcia. The untampered version of ‘LCD‘ playfully messes with the vocals so that they seem ghostly and off-kilter, but it’s Garcia’s extensive eight and a half minute mix that really shines here. An air of menace looms heavy throughout, as though you’ve stepped out of your front door and found yourself on the moon with nary an explanation of how you’ve ended there, and light only enough to follow your own footsteps through your own trippy space odyssey.
In complete contrast, Guthrie’s mix of ‘Lama‘ wraps Shauna McLarnon’s gorgeous vocals in a lush shroud of irresistible beauty during this little gem of a song, before ‘Back To You‘, thanks to Dean Garcia’s SPC ECO mix, calls to mind both Tricky and Bossanova era Pixies. It’s little wonder that they have managed to persuade such a wealth of shoegaze/indie rock royalty to take part when the songwriting itself is as strong as this. As Dean Garcia himself explained, “the sense of space and oddness within both mixes is the thing that glues it all together. File under Dark Psyche.”
You can indeed, and it’s hard to think of a better description, for McLarnon has, along with her husband Alexander Kretov, crafted something here that, whilst clearly embracing the classic 4AD sound of the late eighties and early nineties, still feels somewhat unique and transformative within its genre. One can only marvel and quite confidently presume that the future is bright for Ummagma.
The LCD EP is released on 22nd September through Label Obscura / Somewherecold Records)