Russell Mills/Undark: Pearl + Umbra

mil-pu.jpg (28k) Russell Mills/Undark: Pearl + Umbra
(Bella Union - 1999)

Applying his artistic sensibilities and graphic design skills to the construction/reconstruction of sound, Russell Mills (as Undark, along with Tom Smyth) creates Pearl + Umbra, a sonic collage pieced together from the contributions of many other artists, including stellar names like Harold Budd, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Bill Laswell, and Paul Schutze. Dig further in this month's AmbiEntrance Exclusive interview with Mills.

Dark, beaty and envigorating, canyon: split asunder swirls with energy as abstract electronics and vocal samples ooze through loosely-structured bass riffs and enthusiastic drum patterns. swallow crystals simmers quietly then gains power, stirred by bass, drum and surging synthsounds, only to recede again to its latent, coiled state. Enticing desolation and haze surrounds the rooms of the sixteen shimmers where David Sylvian's whispery vocals are heard.

From a quietly sweltering murk, all wise fly (pneuma) (3:49) erupts with e-growls, pounding beats and jazzy cornet blasts, all of which cycle, ripple and fluctuate before fading away. Mills, along with Smyth and Robin Guthrie wrote shed lustre (6:27), whose lyrics are sung by Ali Foster alongside a smooth guitar and a fuzzy rhythm. a swoon in the amber is a chasmic void, emitting gray vapours and distant almost-musical sounds. From that fog appears ghostlike remnants of a choir, and reverberating beats, then a shift in the sonic winds brings a rising swell of lightness, which reveals hidden vocal patterns.

Poweful and sinuous bass patterns groove through causes cause causes meeting with assorted digital processes and a seething spate of guitar frenzy. In heaven dips, Sussan Deyhim's always-welcome vocals are layered in a wordless mantra, hazily rendered over a quietly spacious backdrop of shimmer and sporadic bass wanderings. In some juxtapositional zone of gritty smoothness,cage of air holds an energetic, bass-powered musical entity which explodes into wicked guitar growls and drumbeats.

Soft and flowing, golden hair features Clodagh Simonds vocals turning a medievalish lyric (by James Joyce) against a background of harmonium drift and assorted textural treatments, including what seems to be a faraway jet roar. Within the slur of all wise fly (grapes and bones), one hears rolling brasswaves, electronic mists, drumbeats, spattering cymbals, streams of synth and more. Lolling bassline and e-radiance surround the slightly dark instrumental gleam and drag to be joined by occasional guitar and self-mirroring keyboard riffs.

Like any well-executed collage, Pearl + Umbra is a multi-faceted whole of unified parts, and intriguing in both states. (Mills' own artistic collagework decorates the several panels of the digipack with a decidedly rough-edged beauty.) Kudos to Russell Mills and friends for this most interesting 8.7 experimental musical pastiche. If there's anything else you need to know after reading Mills' interview, check his page in the Bella Union artists' pages. 8-7.gif
This review posted October 27, 1999

AmbiEntrance © 1999-97 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).