While I could simply write this music a short review and point out notes of Talking Heads, Ladytron, Norah Jones, shoegaze jazz and upbeat synth pop coming through, I’d rather tell you all a story.
And then I learned that was a song that was actually written by Dolly Parton. I don’t remember if it was because I was still living in my world as a child and so I was oblivious to Whitney Houston not writing the song or if I was just so uninterested in country music that I wasn’t aware of it, but I’ll say a little bit of both.
This can be seen a lot of other times throughout history. Alien Ant Farm covered Michael Jackson in a pop rock way. Fearless Records has albums dedicated to punk bands covering non-punk songs. Even more recently, I Shot the Duck Hunt Dog did an 8bit version of “Bad Romance”, though admittedly, Lady Gaga and 8bit isn’t that far of a stretch.
So at its core, we can all agree that music is essentially universal—it’s notes on paper. A song from one genre can very easily be translated and changed into another, completely different sounding genre.
For me, when I listen to this album, what I hear is the result of what I believe would happen if someone like Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker sat down and wrote a great jazz album. Then you have to imagine Ummagma takes this jazz album and says, “Well, that’s nice and all, but here, let’s us put our shoegaze/synth pop take on it”. Only the most remarkable part of this all is that this is just the way that Ummagma is making their music. They’re not covering a jazz band.