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Uboa - Impossible Light review

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Band: Uboa
Album: Impossible Light
Style: Dark Ambient, Death Industrial, Noise
Release date: June 2024

01. Phthalates
02. Endocrine Disruptor
03. A Puzzle
04. Gordian Worm [ft. Blood Of A Pomegranate]
05. Pattern Screamers
06. Jawline
07. Weaponised Dysphoria
08. Sleep Hygiene
09. Impossible Light / Golden Flower [ft. Otay::onii]

Not the first and not the last time noise has been used to convey anguish. But Uboa has never been all noise, but has always been all anguish.

Uboa's inclusion on our website is a bit of an odd one. On one hand, because of how often metal and noise has been paired, some noise acts like Merzbow or Pharmakon have slipped through the cracks. On the other hand, the comparisons to the equally "putting trauma in noisy darkwave" approach of Lingua Ignota are inevitable. And when The Origin Of My Depression became the internet sensation that it did, around the same time that Caligula also did, I did question whether one's inclusion should warrant the other. I don't know exactly why I decided that it wasn't really time for Uboa yet, and it was mostly because that was the only album of theirs I listened to. Cut to when Uboa gets announced as artist in residence for Roadburn 2024.

Closer to the date of the festival I decide to actually jump into the other works, and to my surprise the "sludge metal" tag is used for the first two albums. Even though those seem to be somewhat disinherited now, a quick skim does reveal more guitar-centric sounds and something I could confidently call metal (though it's obviously not metal enough for the dorks over at Metal-Archives). That, and knowing that I will be covering the live performances, or at least one of them, was reason enough for me to go ahead with the addition. Now I knew that both those performances, and I also knew when I saw this album's surprise release, that metal will not be an active element of them, but several metal-adjacent ones like noise and darkwave and dark ambient would be. Having witness about one and a half Uboa sets was a cool enough experience, and at that point it had been quite a while without any substantial releases, so I can't say I was too surprised when Impossible Light finally dropped.

Now I can compare Impossible Light to two different things: Uboa's previous works, and the closest thing conceptually and sonically within our realm, which is Lingua Ignota. Conceptually, both Impossible Light and its predecessor, The Origin Of My Depression, were written around Xandra Metcalfe's transition and the related and subsequent struggles with mental health and neurodivergence, as well as the crushing pressure of the bigotry that exists in society around this identity. This kind of exploration of trauma isn't that far off from what's in Caligula, though Impossible Light is the more introspective of the two, and with the darkwave that is part of it having much less of a neoclassical influence, instead sounding a lot closer to something like Giles Corey. And with its writing beginning right around the time of The Origin Of My Depression's release around 2019, the emotional span of the record does cover some of the lowest times too.

At slightly over 40 minutes of runtime, Impossible Light is an album that's more focused on the full listening experience, with a strong focus on ambiance, and soundscapes that flow one into another in a way that makes the division into tracks more of a formality. The dark ambient seems to be the strongest element, even if the whole album is a lot more animated that an ambient one, but the focus on creating a terrifying and immersive listening experience seems to be the main goal. Add to that several interplays of glitchy noise, sometimes as part of a more patiently building post-industrial synthy soundscape, sometimes as explosions of throat grabbing immediacy. The flow of the album allows the intense noisy moments to work alongside more serene moments, some of which have some extra instrumentation in the form of various strings and percussion elements, in a way that, although glitchy, never feels disjointed enough to break the flow and momentum. The album does pull this trick of alternating the more ambient moments and its harshest moments, as if alternating anguish and terror, up until the final track, which does include a feature from Otay:onii and Liturgy's Haela Hunt-Hendrix, which does feel like the album's most uplifting and hopeful moment, something that really does feel like a light at the end of the tunnel.

There's a lot to appreciate here on the technical aspect. How well the production and the songwriting lets the album flow, how great the vocal layering and processing is, how much each throbbing synth beats adds to the mix. But really this album does the most heavy lifting on the emotional side, with all the technical aspects in service of creating something terrifying and, eventually, cathartic.

Written on 06.07.2024 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.

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