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Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon of Ummagma – Photo Credit: Oleksandra Kostiv (edit by Alexander Kretov)
There is something distinctly great about a band who sounds like they’ve got the wonderful makings of music from a different era while, at the same time, their music sounds totally fresh and invigorating. That’s something that definitely can be said of indie pop/electronic rock duo Ummagma. Their newest offering is a 2-track single presenting two very different sides of the band. The joyous and uplifting“Caravan” premiered in Clash Magazine a few weeks back, and The Big Takeover now has the pleasure of presenting the video for the rather Daft Punk-esque b-side “Ty i Ya”.
Ummagma is composed of western Ukrainian native Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon, who hails from the distant Canadian territory known as the Yukon (think Klondike Gold Rush or Jack London). Perhaps ironically, their respective rural upbringings has not presented any kind of barrier to taking flying leaps into a sonically surreal and open future. At least that’s how it feels when you listen to any one of the releases they’ve put out over the past 7 years.
While the title track is an invigorating pop/rock anthem with a charming and powerful female/male vocal interplay, inspired by the musicians’ own journeys and infused with gammas and percussion seemingly Celtic in origin, the song you encounter here today marks a first for Ummagma on several fronts. First of all, the band has never before released music in Kretov’s native Ukrainian language. This is also the first time he himself composed the lyrics in full, with McLarnon merely helping with arrangement this time around.
“Ty i Ya” is a super-vibing track that transitions from Nile Rogers-like funky disco rhythmic bass into peaceful chill seemingly guided by jazz drumming and back into Celtic whistles. This is chill dance fusion – or in any case, it’s full of reverie and sublime inertia, despite its multiple sonic transitions. Kretov’s vocals are smooth and trance-like as he sings lightly in his native tongue.
The visually-saturated video delivers an eclectic mix of cinematic and real life footage, along with graphic designs, and static images that fly by with a sweeping alacrity. You’ll be wondering wondrously many a time about where these intriguing clips were found!
“Caravan” is the first single off Ummagma’s new album Compass, which is set for release on June 27 via Manchester-based label Leonard Skully Records. This is the duo’s third long-play and their first album in seven years. It’s also the first time the band is releasing a record on vinyl.
Compass itself is beguiling in its post-genre nature. It is an album of grace and change, of familiarity and exploration, of emotion and euphoria, of sky-scraping cinematic highs and intimate and intriguing lows. This is the sound of a band allowing themselves to jump creative divides, to kick down musical barriers, and rip up the rule book, or perhaps just ignore the fact that there ever was one in the first place.
Formed in Moscow in 2003, now based in Peterborough, Ontario, the couple completed this album over the course of five years and multiple moves, ultimately hauling their studio with them across the Atlantic and setting up all over again. With such transience in the real world, how could their sonic world reflect anything other than the same fluidity and movement?
This LP follows on the trail of their LCD EP with Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Dean Garcia (Curve), and Winter Tale EP with 4AD dreampop pioneer A.R.Kane. Both of these records were released in 2017.
They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company that they keep, and the same holds true for a band. Ummagma’s collaborations speak volumes. Apart from these three dreampop/shoegaze icons, they’ve worked with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Malcolm Holmes, Swervedriver’s Graham Bonnar, and nudisco kingpin Alexander Robotnick.
Ummagma’s music has always presented an exhilarating positive vision, showcasing their ability to wander diverse musical pathways. Representing Ukraine among 23 countries, they won the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio in 2013, and have been featured in a full-page spread in Rolling Stone Russia. In 2015, their collaborative New Born album with Sounds of Sputnik also received a Jagermeister indie award, Russia’s most esteemed music award.
Ummagma’s “Caravan” single is now available digitally everywhere, including iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. The Compass LP is out on June 21 digitally, on black vinyl, and CD with unique artwork by Alexander Kretov. Both the single and the album can be obtained directly from Ummagma’s Bandcamp. U.K. residents can order vinyl directly from Leonard Skully Records
All songs written and performed by Ummagma
Music and arrangement by Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon
Lyrics and vocals by Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon
Produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Alexander Kretov at Ummagma Studio
Publicity by Shameless Promotion PR
Cover design and artwork by Alexander Kretov at Ummagma Studio
Feast your eyes on the video for the A-side ‘“Caravan”, which takes you on a global trip with ethereal punch”
Also previewing the forthcoming Compass album is the marvelously calming “Galacticon”:
And check out the recent remix Robin Guthrie created for the band here: