I had to think about whether I was going to share this review here or wait a while. When it comes to sharing what I’ve written, it has a lot to do with whether I purchased what the review is about or if it was something I was offered to review.
If the former the then I’ve no issue sharing the review here. If the latter then I’d prefer not to.
As Cool Try hasn’t been a thing for a while I’ve no issue with sharing stuff I wrote for them as, even though the quality of that stuff is worse than what I’m doing now, I still want it to be out there.
Whilst this review was on something I was offered to review, I want to share this now as it is important to me.
I don’t feel as though the way I write reviews is cutting it at the moment, so I’ve decided to work on altering that by doing what I described to the person I run Culture Eater with as “a horrible jury-rigging of Ethnographic writing and Ekphrasis to describe the thing as it happens.”
This review is the first attempt of that approach. This was written over two listening sessions, though there was plenty of listening outside of those. I did some editing for clarity and there were a few sentences that arose from my usual approach.
Ideally I’d like to find some sort of balance between how I usually write and this approach / “style”, but much like drawing, photography, music and other ventures it’s always a process of growing and development. Maybe this will lead to something further away from my current approach.
I think that compared to many of my previous reviews I did a better job of capturing an idea of how the album sounds. Not entirely sure, but I am satisfied with the result.
I’m also satisfied that altogether writing and editing this review took somewhere around two or three hours. Recently the reviews I’ve been writing have taken much longer; the last taking close to twenty hours.
Along with most of my review and interview work, this review is also on Culture Eater.
My colleague and I set up a Patreon to further develop Culture Eater as a source of good quality arts coverage from both ourselves and our contributors.
We’re looking at what we can give to supporters as we don’t want to set up a one way relationship, so suggestions are welcome. Podcast Eater is one of the things we’ve got going. We’ve recently switch to weekly releases and soon will be giving the patrons a bit more.
Please consider supporting, or at least sharing the Patreon page with others. Please also check out what our wonderful contributors are contributing.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Upsilamba starts off simply. It’s a lot of light, pleasing clarinet. There’s a bit of percussive clatter and noise; both of which disappear, leaving the clarinet to keep on doing its thing which by this point is a bit more energised. There’s a thumping drum beat that holds a bit of fun and whimsy.
Suddenly the clarinet gains context. The music rages. It roars and explodes into a massive cacophony… which eventually pulls back to reveal something clearer and less overwhelming. It’s a shift to something calmer, but by this point it offers little relief.
Simple guitar strums echo out into the emptiness whilst the clarinet relaxes. The percussion resumes its position of whimsy until the part’s end.
“Interlude” continues the simple guitar playing and it continues the echoing out. On its own it feels uneasy, but there’s a bit more breathing space and a bit more time to unwind, which is very much needed.
“Part II” offers the most human moments of Upsilamba. It starts off droning melodically and soon, with careful, firm tone a number recital commences. Distorted sound finds its way in, looking for some sort of prominence or reshaping. The clarinet returns, fluttering around. The number recital continues, becoming more frenzied and unintelligible the longer it goes. The percussion returns; as the melody retreats, the percussion’s intensity increases. The part keeps on filling out and expanding. It just keeps on going.
Suddenly the noise pulls back and guitar rings out once more, though it also oscillates. A simple-sounding drum beat kicks in. It all seems kind of worrisome and melancholic. The notes keep on ringing and building until eventually something more distorted and menacing finds its way back. The drums stay “steady”. As everything seems to descend the mass of distorted sound takes over, though it too ends up leaving so as to let something more clear bring the part to a close.
“Part III” is kind of… well, dramatic is a good way of putting it. It starts off dramatic, at least. Single notes, space, no crushing oppression, but this doesn’t last long. “Lightning” cracks in the background. Impassioned, shouted vocals come in. They are… unnerving, to say the least. Really uncomfortable. Eventually the high noise meets with something approximating a bass sound. It too drones on. Light percussion appears and clarinet flutters about for a fleeting period, percussion rings to a beat, the music briefly stutters before the beat becomes steady and obviously rhythmic.. The drones keep on droning, the music races toward some sort of point far beyond reach… at least for a little while.
The beat, whilst steady, needs to eventually drop out. The drone so enduring and prominent shifts and pulses whilst the vocals now scream over them. Indistinct sounds and the clarinet seems to be racing all over itself. The drone pulses, throbs and heaves whilst the screaming becomes more and more intense. Sounds rise and fall and the vocals now sound tired. There is a gasping for air as they continue on, almost as though they’re unable to stop.
There’s a brief moment of breathing space before the part starts expanding and ramping up once more. It comes close to exploding, but instead suddenly dissipates, leaving a low, pulsing sound to linger at the song’s edge.
Whilst “Part II” offers Upsilamba‘s most human moments, the whole thing offers a highly human experience. As a whole, the album seems to grip onto something deep inside. It’s an intense, visceral record that isn’t afraid to be unpleasant and uncomfortable. It’s also expansive, majestic and beautiful.
Upsilamba is available here.