Ume - Urgent Sea (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Urgent Sea (2005)

Pretty Activity

Urgent Sea is false advertising at its absolute worst.

The album art looks like something that would appear on a Mastodon record. A vivid, colorful painting depicting some sort of large sea monster on top some massive, splashing waves. The problem is that Ume is much more akin to a heavy dose of Blonde Redhead and a dash of My Bloody Valentine than those metal giants.

The songwriting is dominated by choppy, angular guitars, raspy female vocals, and sudden bursts of raw power after periods of relative complacency. Take the aptly titled "Hurricane," which provides a bouncy, choppy rhythm section, that at times explodes into squalling guitars without any sort of notice or prior indication. The tone early on is one of some sort of impending backlash, but it's never seen, as the heavy squalls come and go as quickly as their oceanic counterparts. "Shake Down" opens up with that same heavy squalling, maybe even reminiscent of Converge, but then slowing to a real sludgy pace with some thick bass interludes and the occasional moments in which the heavy guitar returns.

The rhythms and general instrumentation on this album are really outstanding, but the same cannot truly be said for the vocals, which do more harm than good. The way they're presented doesn't appear to suit, or flow well with the music. Singer and guitarist Lauren Langer's grating style just doesn't do much for any of these songs, that would in all likelihood sound much more cohesive without them altogether. They don't help the direction, and they break up the flow. Take the latter half of "Manic," for instance, where the trio is able to actually let loose, resulting in one of the best songs on the entire album, ending in a real noisy explosion of guitar, drums, and bass. It's songs like that in which you can tell that the band has a good amount of talent, and are capable of writing good music, if only certain things weren't holding them back. The hectic chord progressions and pounding bass don't do much in the way of relenting, but "Push Me Pull You" really brings back the vocals that had hampered the rest of the album.

As a guitarist, Langer is terrific, with quite an obvious feel for the music and ability let go and just destroy, but her vocals never quite come into their own. Maybe next time.