Umami played their first show in like months last weekend. I know this because when I started this blog, I started looking forward to when I would get to review Umami.
Umami formed after another great band, Figure, had run it’s course. Some people from Figure went different ways with their music, but the guitarist and bassist wanted to keep writing together. So they made a band they first called economy.
economy (no capital) played a few shows before switching to Umami. same band though. Umami is a word that’s a certain type of taste? Realistically, I think it suits their music. it’s a word for a type of taste that I have no understanding of and have never heard before. The music they play is a bit like that too.
They have a blend of post-rock, prog, alternative rock going on. It’s really characterized by unique time signatures, weird fuckin’ changes in songs, leading basslines and quiet yet delightfully creepy vocal tracks. They play with a lot of energy and consistent changes in songs, but somehow that doesn’t lead to anything significantly uplifting.
Something I noticed especially at the Cavern last weekend, when they played last, right after Trampoline, was the pervasive dark tones that move through their music. It was probably extra-noticeable in contrast to the upbeat alternative Modest-Mouse variety of tunes that Trampoline played. Umami has a lot of not quite sad, not quite angry tones going on, though I wouldn’t have called them exactly that until watching this room full of people react.
I’ve been listening to Umami since Figure, and I have a huge appreciation for their music. There’s an intensity that comes with this degree of time and tempo change and energy. They’re a strong group of musicians, all doing especially well at their part in the whole of the band. I was dancing up right in front of the stage at the Cavern, but I think I was one of few people who felt it was a danceable opportunity.
It was interesting to see them perform some new songs. I got lost a couple times in the rhythm of one. I get the feeling these guys build their songs in a different way than the usual band. There’s a number of moving parts, and there’s a big emphasis on subtlety, I mean, often Boreal or Levi is leading the melody. Often Boreal is holding it down for the guitars to play overtop in a light and colourful way. But there’s always the extra element of Madilyn’s guitar playing, which comes with a distinct attitude. She’s strong, her voice is strong (figurative guitar-voice) and her vocal chord voice is strong. Her vocal lines lend another element of that subtlety in their songs.
Each gentle (or rough) note brings another layer to their sound. Their guitar tones sometimes carry this immediate sense, this almost sense of tragedy or necessity that grabs your inner rhythm and brings it to full attention, full elasticity, perching it on some precipice of hardcore dancing (the kicking punching stuff you know?)
I don’t think that the room knew what to do with Umami that night. The performance ranged greatly in emotion and energy, from sort of sad and slow and gentle to upbeat, almost angsty movement. You could tell the band moved as one piece, like they are all very experienced with performing with each other. Some of the tougher rhythms seemed tricky in a moment, but the consistency in expression on each performer’s face pointed to the level of synchronicity and sensitivity to what each performing was doing. They were in tune with themselves.
I realized that night that Umami might be a band I can appreciate a lot more than others might be able to. I’m comfortable with dark, scary, fear, sadness, angst, uncomfortable feelings. I’m comfortable with the resolutions that follow each. I’m comfortable with the sharing of a public experience in these feelings, or in the expression of these feelings.
There were a number of people in the audience cheering for Umami and appreciating their music. But I’m the biggest fan and I danced at the front of the stage.
I would say, if you liked them at the Cavern, your appreciation for them will grow when you’re listening to them alone late at night on your walk home. I’ve made their music seem kind of dark (it is kind of dark) but it’s also filled with passionate and talented expression of some very interesting and creative individuals. It’s sustinance, their music, filled with a thick and hearty serving of humanity and shared experience and rhythmic delight.