Saturday, December 3, 2011
Ural Umbo - Delusion of Hope (2011)
Band: Ural Umbo
Country: Chicago, Illinois/Bern, Switzerland
Style: Drone/Dark Ambient
When you look at the avant-garde music scene, drummer Steven Hess is one of the more prominent ones that I've heard of. His work in experimental drone-metalists Locrian as well as avant-improv trio Haptic and many others has garnered him much attention. This collaboration with RM74's Reto Mäder has gotten a bit more attention than some of his other projects and is probably my personal favorite after Locrian.
As a drummer, Steven Hess is obviously very skilled, but his true talent lies outside of the restricted confines of a drum set. He is much more interested when given free reign as a percussionist, making use of everything from gongs to regular cymbals, though this should be pretty common knowledge if you're familiar with his work. I can't say I'm as familiar with Mäder's work but his work in the fields of drone are interesting to say the least, allowing walls of sound to emanate from very minimal instrumentation. My past experience with Ural Umbo has mainly been through their 2010 self-titled record "Ural Umbo." That record was certainly enjoyable, but it honesty wasn't anything that blew me away. I don't think that even if I had enjoyed that record more it could've prepared me for what I was about to get from this record.
In all honesty, this is an amazing piece of work, there were literally sections of this where my jaw was on the floor. Each of these eight pieces is sonically interesting but they all differ from each other, with some being much more somber and minimalistic, This Dead and Fabled Waste, while others are intense and bursting at the seems, Sych, they are all very individual. The textures and layers of sound kind of blend together into a very haunting atmosphere that is just massive, yet not overpowering, it's also not the kind of dreamy atmospheres that you'd find in a lot of ambient based music. There has been almost no competition to how the propulsive So, Here I Live... Sorry made me feel while I listened to it. I would never say that this album delves into the realms of post-rock, but that song just has the rising tension and build-ups that can be found in post-rock groups. Having said that, this is not a record that is totally devoid of any comparisons, as the more "drone" moments are certainly comparable to any number of doom and drone metal bands and would seem a bit typical if not for the interesting sonic textures accompanying it. I have to say that the listening experiences I've had with this album have all been fantastic, yet not one of them has ever felt as long as it actually was. When listening to this, time just sort of slips away as you're engulfed by the sounds you're hearing. I also have to the that the artwork is great, just as a side-note.
I really enjoyed this album, a lot more than I even expected to actually. I know Utech has high quality material and has released some great stuff this year, but this just blew away any and all expectations for me. Definitely do yourself a favor and check this record out if you like experimental music.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Initial Magnetization Curve, Self Fulfilling Prophecy, So, Here I Live... Sorry