Ummagma is a mixture of nature-inspired ambience and electronic beats. With Canadian and Ukrainian backgrounds, this duo consists of Alexx Kretov (composition, instruments, arrangement, recording, vocals) and Shauna McLarnon (vocals, composition, lyrics). Some bands start out small, releasing singles and EPs. Ummagma makes their debut with twin albums, one self-titled and the other named ‘Antigravity.’ That’s a two-dozen song debut! This review will cover the self-titled album.
Beginning with quick jazzy blips, you are immediately transported via siren to busy city life. The vocal contributions from both Shauna and Alexx serve more to enhance the constant-motion mood than to reveal a story. Similarly in “Upsurd,” fuzz guitar takes the lead, supported by subdued singing.
Alluring spacey tones lead into “The Road to Lees,” later punched with electronic beats. This is the specialty of Ummagma, to take the wonder of nature and mix it with modern synthetic sounds.
The instruments and vocals are frequently at odds and it’s difficult to decide if they are balancing one another or playing against each other. One example is “Human Factor,” a largely enveloping piece with booming drums and driving bass, coupled with Shauna’s vocal nonchalance, as if she sings while watching out the window of a cross country train.
More interesting are the visuals brought about through mystical pieces like “Orion.” Pinpoints of light appear through opening synth blips. This ambient piece features Shauna singing about her “cosmic lover” who is “closer now than ever.” The lulling vocals take on a nice harmony when admitting, “I can feel your movement, when I see you every morning, every moment, every motion, whenever I drift away.”
The album hits its stride while getting into a more solid groove with “Outside.” This song features bluesy bass notes and electronic drum beats. The following “Rotation” allows you to feel the vastness of the universe with synthesizer whirring. “Risky” has you happily traveling among the stars, while asking, “Can you tell that you’re in a better place now?”
More easy going tracks include the breezy “NIMBY” matter-of-factly stating, “It could get better or worse.” Also, “River Town” with its acoustic guitars and rootsy rhythms, and the closing instrumental ambient pieces, “Talk to Her” and “J.S. Bach.”
Ummagma offers songs issuing a general positive atmosphere rather than any particular message. The natural mingles with the manmade in a modern harmony of compelling grooves and soothing soundscapes.