Umberto’s Alienation feels like a cross between New Age, a Giallo score, and a soundtrack to some strange early 80s sci fi film. Previous albums like Confrontation, Night Has A Thousand Screams, and Prophecy Of The Black Widow all took their cues from the Gothic and dark world of horror films from guys like Argento, Fulci, and Brava; beautifully shot, provocative nightmares. Each of those albums were these imagined scores to films of Umberto’s own making. But with Alienation there seems to be a feeling of a fully formed, standalone record. The theme or concept is created solely in the mind of the listener. It’s still dark and mysterious, but Alienation has more in common with Depeche Mode than Walter Rizzati.
Matt Hill, aka Umberto, has a knack for creating intense mood with the synthesizer. He’s obviously filled his head over the years with horror films and in turn the music that accompanies these films. That influence has come through quite brightly through the music he creates. Slasher Film Festival Strategy’s Christopher Ashley is another creator of nightmare scores for imagined horror/sci fi flicks. These guys may not have the means to make those films, but they can show us what they’d be like through their music. It seems though Hill wanted to do something different this time around. While Alienation could very well be a soundtrack to some Gothic film, it stands on its own as a singular piece of art. The mood and feel created just for this moment.
Musically this album feels like a late night listen. Slow burn rhythms and looming synth patterns create a “walk along the lake by midnight” kind of vibe. “Drifters” feels like the pulse of some underground club in London, while “Black Sea” sounds like some Gothic ritual taking place in the Middle East somewhere. “White Night” is perfect in its simplicity, and the addition of Victoria Gokun’s vocals only makes the song even more ethereal. This song also feels very modern in comparison to Umberto’s previous work. “Dawn of Mirrors” moves and sways like a ghost you encounter in a long, dark hallway. It’s 80s-centric rhythm track only enhances the vibe. “Awakenings” is a stunning work of classic Gothic horror and 60s melancholy. With it’s woodwind opening and haunting harmonies that accompany it this song has a deja vu feel. It takes you somewhere familiar, but you just can’t put your finger on it. This could be the music to an opening credit sequence in a movie you find channel surfing late some summer night. The music alone makes you stop and watch. A truly great track. “Passage” closes the album out with a mixture of Cocteau Twins-like vocals over an electro synth score.
Matt Hill has been making heavy synth music as Umberto for several years now. With each release he seems to be tightening and honing his sound. Alienation is a continuation of that process, and as a result is one of his best releases yet. With a more relaxed take on the Giallo vibe, along with the addition of vocals, he’s turned restraint into a secret weapon. Alienation is a tour de force in late night vibe and sensual melancholy.