Part-time Houstonians Ume do a rocking Blonde Redhead crossed with early Sonic Youth. Though a little derivative, the mixture is quite alluring, and on Urgent Sea, it yields at least three standout tracks. "Wake" is a thunderous, frightening opener -- until it dissolves into an effortless hook -- "Baby Xie-Xie" captures the ethereal androgyny of Blonde Redhead's last two albums, blending with it a powerful annunciatory riff and squalling noise, and "Hurricane," a bombshell of a single, rivals classic Nirvana in its juxtaposition of energy levels, its structural integrity, and its ingenious simplicity. With enough luck, that song alone could make Ume's career.
Urgent Sea has a definite "first-record" feel, their 2002 demo notwithstanding; there's a lot of youthful, easy energy, but some of the songs seem to have extra sections tacked on at random, and there are a few tracks that just float by without making much of an impression. Part of the problem is a garbled, rushed-sounding mix on three later tracks, "My Sweet Time," "Manic," and "Push Me Pull U." With more time, this might've been stronger as an EP, but even so, my bet is that it'll turn out to be one of the best local records of 2005, if only because it documents the rise of a band that is so charismatic and enthralling. (DM)
(Pretty Activity -- 128 Norman Ave. Apt. 2, Brooklyn, NY. 11222; http://www.prettyactivity.com/; Ume -- http://www.umemusic.com/)
I don't understand the comparison of Brooklyn's The Upwelling to Brian Eno that keeps coming up in their press stuff. To me, they sound more like a more focused, lighter Juno with a little emo flavoring -- which is pretty catchy and damn right interesting. These three boys from various parts of the Northeast are the first unsigned band chosen for Virgin Megastore's "Virgin Recommends Series," and hey, I think they deserve it. This EP starts out with the dreamy, guitar-strumming "In her arms," and transitions in the middle of the next song, "Sam," into the more solid, emo-catchy "Murdered by a Big Bomb" (they remind me so much of the emo/indie bands that played around Houston around 1999 and 2000, like The Maria Project). "Ladder 104" is more spacey, Juno-style rock with pretty, sustained vocals akin to
early Bono. The shimmery, pretty "American Night" brings the EP to a close, and overall, it's lovely to listen to. Give it a try if you enjoy dreamy, slow-building shoegazer rock. (KS)
(self-released; The Upwelling -- http://www.theupwelling.com/)