Boom Boom Satellites’ previous album, Out Loud, was remarkable for successfully incorporating guitars the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy didn’t do back in the major label electronica bidding war of 1997.
But as time progressed, Out Loud revealed itself to be sonic wallpaper — interesting in the details but pretty boring in the big picture.
Umbra, however, takes far more many risks Out Loud ever dared.
The guitars are no less prevalent, but this time out, Boom Boom Satellites are showing off their jazz chops.
“Brand New Battering Ram” is pure be-bop — just heavily processed and accompanied by a stuttering drum ‘n’ bass beat having an identity crisis as a jazz drummer.
On “Ego”, a menancing vocal reverberates amidst clusters of piano chords, freaked-out flute solos and electronic effects that are nothing more than fancily-disguised be-bop solos.
On other tracks, the Satellites lay heavy with the effects the same way Billy Corgan would lay heavy on multitracking metal guitars or Enya would on creating a 500-member chorus of one.
“Sinker” gets dirty with a blues backbeat, but it’s those sliding sirens that give this track its edge.
Public Enemy’s Chuck D sounds totally at home amid the Satellites’ sonic tapesty on the wordily-titled “You’re Reality Is a Fantasy But You’re Fantasy Is Killing Me”.
The album reaches its dramatic apex on “Solilquy”. Over the course of 5’37”, the track builds to an incessant guitar riff hammering away till a loud thud from an echo-y snare drum brings Umbra crashing down.
Out Loud only hinted at what Boom Boom Satellites were truly capable of. Umbra realizes it.
This album goes far beyond what casual listeners may perceive as “electronica”. Although synthesizer effects lay the foundation for the album, its heart totally belongs to jazz, blues and rock.