Fresh Kill: Ummagma – Winter Tale
Ummagma is a staple among modern day dream-pop aficionados (or they ought to be, but I digress). January 15th saw the release of their newest single “Winter Tale,” featuring three different mixes. The sound, heavenly, meditative, reassuring with a hint of something that could resemble sadness. However, the sweet far outweighs the bitter.
“Winter Tale” is played over a simple drumloop that sounds like it was taken straight from one of those old 1980s Casio keyboards. The loop repeats throughout the song, alongside pad swells and a subtly strummed guitar, all of which accent the beautifully sung multi-layered vocals of Shauna McLarnon. McLarnons voice, thickened by a heavy coating of reverb, lulls and wraps around you like a reassuring heavy blanket bringing within a sense of comfort and daydreams. “Winter Tale” is mantra like in its repetition, not only of lyrics, but melody. There is no chorus, no bridge or any variation… and that’s ok! What we are given instead is the musical equivalent of ethereal meditation.
However the A.R. Kane mix is equally noteworthy and is the first musical output the legendary dream-pop duo has released since the 90s. In this mix (aptly named ’69 style’) the song is stripped to the bare vocal, which is laid over a spontaneously played guitar and feedback noises and sparse ambient synth tones. This is a very free-form mix, alternating between distorted and chorus heavy strums. A.R. Kane takes the the vocals of McLarnen and picks up pretty much where they left off with their 4AD classics. The track loses none of its otherworldly aesthetic and shows the song is just as beautiful grounded as it is soaring in the clouds.
The third mix is a succinct edit of The A.R. Kane version edited for radio play. Obviously I prefer the long-form version as it feels much more expansive but nothing is cut, just condensed.
“Reaching a more confident spot than before, this is Ummagma stripped of some of the devices the band formerly cloaked their sound in, offering up a beautiful yet different shade of melancholy than on previous releases,” the press release for the single says, which is pretty much spot on. Verdict? Buy it for Ummagma, stay for 69 style.