Ural Umbo - Roomer

13 May 2021

Drone Ambient Noise TripHop | Consouling Sound | Release date: 21 May 2021

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This record is something between the John Carpenter-soundtracks (for example Halloween), Jóhann Jóhannsson’s OST for Mandy and the work the two musicians usually compose with their respective main acts, Sum Of R and Dark Buddha Rising. So just the right thing for some bright summer days. Not.

This is the second incarnation of Ural Umbo, the first one was the duo of Reto Mäder (Sum Of R, JeGong) and Steven Hess (Locrian, Pan American) and it was “alive” between 2009 and 2011. In that short time, the duo was really productive with three full-lengths and one EP but for some reason, the project was ended in 2011 and both participants dedicated their time to their numerous other bands. However, now Ural Umbo is back and this time it consists of Mäder and Marko Neuman (Dark Buddha Rising, Waste Of Space Orchestra) and what an album the duo has for us.

But behold – if you like your summers sunny and bright, then you better wait for the fall before you listen to Roomer, but listen you should as this record is really an organic piece of art that will captivate you.

Two months ago they gave the audience a first glimpse at their work by presenting the video for ”Dance Of Duality” (see below) and that tune proved that the two were combining the best of their main bands in Ural Umbo: the abstract noise and ambient passages over a highly interesting, dark, grumpy beat might also have been on one of Reto’s other projects. Some of the storytelling drumming (not the beat, but the “add-on-drumming”) could also be something from Marko’s oeuvre. Some of his vocals are really abstract, high pitched at moments but sometimes also really dark and like a dark chant – without real lyrics, only vocalizing. It should be noted that ALL vocals on Roomer stem from Marko’s throat even though at times it seems highly unbelievable. But there is also that little bit “more” here, the synth-passages that sound like one of the best horror movie soundtracks of the last 40 years with danger and death lurking just beneath the next shadow.

And danger is an important word when you try to understand the concept of the record: A “roomer” in their understanding is a spirit looking for a host, a body at best. However, most of these “roomers” are not good and humorous spirits but dark and evil-natured, plagued by their own past. Thus it also becomes clear, why Marko’s vocals are so haunting and nightmarish at parts. This is the kind of music you expect to hear from a dying plasma kind of being right before its spirit leaves the greying, damp mass flowing to death on the floor. Once again, do not expect a record welcoming you with open arms.

Nevertheless, the question remains and must be asked: Why listen to something like as dark as this? Simple: Because Reto’s music is captivating and once you open the door to these wide-open spaces, once you take your time to understand where the horror comes from, you will notice other little details with every listen. Take for example one of the more underrated tracks, ”How I got there?”. Most people will shy away because of Marko’s really traumatizing vocals (remember, the spirits are haunted ones!) but you can find so many things beneath them: a very gently-dragging industrial beat (a bit like Blade Runner), with some second drumming becoming louder and more “pushy” and then some submarinal hall opens and the whole scenario develops into a classical movie synth-passage along some the cymbal-beats only minimal but with a lot of reverb yet somehow magically crystalline. Repetition is the key to understanding this kind of music. And when Marko’s lyrics are faded out into some outro the effect of his infernal screams on the opening of the next track (”A Shape Of Noise”) is even more disruptive – this roomer must be locked in a padded cell, scratching itself, hitting the walls, trying to get out.

So, to point it out again – one should listen to this record if you like synth-driven horror soundtracks, if one likes to discover new details with every listen, if you like your music to be more than just a backdrop to whatever you’re doing. This record IS rewarding but not at first glance, it needs time and patience but then it is one of these growers that are hard to take off the turntable.