Ninja Tune and Technicolour have been on a frightening run of form these past few years. Releases by artists such as Hieroglyphic Being and Jay Daniel have been rattlingly on point. Remarkably, that consistency continues with this excellent album by Brooklyn-based Umfang, nee Emma Burgess-Olson. In fact, with Symbolic Use Of Light, it may only be nine tracks but there is the sense of a whole night in clubland contained within one record. From low-key moody entry to thumping peak time jollies, it’s all here.
Co-founder of the Discwoman collective, Umfang has already stretched across the water to play Corsica Studios and the still-hallowed Berghain. Whatever her abilities as a DJ – I know not, though the calibre of bookings suggests someone pretty special – it’s not hard to see why ears would be pricked on the strength of the material here. All nine efforts are class. Stripped back, efficient, no-nonsense class. Club techno, through and through.
So you get something like ‘Weight‘ – it may have an echoing, almost church organ like riff orbiting the straight down the line drum track but it’s essentially very simple and very bare. Functional techno but all the better for it. That almost not there riff is the sort to be naggingly remembered when spat out from a club into the morning sunlight.
‘Where Is She‘ is even more down to the wire. Described correctly by Umfang herself as essentially just a loop, that’s exactly what it is. Exactly, give or take the hefty kick drum doing it’s four four thing. However, it’s the sort that drills into the brain even on a wet Wednesday afternoon. Oh to hear it peak time in the night over a big system. In fact, it’s that classic sort of track that begs to be worked with two copies for ten minutes minimum instead of its actual duration of five.
You do get more downtempo moments of introspection. ‘Path‘, again a deceptively simple looping effort is effectively beatless. That said, even whilst burbling along it does offer the odd feisty crescendo. Certainly a useful DJ tool as well as enjoyable in its own right.
Umfang is a welcome presence on the scene at the moment. Whilst Symbolic Use Of Light is perhaps too club-focussed to step massively out into the mainstream, it does demonstrate deeply impressive production skills. And, if you’re the sort of person who likes banging, loopy, circular music even when not in some pit at 3am, the album really will hit the spot. It’s perhaps not original enough or creating a new aesthetic to really hit higher scores and notes but it’s damned effective and thumping quality from start to finish.
Uncompromising stuff and an artist to keep a keen eye on.