[sic] Magazine

Umber – This Earth To Another

Umber is the performing moniker of Alex Steward, a West Midlands based composer of ambient, post rock and drone. He also cites folk. This aspect isn’t as prominent as the rest but, as we will come to see, does play its part as the record unfolds.

Opening track ‘Altered Fragments’ twinkles into existence like a sunrise. Bleary-eyed but purposeful, this really captures that feeling of having just woken up. I love its quieter passages where Harold Budd-esque keys can be made out at the back of the mix. Yet ‘Altered Fragments’ wants us to know it has things to do and places to go. Its weighty mid-range “ta daaah”s suggest something far grander or more ominous. I’m put in mind of ‘the kick’ in Christopher Nolans Inception (actually a glacially slowed ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’) Somebody needs to wake up. This track captures that feeling as we lumber out of bed gently bumping into doorways and walls as we ‘hasten’ out into our day.

‘This Earth To Another’ works especially well. The title track is a spangly ‘two-step’ that flickers between Boards Of Canada and epic45. I’m loving this one a lot, probably due to the decaying analogue production feels. ‘Harvest’ begins like a lost Hammock track albeit one from their downtempo phases. It then flourishes into more parochial countryside Englishness. We see the folk side of Umber here, shades again of epic45 and Hood.

The middle of the album ploughs more of that downtempo furlough. This includes the gargantuan 12 minute ‘Harvest (slow)’, a meditative work reminiscent of those early Sigur Rós releases circa Ágætis Byrjun. Intimate strings and keys take the place of bowed guitars but you can see you’re in capable hands. Ultimate track ‘Low Tide’ is a real high point (no pun intended).

Steward writes, plays and produces pretty much everything here. the artwork is by Label head George Mastrokostas put the final mastering touches to an album which is the sonic equivalent of finding a photograph album in the attic – saturated polaroids of your fathers childhood. The colours may have faded and bled but we can still see how brightly the sun shone back then.

The future was blinding.

As per the norm for Sound In Silence this is a limited edition run of hand-stamped, blue card CDs. Artwork by Cameron Steward (surely a rellie!) Find out more via Bandcamp where there’s 25% off the digital discography at time of press.