Towards the Shadow


Northern Spy Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Wume’s music is not for everyone. This Baltimore, MD-based duo flies the krautrock flag high and proud in their abstract minimalist compositions. While Towards The Shadow will appeal only to a very specific kind of listener, it actually has a broader appeal, though for reasons that are not intentional.

This is an album galvanized by rhythm, which always keeps things engaging no matter how obtuse the number. April Camlin, one half of the band, is a drummer. While the group’s music is primarily synth based – Albert Schatz, the other half, is a synth player – the real drums not only give the electronic music an organic feel but make it sound gritty. Although the songs by their very nature are repetitive, Camlin’s drumming is muscular and groovy, to the point that the record’s rhythmic dynamics is its most striking characteristic.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The standout “Shadow,” has powerful drums that intricately weave in between the percussive synths, producing a complex but catchy rhythmic fabric. On “It’s Okay,” the synthesizers are sparse, fading in and out like calming waves, while the drums pound away with utmost vigor that brings upon an interesting juxtaposition of sounds.

Undoubtedly the coolest track here is “Pool Of Light,” where the rhythmic and sound dynamics of this album are at its most brilliant because of the Steve Reich-like repetitive piano and drums construct, upon which the synth layers are slowly built. 

Rhythm rescues the otherwise forgettable instrumental “Ravel” in the form of the play between the bleeps of the synths and the math rock drums, which is a lot of fun. On the other hand, “Blood Moon,” which has no sense of rhythm, turns out a meaningless meandering instrumental.

Towards The Shadow finds Camlin prominently taking up the singing role. However, her vocal performance does not bring as much to the table as the instrumentation; this is fine, considering the musical compositions here work great without vocals, to begin with. However, her robotic vocals on “Walled Garden” truly add a lot of charm to this quirky minimalist number.

On the record’s most lyrically profound cut “Functionary,” Camlin simply reads out texts from the 1955 book Eros And Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Freud by German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Even though the passages read out make for interesting listening, the monotonous delivery and the seemingly LSD-induced combination of lethargic synths and percussions result in a strange and boringly weak track.

A similar prosaic combination of Camlin’s dull singing and clueless synths repeats on the first half of “Gen Seq.” But this is negated by the second half, as the song speeds up and transforms into an exciting symphony of drums and droning synths that appear like they are about to explode, creating some very captivating musical drama.

With its circuitous polyrhythmic cuts and vocals that aren’t pleasing, Towards The Shadow has nonconformity right in its DNA. Given this eccentric nature, it is therefore surprising how imaginative this release is.

Rating: B

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