Where The Land Meets The Ocean is Umbilica’s first album and was released on September 21st 2019. Umbilica is a project by musician and writer Josephine Lewis, who wrote the album and performed the guitar, piano and vocals.
Josephine describes ‘creating space for both solo and collaborative performance [as] essential to the Derbyshire-based Umbilica project’, with the album featuring Cellist Sarah Newby from Derbyshire folk duo Spindrift, drummer Stephen Irlam and bassist Joe Louis Wilson (both formerly of Manchester’s The Rainband) and lead guitarist Dale McKillop (formerly of Derby rock outfit The Park Bench). The album was largely recorded and mixed at Snug Recording Co in Derby, with engineer-producers Robin Newman and Richard Collins.
“This first-person voice is a haunting presence, shifting throughout the album as each song encompasses different scenarios and characters”
Prior to releasing this album came Umbilica’s 2016 EP Ocean, featuring the songs ‘Ocean’, ‘Lovers’ and ‘Home, Right Before It Crumbled’. The latter two tracks also feature on this album, which develops Josephine’s lyrical story-telling and thematic connection of emotions and natural landscape.
“The entire album alternates between multi-layered instruments creating dissonance and depth with sparser arrangements creating softer-sounding songs: perhaps mimicking the turbulence of the sea”
Josephine’s background as a writer and poet informs her music, with her lyrics full of metaphor and imagery whilst exploring the lyrical ‘I’ voice from poetry. This first-person voice is a haunting presence, shifting throughout the album as each song encompasses different scenarios and characters. Literary images of pens, writing and books, often as metaphors depicting lost relationships, recur throughout the album, making such storytelling a prominent part of the album.
The eponymous opening track begins with the sound effect of crashing waves, immediately centring the listener’s attention upon the natural landscape explored within the album. This is followed by the melody and Jospehine’s voice, subtly layering the song to a crescendo in the chorus. The entire album alternates between multi-layered instruments creating dissonance and depth with sparser arrangements creating softer-sounding songs: perhaps mimicking the turbulence of the sea.
“There is a fable-like nature to her lyrics”
‘Where The Land Meets The Ocean’ is followed by ‘Lovers’, which features a softer opening, suggesting a more meditative song. Such a stripped back sound is effective in showcasing the haunting quality to Lewis’ voice, which rises and falls, reflecting the highs and lows of the relationship depicted in the song.
There is a fable-like nature to her lyrics, including images of silhouettes and shadows. The storytelling lyrics and stripped back sound create a mysterious quality to Lewis’ music which is reminiscent of early Regina Spektor. Tracks five, seven, and ten (‘Butterfly’, ‘Poison Pen Letter’ and ‘Brother In Arms’) also feature the lyrical ‘I’ voice exploring different characters and stories.
“As I really enjoyed the lyrics and the evocative quality of Lewis’ voice in this album, I felt that the amount of instruments overshadowed Lewis’ voice on these tracks”
In the third track, ‘Where Has Your Fight Gone’, the album returns to the intensity and dissonance of the opening track, with both tracks featuring drummer Stephen Irlam, bassist Joe Louis Wilson and lead guitarist Dale McKillop. As I really enjoyed the lyrics and the evocative quality of Lewis’ voice in this album, I felt that the amount of instruments overshadowed Lewis’ voice on these tracks. I preferred the softer moments on the album where her voice was the focal point, supported by a piano and guitar.
“The fourth track, ‘Home, Right Before It Crumbled’, was the stand out song for me”
The fourth track, ‘Home, Right Before It Crumbled’, was the stand out song for me. Thematically, this song links to the final song, entitled ‘Nowhere Feels Like Home’, and features images of writing which recur across the album. I loved all the different metaphors for an old lover in ‘Home, Right Before It Crumbled’, whilst the piano, violin and vocals were well-balanced enough to capture the lyrics’ emotional quality.
This is followed by the livelier ‘Butterfly’, and then another gentler song, ‘Easy’. There is a warmth and candour to Lewis’ vocals in ‘Easy’ that sets the listener at ease, with the song featuring backing vocals from a group of friends, including James Machin from Grawl!x – who Lewis collaborated with in Grawl!x’s song ‘Epicene’.
“rich in lyrical details of observation and with a much softer sound”
The latter half of the album continues the motif of writing, with references to chapters and aged books permeating the stories within each song. Likewise, the sea theme is introduced, whilst the softer sound of the final few tracks allows Lewis’ voice to remain the focal point.
Track eight, ‘Muses Blue’, ends with the sound effect of sea waves, transitioning into the opening of ‘The Tide’, in which the tide appears to be a metaphor for lost love. ‘Where The Land Meets The Ocean’ closes with ‘Nowhere Feels Like Home’, rich in lyrical details of observation and with a much softer sound than the opening track.
If you enjoy singer-songwriters, particularly singers who tell stories in their music, like Passenger and Regina Spektor, then I highly recommend Where The Land Meets The Ocean.
Featured image courtesy of Umbilica Official Facebook Page.
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