Dawn Chorus #7: Umbilica – Where the Land Meets the Ocean

Dawn Chorus #7: Umbilica – Where the Land Meets the Ocean

A beautifully blended album of styles from jazz to alt-rock in this latest release from Umbilica – Where the Land Meets the Ocean – our Dawn Chorus for Tuesday 1 October 2019. 

Umbilica Where the Land Meets the Ocean artworkArtist: Umbilica
Album: Where the Land Meets the Ocean
Label: self-released
Year of release: 2019
Genre: alt-rock, jazz-pop, folk-punk

Stand still here, upon the shore, and let your gaze lay across the sea. Follow the water beyond the shushing waves below, and out, out, out across the impossible unbroken expanse to the horizon where colour meets colour in a hazy line you have to imagine as much as view. Darkness bleeds in from the edges as suddenly the air rises against you, and the sea churns.

In under four and half minutes of title track ‘Where the Land Meets the Ocean’ – from the latest album by Umbilica – goes from the calm of gently played folksy verses to a huge cymbal-crashing chorus with jazz affectations before the swell recedes again. It opens an album which is best listened to while cosseted away, letting the sounds swaddle you from whatever storm you are weathering and which musically passes between folk storytelling, gentle acoustic strumming, simple piano composition, and vocals from the songwriter behind the Umbilica name – Josephine Lewis – beginning to mature toward jazz greatness.

The voice is very much used as an instrument throughout the album – tantalising oscillations up and down scales employed on ‘Easy’, while it dances in perfect partnership with strings on ‘Home, Right Before It Crumbled’. Occasionally the hesitation and almost apology of earlier releases peeks through, but it is fleeting for this is an album which finds solid ground and even through reflection and some heartache retold it is with growth Umbilica and we are rewarded.

Lead single ‘Butterfly’ is a mellow moment, with lilting jazz-pop melody and vocal to match, which lyrically addresses that growth and change. “Why are we so drawn to butterflies?” the words ask us, and a thousand parts of this album fall into place. The desire to be seen and loved as ourselves, the journey from darkness to beauty, from being land-locked to flight.

By the time we get to seven-minute closer ‘Nowhere Feels Like Home’ there is a touch of Emmy the Great’s First Love about the more lo-fi sound, and the storytelling on offer, but the comparison only serves to make the new feel comfortingly familiar rather than something done replayed. There is more pop here than perhaps elsewhere but its simply done and subtle, an invite to listen rather than an overwhelming force with some Davey Graham-esque picking to add a little intrigue and quirk. It leaves off with the sound of the sea, just as the record began, and we are returned to that cliff-top vigil where we watch the moods of the ocean and feel our own insides swell and retreat in response.

Understated as a release ‘Where the Land Meets the Ocean’ holds some beautiful moments worth seeking out and is a well-placed step from a songwriter finding confidence in herself and her art.

Find Umbilica:

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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