Exposé Online banner

Russell Mills / Undark — Pearl + Umbra
(Instinct INS-501-2, 1999, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2000-10-01

Pearl + Umbra Cover art

I’d give a list of the well-known guest musicians who contribute to this album, but Exposé reviews need to be under 300 words. So I’ll mention a few of the highlights: Brian Eno, Roger Eno, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Peter Gabriel, Michael Brook, and Thurston Moore. No offense intended to the many left out. Russell Mills is primarily known as a visual artist, having designed album covers for many artists. His Undark project, of which this release is the second, puts him in the role of architect or facilitator as much as musician, rather like Brian Eno’s methods on some of his albums. Sonically, this is a mixture of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, with samples, sequences, and live playing all mixed together. Some tracks are pretty much actual songs, like “Rooms of the Sixteen Shimmers” with Sylvian’s trademark croon or “Golden Hair” with harmonium chords and Clodagh Simonds sounding a bit like Sinéad O’Connor; others are very atmospheric, like “A Swoon in Amber,” which consists of an intriguing succession of near-white noises that somehow manages to not be grating. Many of the pieces consist of a processed rhythmic part (often a drum loop) with the kind of “bear bass” that Laswell is known for, topped by sustained washes of sound (for example Brook’s “infinite guitar”) and snippets of taped spoken words and other sounds. Graham Haynes’s cornet provides a nice unexpected touch on two tracks. In all, this is one of the most satisfying and interesting discs of the year, and a worthy addition to Eno’s tradition as well as contemporary electronic music.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 20, 1999 releases

Related artist(s): Brian Eno, Roger Eno, David Sylvian, Hector Zazou, Peter Gabriel, Bill Laswell, Michael Brook, Harold Budd, Eraldo Bernocchi, Russell Mills

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Änglagård - Gånglåt från Knapptibble – The long-awaited new Änglagård single has finally hit the shelves as part of the latest Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine. In each issue (a grass-roots psychedelic/underground offering published in the...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues