Released today, ‘Frequency’, the debut EP of Canadian/Ukrainian duo Ummagma, is a professional and polished work, dreamy and ethereal and lovely all at once.
Not so much dream pop as space pop, ‘Frequency’ opens with the ethereal ‘Orion’. With the mystical vocals of Shauna McLarnon and a staccato of popcorn like beeps and pops, the song is seemingly an homage to the constellation of the same name. It’s a great introduction to the lovely ‘Lama’. Guitar and drum led, the instrumentation reminds us of the U2 classic, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’. Whether this is by accident or design, ‘Lama’ has a strong enough tune to lend itself well to remixes – the EP features three, one by each of Robin Guthrie, Malcolm Holmes, and Lights That Change.
Third song on the EP is the cosmic ‘Winter Tale’, which with its Celtic-style harmonies could easily have been by The Corrs or Enya. Layers upon layers of vocals, punctuated by a drum machine beat, it’s a beautiful, dreamy song.
‘Galacticon’, with its chirrups and (are they?) whale sounds, stirs up visions of David Attenborough and Life On Earth. The tune would lend itself well to a documentary or a film score.
‘Ocean Girl’ swoops in on a crescendo of horns and guitar: the only song on the EP to feature the lead vocals of the male half of the duo, Alexander Kretov, it’s all too brief a tune, leaving us wanting for more.
The three remixes of ‘Lama’ are as different from each other as those who remixed them. The first, the Robin Guthrie remix, is a bass-rich treatment of the song, giving it a Cocteau Twins like feel; not surprising when one considers that Guthrie was indeed part of the Scottish group. Following a pattern here, Malcolm Holmes, drummer with seminal 80s band, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, takes ‘Lama’ and remixes it in the synthpop style preferred by that band. The one mix which surprised me was the third and final one, by Welsh band, Lights That Change, who gave the song a disco feel.
What do we think of this EP? In short – we could have heard more lead vocals from Alexander, the rich qualities of his voice a surprising bonus: overall however we loved the feel of it all, and would not hesitate to listen to more than once (which we have!).
Frequency is out today on Raphalite Records and available from Ummagma’s bandcamp site, in either CD or digital download.