Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ural Umbo - "Delusion of Hope" (2011) [Utech Records]

I honestly have no idea how to categorize this album. As a "tag/genre nerd" who obsessively marks things as such on iTunes (553 separate classifications and counting), I've found Ural Umbo to be one of those bands whose tag area I have to leave blank. I mean, I could lazily leave them with a general Experimental tag like the one I've given this review, but sheer amount of ground international duo Ural Umbo have covered with their latest opus, the hypnotic Delusion of Hope, is enough to where I can suspend my near-obsessive anti-hobby.

I've seen quite a few reviews classify Delusion of Hope as a dark ambient record and, yes, at times, such as the eerie resonance of "Resinous Compound," there are elements of dark ambient, but, to be frank, this album is much too interesting to be classified as such. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Northaunt and Lustmord as much as the next (strange) guy, but your standard dark ambient album lacks the intrigue and immediacy set forth by the duo of Reto Mader (guitar/bass/kalimba/synth, also of Sum of R and RM74) and Steven "the busiest man in experimental music" Hess (percussion/electronics, also of Locrian, Haptic, Pan-American, et cetera). Songs like "Sych" give way to massive Tribes of Neurot-like tribal drum jams, and there are more than one occasion where Mader and Hess explode into mind-altering psychedelic jams and short, punctuated segments of analog noise. To put it lightly, this isn't your average drone record, or even your average record overall.

Ural Umbo's ingenious mix of aquatic unease with spectral dreaminess on the cosmic Delusion of Hope sets them on their own separate scale. Is it drone? Is it dark ambient? Is it noise? The hell if I know, but what is certain is that Ural Umbo is by far one of the most impressive, unique projects in the underground experimental scene. This stellar album is available as a clear LP + CD, limited to 300 copies, from the always fantastic Utech Records.


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