Archive for the ‘can’t get started’ Tag

It's all grist to "Mill Road's original maverick"   Leave a comment

Nice little mention of the Um turn in a Hot Chip review by Connor Browne here. I think this same piece might have appeared in The Ely Standard also. Standard.

The Um bit sez:

Support this time comes from Cambridge’s very own cult legend Pete Um. Mill Road’s original maverick shuffles onstage with his minidisc player in hand and his sunglasses perched on his head. Um’s tracks are usually around the minute mark, his witty and poetic ramblings set to jittery electronics. The set of songs he performs here in J1 are mostly those present on his ‘Greatest Hits’ album ‘Can’t Get Started’, bar a couple of new tracks. As a friend of Hot Chip and a local man, Pete Um’s set of utterly bonkers electronica goes down fairly well, and rightly so.

Cheers mate. Nice one.

I’ll upload a few pics from that gig at some point but here’s one for now:


I like that one, thanks to Clive for that.

Pete Um Bandcamp   2 comments


Dave was telling me I ought to sort one of these out, and he was right. Should have the vinyl for The New Album ready soon too.

Posted June 20, 2012 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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Norman is selling me.   Leave a comment

Can’t Get Started, the new narrowly acclaimed 10″ record on my own Grist label, is now for sale here also! Thanks to the guys at Norman. I buy quite a few records there so they probably figured fuckit, but like the people in the Dr Seuss book they have a useful Mike who writes reviews and they didn’t have to use their Mike for such a purpose so I appreciate it. Here’s what Mike says if you’re not going to visit Norman:

Weird little fella, this. It’s got 17 songs running to a total of 23 minutes 39 seconds. The music contained in those minutes and seconds is frankly bizarre. Our Brian’s saying that this guy has been going a while but this is the first time we’ve met. Basically this is a collection of weird little lo-fi electro acoustic songs with oddball lyrics and even odder backing. It’s so hard to find things to compare this to because it’s just so bizarre. I guess Dan Deacon’s early stuff is a fair reference point but this is much more focused than some of that, so if noises are being made that you don’t like then you don’t really need to worry because they’ll be over in a minute (literally). One of the songs has a weird digital Dan Higgs-esque droney plainsong feel to it too. The closest we’ve got to a pop song here is the surprisingly catchy minute and a half of minimal electro that is ‘My Life Is Hard’. This record is shambling and clattery and disjointed and yet the cumulative effect is far more charming than you’d initially assume from just hearing one song. There’s a beautiful little essay about the pains of modern life that’s well worth reading, too. He certainly has a way with words. This is a weird record, make no mistake, but if you’ve learned anything from us by now then you’ll know that we like weird. And we like this.

Thanks to Mike, Norman.


Posted March 14, 2012 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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LWE Podcast 111: Nochexxx   Leave a comment

Great interview + mix with my music brother Dave from our Cambridge Super-Ridic click. Thanks for including You Will Never Let Me Fall, from 1996, but also on the new Pete Um on Grist, available on Discogs (ha ha) but also here.


Can't Get Started reviewed in The Wire   1 comment

If I ever wrote for The Wire I like to think it would read a bit like a cross between Clive Bell and Byron Coley, the former for his warmth and lucidity and the latter because he’s fuckin’ Byron Coley, dude! But that’s just what I like to think. Anyway, Mr Coley wrote something about something I did ages ago, it occurs to me now, and Mr Bell has recently done me the honour too. I’m really pleased with this review, so thanks very much.


Pete Um
Can’t Get Started
Grist 0005

It takes a while to enter Pete Um’s world: his songs are brief, dense and ramshackle; he revels in a reviewer’s dismissal of his live act as “grindingly awkward shithop”, and wears his self-doubt on his sleeve. Can’t Get Started is an ironic title, for Um is prolific across videos, blogs and music. But this 10″, a condensed Best Of, is a remarkable, coherent document, an excellent introduction to Um’s misfit creativity. Whoever compiled this, possibly associate Nochexxx, interviewed alongside Um for an article mapping the Alternative Cambridge music scene (The Wire 325) – has selected melancholy gems rather than eccentric freakouts. These 17 songs don’t waste your time, and repeated listenings underscore Um’s talent for crafting poetic vehicles carrying memories of Holger Czukay and Syd Barrett.
One of Barrett’s last songs was “Wolfpack”, and here is Um’s “Wolves”, in which the pursuing pack seems to be music itself. In spite of its howling and chanting, the song is delicate, a study of vulnerability. The subject recurs in “Built To Spill”, and “You Will Never Let Me Fall” has Syd-alike vocals, bathed in reverb and quivering guitar: “I’m a slow bomb, I’m a sad boy, but I will cure myself before you cure me.” Once you accept Um’s ad hoc working methods, realisation dawns that there isn’t a weak track here, and if there’s a fault, it’s that everything is too short. Um has an answer for that too: the sexual innuendo of “That’s Too Close”, in which a girl with sparkly lipstick chides him for not making his songs longer.

Clive Bell.



Oh yeah, hopefully there’ll be some actual real-life online record stores carrying this effort soon too, which is partly why I’m writing this, but if it isn’t embarrassing to buy your emotional ruin porn direct and you use the evil that is paypal or have some other clever suggestion then leave a comment or pete[dot]um[at]ntlworld[dot]com or however you’re supposed to express that. It’s going to be roughly £8 before p&p if yr in the UK, & if you wanted to talk about deals on CD-Rs to go with it you will find me very amenable.

Posted January 17, 2012 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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Just like that.   Leave a comment

Bless my favourite Shirt for writing nice things about the new record and the general daft gesamtkunstwerk.

8< 8< 8< 8<


Can't get started.

Where to start?

Don't get me started.

Magic; let's talk about magic. Pete Um as magician; a Pocket Gin-and-tonic Conjurer. A man for all seasons, a mobile intelligent one-man unit. A bag of ice in his pocket, his heart on his sleeve. A good magician never reveals the secrets that sit beneath their tricks; but the best magicians reveal theirs as part of the trick – they pretend to show you the hidden infrastructural underpinnings – and still make you gasp. And so it is that UM presents us with a series of seemingly normal objects – items for us to examine – does this thing with his imaginary songwriter's hand – a gesture that's the musician's equivalent of the white-gloved observe! – the preamble, the pre-reveal, the precursor to behold!, the bit where they invite an audience-member up on stage to acknowledge there is nothing odd or different or out-of-the-ordinary about this hat / pair of handcuffs / length of rope – how could their be?- "look how normal it seems" (Now, nod and agree. Thank you.) – and Pete, when he prepares to sing (or when one of his tracks sits there patiently on a platter of vinyl, a layer of ferrous tape, a reflective surface, waiting to be played; about to be played), kinda does the same: he seems to shrug, hestitate, luxuriate in his own seeming insouciance and say "look at how short, how superficially simple these things – these songs – appear to be. How ordinary, how normal – are we not all agreed then that there is nothing special about them? Nothing supernatural?"

But then he starts – the song starts – and the magic floods out. A minute-and-a-bit later, it finishes and we realise we've been tricked. Hoodwinked. "But that's…"

It's magic!

Next time, we swear, we won't be fooled. We'll watch more carefully. This is easy; I've got it now; just pay attention and we'll spot how he did it. No probs. You won't get us this time.

Ah…damn. He did it again.

And again.

"My shelving collapses from records I chase."

In the same way that a stage-magician pulls you in – makes you look where he wants you to look – we're wrong-footed, we don't get what we expected. He pretends to apologise, to stumble, be unsure – he's like bloody Tommy Cooper or something – but that's just stage-craft, see? That's magic – Ooops! What's this? – an ironing-board, pulled out of a hat, a ping-pong-ball pops out from a nostril. Oh! It's…it's a play on words, a sour observation, a moment I can never have back. You think he can't possibly surprise you any more – you think you've got his measure now, but – behold! – ah, no…that's, uh…

Each song is a world in miniature, a slice of his life (and yours), a mood, a series of micro-observations, little letters hand-written in biro on a letter from the heart. The voice, the words, the delivery…they draw you in, like the magician's white-gloved hand: the voice, close-mic'd / densely compressed / often multi-tracked – the listener is in the singer's throat now – inhabiting the song / the moment / the feeling – and it's like living inside a cavern, the uvula like some monstrous stalactite, a sculpture – and we are drawn do-o-o-own into each tiny sound-world, gasping when we emerge, breathless, on the other side. We blink in the sunlight, sit and exhale on the little bit of vinyl that sits, unscored, between tracks. "Huh? What..what just happened then?" But while we're in there, while we're in the midst of things – while we're being hypnotised – we grin, gurn and cringe with pleasure and not-quite-pleasure with each, uh…at the recognition of emotional states we can't quite put a name to – that maybe we don't want to – we laugh at our own recognition of the ordinary, at how it's been refurnished and sold back to us – we shudder at his bravery, at his nerve, his openness, his willingness to entertain at his own expense. We applaud ourselves for listening. It's like…being dragged through a word-hedge backwards, then forwards, then back again, each time a different view, different sensations, different soft and scratchy bits…at the end of it all, our skin itches, our faces are flushed, we laugh with exhilaration. And relief.

It's magic!

How did he do that?

Ten inches. An auto-compiled Greatest Hits, kind of. It's a long story, one partially related in typical Um round-the-houses fashion.

"My fatal flaw."

Sounds…tumble out, sometimes in a superfically haphazzard (is that one 'z' or two?) way, but just as our brains have caught the flow – figured it out (a process that takes approximately 1.19 minutes) – the song has ended, leaving us with the afterglow of recognition – of having figured out the puzzle just as the next one begins. And I think Pete knows this too on some preternatural level and maybe this explains his preferred song-length, except for when he does something different.

And, so…

Queasy, sea-sick existential shanties, sax-blart, ring-tone Casio pings for punctuation, lurching comic-macabre waltzes, a quiet, 'broody' sense of unease, random animal noises, Brechtian interior Nano-Soap-Opera set to groovebox beats and blarps, shuffling vintage drum-machine puhh-chuuft…puh-chffft…lurching Residential riddims, pre-sets reset to a default of Wrong, the one-minute masterpieces of Commercial Album stripped of their shrill hysterical pseudo-Fudd-isms and extended outwards by 25%, 'Anglised' and made new and whole, the vocals replaced by That Voice – that densely dry / wry / I wanna-cry mock-Hancockian world-view, sometimes plaintive, sometimes aggreived, sometimes resigned, sometimes stoned – That Voice which sometimes seems to come from so far Within, yet is equally capable of splaying outwards, of multiplying itself, folding and twisting and warbling its way through modulators and envelopes, helium-chirruping and down-pitching an escape-route out into some impossible, barely imagined Outside: a world – worlds – without end. A shed, a box-room, a lean-to, a spare-room, a bed-sit concertinas ow-ow-ow-ow-outwards, xeroxes itself, becomes crazed permutations and false copies of itself, becomes different, special…

The ordinary is transformed into something…else. The ordinary becomes tender. It's exposed – left hung out to dry – revealed in the cold light of day as…something else.


"It's all Grist," he'd say and pull a daft face.

Which is his way of saying, "Give me something – anything – a hankerchief, a ring, a notepad, a bag of ice, some gin – yes, you, sir! – empty out your pockets…give me anything you like, anything you fancy – the first thing you find – and I'll turn it into something…amazing. Something that'll surprise you. I'll turn it into a song."

"Give me a piece of your heart and I'll give you a piece of mine."


So, it wasn't just because I was performing with Ergo Phizmiz that I packed my Fez for Bridport lol.


Posted December 17, 2011 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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