umru – comfort noise
The dichotomy between PC Music and 100 Gecs’s respective styles of hyperpop is sort of bridged by umru. The Brooklyn based producer has always brought his American sensibilities to the otherwise UK informed PC Music collective; immediately bawdier, more in-your-face saturations of pop tropes than, say, A.G. Cook’s slightly more cerebral approach. The style that has ultimately come to define hyperpop in the present moment is Gecs’s hyperbolic, obnoxious sound, rooted in a sort of Americanised despondency and rebellion as opposed to Cook and Easyfun’s mutant eurodance. That umru is a part of the PC Music ilk is essential to the label’s continued status as genre leaders and provocateurs, and with the rise of Gecs-style hyperpop as the new standard, umru is embracing this inherent part of his music.
His latest EP for PC Music, comfort noise, exists mostly in hyperpop’s current loud, abrasive sphere. Whereas 2018’s Search Result played into the PC Music formula by way of umru’s style, comfort noise deep dives into the sort of chaos that’s recently been popularised by Lil’ Texas and Dorian Electra. heart2, featuring Rebecca Black and Petal Supply, demonstrates this evolution. Opening with heavily distorted rave synths, the track explodes with massive sounds. Black’s voice is pitched to helium high levels, and umru’s beat sledge hammers with monstrous sub-bass. At its halfway point, heart2 surges into passages of American hardcore. It’s a departure from umru’s usual style of futurism, which up until this point has relied on amorphous, metallic, and rounded synth sounds. Key to this new style is an inherent impishness, a sort of humour that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is entirely serious. On check1, he enlists rap’s enfant terrible Tommy Cash on a mutant trap track that booms with abysmal and heavy bass. Losin my mind with AJ Simmons is an electro-emo track that trades pop-punk guitars for spinning synths and compressed voice sample riffs. All i need functions similarly, on which Hannah Diamond trades auto-tuned verses with Tony Velour. Speaker is a late standout, featuring raspy and breathless vocals from Sophie Cates. It’s also the most successful meeting of umru’s roots with his present preoccupations. His signature serpentine, liquid latex pads dive in and out of distortion and walls of hardcore bass, a melding of his earlier PC Music experiments with his newfound American style.
While comfort noise is a perfectly serviceable EP, there’s some disappointment that must be spoken for. umru has always been the elusive but ever present PC Music dark horse, delivering some of the label’s shiniest, most bombastic moments. His bonkers remix of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe comes to mind. He’s always felt game changing in a way that was exciting, yet on comfort noise, he sounds familiar. For someone who so strikingly established his point of view, it feels like a U-turn to see umru play into trends he hasn’t particularly set. Still, the evolution of his sound toward hyperpop’s present iteration is a bold step for PC Music, who have otherwise stuck to their stylistic approach.
Listen to Speaker from comfort noise below.