Who: Alexander ‘Alexx’ Kretov (from Ukraine - all instruments, vocals & composition) and Shauna McLamon (from Canada - lyrics, vocals & arrangements). Both live in the now very troubled Ukraine.
Sounds: a varied cocktail of dreampop landscapes and post-rock soundsadelica with seductive vocals… think Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, Sigur Ros, Massive Attack and related artists…
Works: two albums… ’ Antigravity’ and ‘Ummagma’ both released in 2012…
'Music Is The Dope' says: 'Rotation' is a crescendo burning track of synthesizers and drums getting bigger and bigger, louder and louder… heavenly !
After listening to their two, sometimes quite eccentric sounding, albums I wanted to know more about the duo and about what it’s like being an artist in a now violent and traumatised country. I found Shauna ready to do some Q & A… Hello Shauna, pleased to meet you…
Where and when was Ummagma conceived?
"Alexx and I met in Moscow in 2003 at a concert, which was a really great place to meet, since we were relaxed and hanging out with the band members after their show. Alexx is from Ukraine and I’m from Canada, but we were both living in Moscow at that time. Neither of us could stop talking about music and we eventually got on the topic of our own involvement in music and decided to jam the next day. We stunned each other, so decided this was worth co-creating… Already 10 years have passed – our beautiful history…"
Is there a connection between Pink Floyd’s album ‘Ummagumma’ and your band’s name?
"Yes, but there’s a twist about how we came to use this name. Ummagma was a handle that my husband was using way back then on various forums dedicated to photography and music gear. Then it became his email address and that’s when I noticed it. It’s apparently short for Ummagumma, Pink Floyd’s 4th studio album. We liked it enough to ‘adopt’ it for our own band. Pink Floyd have been an inspiration for us with their soundscapes and diverse visions, so it felt natural."
What’s the story behind ‘Rotation’, our ‘Track of The Day’?
"We wrote it when we were both living in Moscow, Russia. It’s about cruxes that we as individuals and a society have gotten ourselves into “On the other side of joy, seems you’ve been cornered by captivity. And there’s no way of breaking free. You’re head is full of noise that can’t be drowned out by your radio”. We can only go up from here… I hope.”
I don’t find any trace of Ummagma playing gigs. No live performances?
"Yeah, life seems to have pushed us in a different direction. That’s not to say it won’t happen someday, but for now, it hasn’t been in the cards. Since releasing our 2 debut albums in 2012, we’ve been handling our own design, promotion and sometimes making videos, while also organizing other videos, remixes, giving interviews, pedaling our wares to fans and to other movers and shakers in the music industry. To boot (and this is the important part), we’ve been recording a lot of material and are planning multiple releases this year – two LPs on Emerald & Doreen Recordings (Germany) and 2-3 on Ear to Ear Records (UK). Plus videos and remixes… so, as you can imagine, we’ve been busy campers. All that time not touring has been put to good use."
Many of your dreamy songs would be perfect for a movie’s soundtrack. What movie would you choose for your music?
" I agree about them being dreamy and ideal for a soundtrack. I definitely think it would be good for a film that has never been created, which is why we are open to working with filmmakers in future. It’s also hard to say what existing movie’s soundtrack would be ideal for our music, since the range of films that would be suitable is likely as wide as the musical genres we play – we’re fusion masters, mixing dreampop, shoegaze, postpunk, ethereal wave, alternative pop, progressive rock, postrock and ambient. The list even goes on actually. The challenge now, to make that happen, would be to find a reliable sync-licensing agent. If anyone knows of one, please contact us."
What’s the best music you’ve heard so far this year?
"Well, I wouldn’t be lying if I said it’s the music on our Ummagma album and also the music we’ll be releasing on our joint LP with Moscow’s Sounds of Sputnik, which we should be issuing soon. We’ll be crowdfunding for these, by the way, so stay tuned. People can follow us on www.facebook.com/ummagma over the next month to be aware of our developments and when the campaign launches (there will be early bird bonuses). Apart from that, I’m very much loving Lights That Change, Solarein, The Stargazer Lilies, Jane Woodman, Clarence Mayhew, and Strata Florida (that’s Louise Trehy’s new project. You might remember her from that 4AD dreampop duo Swallow). Her album will be coming out soon and her preview tracks are simply awesome. The same goes for Jaq Gallier, who has just signed with Alan McGee’s 359 Records. That stuff is gorgeous.”
What’s your artistic ambition in the long run?
"Oh, I think we have loads of dreams and goals, but there is likely no point when we would say “OK, we’ve achieved what we wanted” and then retire or something. There would just be new things we’d want to do after that. In any case, it’s important that both of us keep making music that we both love and that we continue to grow through this process – as individuals and also to grow together. We’d like to capture light and grow it through our music, spreading it to as many people as possible. I think that is a never-ending process. "
What do you think about the dramatic situation and deadly riots in your country?
" This is an incredibly tragic event in the history of Ukraine and a sore spot for all of Europe, with such a great cost in human lives. Everyone here is in shock. It’s one thing to watch it on the news from your home in Europe or North America – it’s another to live through this. My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered over this, including some of the families in the town where we live. What will happen to this country in future remains questionable. This has been three months of great tension and I am looking forward to a return to normalcy. Alexx has been through several revolutions already in this country and this is my second, but nothing has ever been so bloody as this. We have been challenged to continue creating music and videos and artwork during this period and have done our best to keep our mind on that. Soon you will see the results with numerous Ummagma releases ahead of us this year. We strove to deliver beauty and harmony in the face of adversity and conflict and I hope you will also feel that this is what we have achieved. Keep your eyes and ears on us this year. You won’t be sorry… "
Links to the Band:
Their two albums on bandcamp… http://ummagma.bandcamp.com/
Music Is the Dope - February 27, 2014