Umberto - Night Has a Thousand Screams

Boston, 1942 - This is a dark place to open an album. I am... unsettled.

Christ, this is tense stuff. Very much in the John Carpenter soundtrack mould, but it's utterly absorbing.

Umberto is Matt Hill, a multi-instrumentalist from Kansas City who is keen on film scores. This particular album came about when Stuart Braithwaite watched him score a video nasty at the Glasgow Film Festival, and while it's sometimes hard to reconcile a film score without the film, in this case the music stands alone.

Hill crafts some deeply tense synth backgrounds here, punctuated at moments with distressing stabs (no doubt indicating a grizzly end) and a low end with purpose. The beats and bass really hold the fog like swirls of synth together, binding the sound into an unsettling groove before a eureka moment brings a fuller sound on board in The Investigation. This is textured, clever stuff and it sounds fanbloodytastic.

As the music was conceived as a film score it retains a cinematic feel. You move with the story and it's very easy to create visuals in your head that correspond to the horror in your ears; a freshman college student meeting a stranger in the college grounds; the still night pierced by a desperate scream; a community gripped with tension and fear as the body count rises, growing ever grizzlier with each death; a jaded detective, determined to solve one last case.

Ach, the film's probably pish but this is a finely crafted album nonetheless. If only every soundtrack sounded like this.

The bravest thing here is the space that Hill has left. It's tempting to layer sounds needlessly, just because you can. Thankfully, he realises that emptiness and space generate a bit more tension, lending more power to the moments when a bigger sound takes over. This is a cracking album that will reward repeat listening. More of this please!


Umberto - Night Has A Thousand Screams is released by Rock Action on the 26th of November.

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