Umbra was a collaborative effort between Scott Candey of Gruntsplatter and Stephen Petrus of Murderous Vision. The idea for doing a collaborative project arose in late 1998. Despite one of us being in California and the other in Ohio, by early 1999 we had completed enough material for a full length release as well as contributing a track to the “Baited Breath” double cassette compilation.
In early April 1999 Stephen visited San Francisco and we were able to play what would be our one and only show. This performance was recorded, released as a very limited edition CDR titled, “Perish: A Live Document”.
The full length album, “Unclean Spirit”, was released by The Rectrix Records as their debut offering. It shows a varied approach while remaining within the sphere of dark experimental. Moving from dark ambient to more abusive, grating textures, “Unclean Spirit” also wove in rhythmic elements that shifted from meditative ritualism to tantruming machinery. It is a diverse but cohesive listen. Rooted in a dirty lo-fi aesthetic it emerged as a project unique unto itself. In addition to nine brand new tracks “Unclean Spirit” also features a track using the album material as soundsource reinterpreted by Azoikum and a more ambient mix of “The Conscious Dead,”which appeared on the “Baited Breath” compilation.
There are no current plans for additional Umbra material.
“V/A – Baited Breath” – Track “The Conscious Dead” – DMC
limited to 100 – Live Bait Recording Foundation – Nov. 1998
“Perish : A Live Document” – CDR
limited to 30 – Live Bait Recording Foundation/Crionic Mind – September 1999
“Unclean Spirit” – CD
limited to 500 – The Rectrix – December 1999
Umbra is Scott E. Candey (Gruntsplatter, head of the Crionic Mind label) and Stephen B. Petrus (In Death’s Throes, head of the Live Bait Recording Foundation label). They perfectly meld the Gruntsplatter Armageddon Noise Grind dynamics (a type of post-apocalyptic sonic haven built on destruction) with the In Death’s Throes eerie, more darkly sinister inclinations. Oscillating, humming feedback chews through the ground bones ambience of “The Valley Of Dry Bones,” Scott’s destructive tendencies barely held at bay as the ambience is smothered in distortion. “Tangled Gullet” weaves anxious tones into a wall of crackling, radiantly alive sound. The compelling balance showcases what the novice noise listener might miss-the inherent language of each layer, the emotional pull of each layer, as it is peeled to reveal the intricate design at the heart of piece, hence, the inherent anxiety. Voices swim below a slow throbbing rumble of noise during “Stacking The Dead,” the brain numb from the death work at hand. “Spiders Under The Skin” reverberates in a more haunting, downright ghostly vein, Stephen’s esoteric tendencies on display, murky and discomfiting. The speaker ripping, acid waves tumult of “Washed Up On The Banks” prophesize cataclysmic doom, while more of that damned strangely melodic humming slinks underneath. “Lecher” is the masterpiece, the crystallization of Umbra’s sonic vision, featuring deep, growling noise, slashed and immediately cauterized. The incinerator burn distortion leads one into the molten, melting walls of the abattoir. The tonalities and density of napalm drenched sound has been compressed, allowing no escape, the dripping walls of the abattoir closing in, claustrophobic–brilliant! There’s also a recontextualization of the material on Unclean Spirit by Azoikum, entitled “Husk,” in which the turbulent tides so inherent in the music (an impression of turbulent electronic seas can be gleaned throughout) is brought into focus. Excellent work and reason enough to check out both of these artists’ other projects. (JCS:8) JCS
6/10 – [The Rectrix] Superb artwork, bizarre and dark – as is the music, compliments of members from Gruntsplatter and In Death?s Throes. What we have here is pseudo harsh noise with consistently high levels of sweeping undertones, layered but not complex or confusing. “Poison Control” is an immediate high point, with obvious musical direction and abstract beats without creating a song structure. In cooperation with the artwork, the song titles also add to the visual and audio presentation, there?s a certain ring to the titles? it just fits. Another commendable aspect is the scarce use of samples, which never dominate the compositions (which normally can?t be said for noise acts). Some of the longer tracks don?t hold interest for their duration, and the entire disc is a bit repetitive/similar as a whole. However, this is far better than average, and I?d like to hear more from this project in the future.
MUSIC’S BOTTOM LINE
UNCLEAN SPIRIT is the first full length studio release for Umbra. Those fortunate enough to have basically given away their first born to obtain a copy of PERISH, a limited edition CDR (only 30 copies, 15 East Coast, 15 West Coast!) documenting the first live meeting of the minds, recorded at The Tehama Alley Clit Stop in California, already have an idea of the harsh brutality of sound these two can create. Those of you who don’t, consider yourselves warned! Blistering sound paintings dealing in subject matter with the more grotesque and morbid, the bleak audio assaults will leave you strained and spent.
BOTTOM LINE: Umbra deliver ten tracks of harsh, grinding death ambient mayhem, need I say any more? Buy this disc now!!! Buy it for someone you love, buy it for someone you hate, hell, buy it for both of those bastards, but don’t forget to buy yourself a copy, too!!!
WORM GEAR #9
This project, previously known as Husk, is a collaboration between Stephen Petrus of In Death’s Throes and Scott Candey of Gruntsplatter/Grimes/Cinder Skin/Triage/Blunt Force Trauma, et al., and this is their second release under this moniker, the first being a live CD-R limited to only 30 copies (you didn’t get one? ha! – eat your hearts out, suckers!). The material contained on this CD runs the gamut from quiet, almost meditative ambient to scrape-your-gums-down-a-stucco-wall harsh noise. The individual styles of each musician are pretty easy to discern yet they fit together into something wholly original. Brief melodic statements float eerily on a bed of distorted low-frequency textures, heavily-effected, almost-unrecognizable vocals rage amidst flanged noise, disembodied voices mix with grinding bass foundations, and a melancholy, minor-key feeling somehow pervades these almost entirely atonal pieces. The material on “Unclean Spirit” really differs from so much Noise/Dark Ambient out there now in that this really has structure, with meticulously-crafted, ever-evolving buildups and defined endings. Two interesting notes: the track “The Conscious Dead (Sallow Mix)” is a redoing of the track from the Live Bait Recording Foundation compilation “Baited Breath” which was recorded as Husk; and, this CD’s track “Husk” is a “recontextualization” by AZOIKUM using the material on “Unclean Spirit” as the source. An incredible piece of work to be recommended to those looking for something a little more real than most of what’s out there.