Thursday, 9 June 2016

Single: Umbra - Mathematicaster

- Review by Noël Duplaa

Info: With influences spanning from math metal bands like Meshuggah to IDM pioneers like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, avant garde jazz quintet Umbra have released 'Mathematicaster' as a taster for their self titled EP, which is currently available through bandcamp here:

Let’s be clear, cards on the table: I don’t think I have the musical background or authority to properly review this (me neither - Remy). The extent of my jazz knowledge begins with my father’s trumpet-centric jazz records as a child, and culminates with an enthusiastic exploration into Miles Davis once Kid A finally sank its teeth into me. Which places me in the unfortunate and uncomfortable position of having to review a track I loved less as someone identifying the implicit influences, genre, goals and execution of a piece as it stands relative to the cumulative intertwined histories that have built to this moment in time, and rather purely as someone listening to five clearly gifted and skilled musicians creating a shifting, compelling soundscape that leaves you in no doubt as to the skill levels required to pull off this kind of high wire feat, but never sacrifices the art of actually rooting the movements in a heightened and melodic forward motion.  

While self-identifying as a jazz quintet, it’s very clear that Umbra draw their influences from many other fields, with post and math rock jumping to the fore straight away as the hurtling, skittering drum pattern desperately tries to explain the guitars’ melodies, like a gifted translator keeping perfect time with a foreign president’s passionate UN speech. As the track swells and schisms, you are overtaken by that wonderful and odd sensation of never quite being on top of what is happening, but trusting utterly that your guides are taking you somewhere phenomenal.  Let me put it in layman’s terms: these guys could clearly just musically jack off all over each other, and it’d probably blow minds room after room.  But this track is defined by a an inherent sense of purpose and momentum, which carries it through its 8+ minute runtime at an absolute gallop.

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