Matt Hill’s work as Umberto carves out its own niche with a blood-dripping machete, echoing soundtracks to Suspiria and John Carpenter films. Last year’s Night Has A Thousand Screams was literally written as a score to an ’80s Spanish horror flick. His new disc, Confrontations, is more body-snatcher than horror slasher, the anxious fear more related to peering at the glowing horizon than over the shoulder at the murderer chasing you through the woods.
Separating Umberto from the context of classic soundtracks is difficult; the retro synths, grainy album covers, and narrative-structured song titles combine to evoke laserdisc as much as LP. A song titled “The Invasion” and the lost highway light show covering Confrontations reference Close Encounters of the Third Kind, intentionally or not. The retro futurism of the sci-fi films of that era works in Hill’s favor, though. The choral synth tones and outdated electronic percussion on “Night Fantasy” are as far away from modern music as the futures presented in those films are from our present.
While the high end on Night Has A Thousand Screams quavered, the multi-part phaser bursts on “Confrontation” squiggle and dance through the air withUFOs darting over the ominous bass drones. Dealing with “high-tech” subject matter similarly sees his production quality a little cleaner, the shimmering layers of “The Summoning” crystalline and pulsing.
That said, there’s still something clearly off about the scenes that Hill presents, a readily apparent danger. The minor key screw-twists and ceaseless vocal moans in “Initial Revelation” are eerie enough, but then the climax’s dentist drill synth drone pushes things into wide-eyed anxiety. The album moves from the hazy opening of a “Night Fantasy” all the way into the real thing: “The Invasion”. The music, unfortunately, lacks the drama inspired by that title, instead leaving the extra-terrestrial tale lingering on a flat, drum-machine laden landscape.
Essential Tracks: “The Summoning”, “Night Fantasy”