I first discovered Austin, Texas based Ume with the release of their 2011 Phantoms album and ever since I have admired the music of this three-piece, which the late Anthony Bourdain perfectly described as “A shitload of rawk in a tiny room”. They have now returned after a four-year hiatus, during which lead singer extraordinaire Lauren Larson gave birth and took time to help her new daughter Domino get a start in life.
In the interim period Lauren spent many hours in her “Mom Cave”, writing lyrics and music for the band’s new album, Other Nature, which drops on 20th July 2018, on Modern Outsider and Dangerbird Records.
Ume is made up of vocalist Lauren, who is also one of the finest female guitarists of her generation, her husband Eric Larson on bass guitar, and Aaron Perez on drums. They also get live show support on guitars from Don Cento.
A lot can happen in four years, especially when developing a family, and the proceeds of the time off have enriched this band in many ways. The power and fury are still there, but the reflection and maturity are a fantastic outcome of the turbulence and change associated with their experiences during the time off.
Jimi summed it up best:
“Are you experienced?
Ah! Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have.”
“Ah, let me prove it to you”.
Like the “Show Me State”, Ume show, but don’t tell.
The album opens with Crushed; a drum blast with Lauren percolating the guitar in the background, before she reaches from her experience and with a soft, yet direct voice warns, “Do not grow up!”. Yes, despite maturing, don’t lose the excitement of youth. The song has a feel of something from the Starfish album by The Church, not the jarring, straight to the face, guitar pounce of the past, but a more mature, coil and choose when to strike delivery. An awesome opening track that just welcomes you back to the band as if there had not been a four-year break. It is also well-planned advice for a developing daughter.
They follow it with Two Years Sleep, which almost brought tears to my eyes at the opening. The guitar lead Lauren plays is so Chameleons U.K., you can almost hear Reg Smithies or Dave Fielding from Script of the Bridge. It is awesome, but then the song becomes theirs again, as Lauren sings, “Waking up after two years sleep… I cannot watch you sleep”. You can hear the reflection in her voice, of her feeling of watching a child or loved one sleep, while at the same time anticipating the time when she can again take the stage and rawk. Trying to achieve balance in life, always a difficult but maturing element.
Don’t You Worry has a little of that Chameleons sound again, only this time there is a more upbeat pace and rhythm that makes it all Ume. Then Lauren sings, “Let it flow”, complete with “Do, do dos”. “Don’t you worry I’m getting along… draggin’ my feet… but I’m gonna let it go!”. A bouncy, upbeat song, Lauren experiments with some interesting guitar concepts, while in the background her guitar growls to the sound of the deep bass and thumping rhythm of the drums. Fire in Your Hands, on the other hand, starts off slow with Lauren’s softer tone: “Have I lost myself in doubt? I just figured it out?”, the pace picking up with Eric’s bass and cymbals and drums from Aaron. A grinding and at times shimmering rock story.
Those softer toned vocals also feature in After the Show as the acid guitar work Lauren creates in the background bleeds across the soundscape like a Chameleon’s sky painting. Bass punctuated by drums and cymbals fills the track, finishing with one of the best guitar solos on the album. The Center goes back to more traditional Ume sounds, that “tip toe” guitar, running around the back of your brain. Lauren’s vocal speeds up as her lead guitar runs circles around the soundscape, you can just imagine her running around the stage as she sings, “Lost your sense of gravity. Floating…”. Yep, like that…
BDY DBL is a power guitar track, Lauren singing, “You are the girl I wanted to know”. Maybe this is about her new daughter, or it could be about meeting her idol Nancy Wilson a few years back. Maybe it’s both. Stop Resisting is slower paced, guitars and drum calmly opening and welcoming, the tempo and volume picking up as Lauren sings these great words:
“Fear over and over in my mind.
You wait for me to stop resisting
I will build us a tower
So that you can see all of those things I could never be…
I could never be enough.
I just want to feel it
I don’t want to stop it
Reaching out to me
Trying to find the need to rise.”
Iris is one of the best tracks on an album full of keepers with some of Lauren’s best vocals saved for this second to last track. The guitar notes are different and uniquely resounding, the echoing, almost ghostly sound of Lauren’s vocals captured so well by the band, filling the soundscape with emotion and warmth as the guitars rip all around you. Simply symphonic… in its own way.
Underneath has more of those ghostly, echoing Lauren vocals, only this time the band delivers an acoustic song. Strong drums and percussion, but Lauren’s best vocals and probably the best track on the album. I really do love the acoustic sound of this band, the guitars are powerful if only for their absence on the rest of the album. What a wonderful surprise closer. Please… more in the future.
Yes, the band do “prove it all night” on this album, from end to end. Get it and revel in the mystery of this band and its positive evolution. Ume has achieved their Other Nature on this album… and I like it. I think you will too.
Ume may have been “A shitload of rawk in a tiny room”, but now I think they have matured to the level of an “insurgent in a sea of mediocracy”.
01. Crushed (3:21)
02. Two Years Sleep (4:10)
03. Don’t You Worry (3:54)
04. Fire In Your Hands (3:32)
05. After The Show (4:41)
06. The Center (3:50)
07. BDY DBL (4:04)
08. Stop Resisting (3:15)
09. Iris (3:36)
10. Underneath (4:00)
Total Time – 38:23
Lauren Larson – Guitar, Vocals
Eric Larson – Bass
Aaron Perez – Drums