Ummagma always take me by surprise, but I only have myself to blame. When I haven’t played any of their music for a while I seem to leave them compartmentalised in the drifty, ambient section of my memory, possibly taking virtual tea with SPC ECO or hanging about with members of Beach House. But then songs such as Caravan come along and remind me that for all their ethereal ways and lush soundscaping, at the core of their sound is a lot more substance than you might sometimes give them credit for. This is certainly true of the cascade of tribal percussion that leads us into the song. Guitars add a funky layers of shoegazery and some occasional soaring rock moves, Celtic sounds drift around the periphery and the song just swathes itself in additional texture and layer as it heads towards its conclusion.
But of course it is the vocals that are more than often the talking point with this band and that is no exception here as Shauna’s floating tones sit in perfect contrast to Alexx’s more robust, more rock and roll delivery.
Its fellow sonic travelling companion, Ty i Ya also has a funky vibe running through courtesy of the guitar work but is more mercurial and wandering in nature. It unexpectedly and fantastically breaks down into something akin to a 60’s jazz-pop film score, quite possibly a French one, before merging those sounds back in with the previous Nile Rodgers-esque groove and leaving the listener with a hankering for a brie and baguette based snack, eaten in black and white.
They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep, and this is certainly true of bands as well. It may come as no surprise that such notables as The Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Michael Holmes of OMD have both acted as collaborators and inspiration along the way. If you need any more names dropped then you should note that Dean Garcia of Curve and the aforementioned SPC ECO, as well as A.R.Kane both add their creative juices to b-sides for singles from the forthcoming album Compass.
Like all good music these songs skirt obvious pigeon-holing…too robust to be dream-pop, too groovesome to be shoegaze, to clever to be merely pop or indie music. It’s a good job bands pick individual names I guess, let’s just call these unique creative offerings Ummagma music and be done with it.