Review: Um, "The Old Album", "The New Album", "Giraffe". By Lone Stromblone   Leave a comment

I realize that people might be waiting to hear about my cracked rib, but I haven’t had a chance to finish writing up that episode just yet. In the meantime I thought I’d post this review of the collected recent works of Um by Lone Stromblone. I realize that in this case that’s a bit like getting someone else to blow your own trumpet, but you have to remember that Um reviews are pretty thin on the ground.

Review: Um, “The Old Album”, “The New Album”, “Giraffe”.

Feeling a bit mad? Why not push your luck and optimise the state with some “UM” therapy? Treat your self to the black hilarity of this festival of intrepid linguistrobatics and exploratory solitude. One day, you’ll be out on a flimsy limb. After all, in the end, we are all alone.

Best prepare. Let Um take you there.

Strategy 1. “The Old Album”.
Not desperately old at all, (no date supplied in the sleeve notes, but suspected to have been created in 2002) this collection remains, to my ears, ever as fresh as a daisy-fed spring chicken. Comprising twenty-six works and no space fillers, deftly straddling the gulf between high art and low doggerel, “The Old Album” proffers a wealth of compelling and original lyrical content and poetry. Encircling the lost and subtle concerns of a life spent in too much thinking, the vocal element is set to noises which one can only describe as music, while knowing this biscuit-tin terminology to give cruel short shrift to the nature of the sweetmeats therein contained. The works of “Um” will touch the heart, soul and moist, dark, private corners of anybody who has been all the way out there and plans never to return (should they find themselves fortunate enough to have retained a modicum of volition).

Sonically singular, audibly angular, Pete Um and his associates meticulously dismember and reduce the status quo into “Status: Question”, leaving no turn unstoned. Drawing on an apparently endless variety of voices, Um’s choice of subject matter has a limitless span.

“Pathological Abstention” opens with a philosophical monologue in a Dickensian style, whether originally the product of Dickens, Um or of some other source, I cannot say. The skilled, thespian delivery of this Crowleyan imperative relates to the facing of fear, and to the importance of following one’s own path. It reveals a further taught string to Um’s bow, and a further demonstration of the philosophy of the way of Um:

“…..Only a little extra effort is required of you,
And you can travel again, soon,
This time under your own flag,
And all the better to stick your dread animal in the eye,
And to come full circle,
And understand the meaning in the pattern of the footsteps.”

The backing music to these works stands largely at the front, and comprises a rich feast of the unexpected and peculiar. Layer upon layer of interspersed sonic bites of the world, the mechanical, the bestial and the interminable take turns to leap to stage-front, each adorned with eclectic companions, each group elbowing it’s predecessor into the wings. The lyrics cascade, prolific and pregnant, pungent and palpitating. The result, rhythmic yet frantic, bassy yet jangling and fractious, evokes exposure to a storm of bomb-shattered chandeliers while floundering to break to the surface in an ocean of tepid porridge, laced with Tabasco and scotch bonnet peppers. Tasty, exhilarating and very,
very odd.

Generous with treats and of surprises, “The Old Album” leaves one no longer able to acknowledge former concepts of satisfaction. New needs have been born, goalposts have moved. The record and CD purchases of decades find themselves carted to multi-storey car parks and playing fields on Sunday mornings, for humane destruction via car boot sales, their contents no longer pertinent in this brave new world of blissful uncertainty.

Strategy 2. “The New Album”.
With no consideration for conventions of a musical, social or any other variety, Um forges on into further dark corners of the human psyche. Many undiscovered clefts await the disruptive illumination of this Promethean mischief maker, a true Lucifer, a bringer of light into the musical pantheon. Western humanity, should it be blessed to peek behind the veil of Um-ness, may lose all will to continue in the unthinking consumption and acquisition of prestige kitchens, cars and canned convenience comestibles.

I don’t know what the Cambridge Borough Council adds to it’s local water supply, but Pete Um has drunk his fill, and gone back for seconds, to return puddinged out, to “normal life”, wearing multicoloured fly’s eye spectacles, controversial, contraventional, contrapuntal, and deep as fuck.

The sounds and substance in these pieces have been drawn from sources often left wisely undisturbed, for fear of the legs, wings and mandibles threatening to lash out, to ensnare, usurp and corrupt reason itself. These recordings manage to appear, at times deceptively sweet and homely, suddenly flipping into the utterly, gigglingly, insane or paranoid, threatening the very foundations of reason, logic and stability. I rather doubt that Cliff Richard would approve, let alone Anne Widdecombe (together they’d surely make a lovely couple, some very scary noises, and a fearsome offspring).

This second CD contains twenty-five pieces, all equally ground breaking as those of its predecessor. The breadth of subject matter has expanded yet further, and the range of approaches to delivering Um’s infernal anti-doctrine has broadened in proportion. Everything else is deliciously out of proportion. If you have yet to expand your mind, I am confident that Um can assist you considerably in this quest. In the words of some other committed space explorer “When a man goes to the moon and back and can say that it didn’t affect his life, well…..he must have been looking the other way”. Stand by to repel all boredom. Fuzzy redheads will never appear the same to you again.


Strategy 3. “Giraffe”.
Pete Um’s latest offering was eagerly awaited, and once received, reached all the parts missed or scorned by the other two albums. This time we are treated to no less than thirty-two phyla of this rare genus. Many Giraffe-related etymological and biological questions, toward which my limited private library failed even to lean, have been answered for me by the sleeve notes. We could all learn a lot from the Giraffe.

Each track is enigmatically subtitled, with the sleeve notes offering some interpretation. Many mysteries remain, teasing the brain with modes of possible meaning. Tense and frantic, Um spins out lyrics in a quasi-familiar language, twisted and morphed via a hall of wavy, fractured mirrors, “I sit in a furnace, abusing my buggins, scaring myself, with the power of the biro”, from “Too Old For Sports (ginners)”, and from “A Last Blast (snarp)”, the linguistic impishness continues with “Let’s quit Sodom……(or perhaps “Lets quit, sod ’em”?)..we’ll go tomorrah”. This linguistic fecundity, coupled with Pete’s dry, straight-faced delivery, yields gems like “You may take your time like the cow you are, but you make sweet milk with your guitar.” from “Ghost (mutter)”.

May those who consider themselves sane be compelled to look long and hard into the abyss of their sham comforts and curios. May they gasp in horror as they glimpse the insubstantial nature of their worldly props. All that went before is now unworthy of it’s having gone-ness (excluding “The New” and “The Old” albums, naturally).

“Giraffe”, predictable only in it’s family resemblance to the unmistakable style of the previous collections, supports my opinion that Pete can write a highly entertaining lyric about anything, and can hang anything he produces, securely, onto a sonic backdrop which supports, lifts and separates, and crosses the heart and mind of t
he listener in all directions.

His unparalleled and ruthless play-tech style continues to hound the wibbly-wobbly world of the Blair establishment, confounds the inherited wisdom of musical production and not only pushes the envelope of sonic and literary creativity, but seals it, pops a stamp on it, and recklessly entrusts it to the rigours of our ever-dubious postal services, all the way to the primary portals of our squishy brains and our flimsy domiciles.


Strategy 4. “The Unholy Trinity?”.
For reasons too convoluted to be expanded upon, I have experimented with playing both “Giraffe” and “The Old Album” simultaneously, with results which impressively augmented the affects of entertainment and pleasure herein aforementioned. Both albums were left to cycle for several hours, thus varying their points of overlap for each cycle. I honestly could not detect the join, and the two productions did not interfere with each other in any way, merely mating with unnatural vigour, to produce a new, improved Child Of Hades, more potent than even the aforementioned spawn of the abysmal “Richard & Widdecombe” combo.

I wonder if Pete Um can be tempted to release an “Unholy Trinity” comprised of all three albums re-mastered in “overlap” mode, for the more discerning, or terminally unbalanced among us?

In spite of Pete’s plethora of sleeve notes, appended to each release, I cannot claim to understand entirely where Um is coming from. I have a strange intuition that I must have spent some time there, and may be going again one day. Those who are bold enough to make a purchase on the strength of this review, and find themselves baffled upon receipt of the goods, will be well on the way to a revelation, and must buy more for true clarity. Those who make a purchase and find themselves irreparably disappointed can just lament the fact that they are sorely missing out on something very special. Nothing and no-one is immune to Um’s slash and burn treatment, and may we give thanks for the last remaining vestiges of liberty enjoyed by Britains creative community. Pull up a flagstone outside your home and plant something there.

Posted September 6, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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