Sunday, October 06, 2013

Two split releases of note ... Umber / Drops + Apta / Row Boat

First up we have the split between Umber & Drops ... a truly delightful four-track release that features Umber's trademark laid-back approach & Drops' jaunty feel-good soulfulness.

Whilst the split is noticeable (as it should) their styles really complement each other ... bring an overall acoustic-guitar vibe to the EP.

The EP opens with "Clemence" by Umber ... a delightful downtempo piece that is underpinned by acoustic guitar ... then overlaid with further guitar and (I think) accordion or melodeon. These layers really work for me.

Next up is "Too Far Far Away", again by Umber, which follows a similar path as before but with the inclusion of some glockenspiel to further enhance the sound.

Both tracks demonstrate the talent of Umber ... and would be well suited on a ’single’ release on their own. However, we have the added joy of two tracks from Drops.

"Flying Colours" is a celebration of life in all it's fullness. It features a field recording of a bustling market that underpins a jaunty beat and equally jaunty guitar riff. In addition, the acoustic guitar is an equalising force that levels everything out. I really loved this track from the first listen ... it just screams life and a full, vibrant life at that. Lovely!

The last track - "Together" - has a similar vibe. It is an utterly engaging wall of sound with some subtle guitar drones, glockenspiel & vocal harmonies included in the mix.


We then have a split entitled "Fracture" from Apta and Row Boat … out on the 8th of October on Bottled Imp.

Where this split is different from the Umber / Drops EP is that both Apta and Row Boat have remixed the other's original track … so you get one original track each and a remix.

Apta kicks off with a track called "Slowly, Home" … a delightful slow-burner that builds up before his trademark electronics kicks in. I am seriously biased towards Apta's music … and this track demonstrates why: a post-rock expression that has an ebb and flow that really captivates me … that sits nicely with Apta's choice of instrumentation.

We then have Row Boat's remix of "Slowly, Home". In this remix Row Boat manages to capture the essence of Apta's original whilst putting his particularly ethereal spin on it … retaining Apta's vibrant melody. It is an utter delight in a very post-rock manner … not better than the original but definitely on an equivalent footing. Its like Apta but with live instrumentation rather than synths and electronics … I especially love it when the drums kick in!

From there we move to Row Boat's original release - "Kämpaglöd" - a driving, vibrant, head-noddingly upbeat post-rock wall-of-sound that simply captivates me … as most truly cinematic music does. I particularly love the melody played on what sounds like a melodeon … as well as the immersive percussion that gives real breadth to the piece.

Up last is Apta's remix of "Kämpaglöd" … where, again, something new has been created that references the original but takes its own direction. The track is more melancholic in places but counteracted with meaningful glimpses of Apta's vibrance: skittering percussive elements, crunchy beats, repeating electronic motifs; Apta really makes this track his own whilst retaining the spirit of the original.


What really spoke to me with both splits is the creativity and imagination on offer … independent music has never sounded so good!


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