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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 1627 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With their first two albums, Pink Floyd shaped and refurbished the emerging trend of psychedelic rock that was taking place in the British underground rock circles in the second half of the 70s. "Ummagumma" is the official manifestation of the band's intentions to keep moving on artistically from the challenging standard that they had set for themselves; it is also the album that reinforces the role of then newcoming guitarist Dave Gilmour. The first volume is a live set that finds the band maturing the vision previously accomplished in "A Saucerful of Secrets" and stating a solid sound beyond the urgent naivety of their debut release. 'Astronomy Domine', arguably the epitome of Syd Barrett's vision, starts the live set with a robust combination of strength and eeriness, in no small degree due to the relevant organ layers and expansions by Wright. The beginning of the live set is really climatic, perfectly coherent with the increasingly sinister kind of sound that the band was particularly interested in the 1968-70 era. 'Careful With that Axe, Eugene' preserves the overall mood turning more closely toward the languid side of psychedelic prog. This sense of mystery is properly fed by the track's ever-expanding flow. The ambitious live rendition of 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' sets a proper reelaboration of the two preceding tracks' mood, with the advantage implied in the enhancement of the original idea's exotic vibe and dynamic rhythmic structure. And of course, there is the archetypical rendition of the second album's title track: the rough muscle and raw bizarreness possible in this live environment are the result of a shared inspiration in the momentum. Of course, we can find lots of faster and/or louder renditions in other bootlegs, but this live rendition has its mixture of magic and sonic power as a relevant asset. The ethereal intro, the second section's neurotic tribalism and the soft third section inevitably lead to the electrifying ending, a real showcase for Wright's essential input for the Floydian thing. Volume 2 is a studio effort in which the band decides to make room for individual exploration. Wright's 'Sysyphus' is a majestic 4-part opus. It starts with a sequence of ceremonious mellotron and pompous tympani, followed by a piano sequence that flows from classicist reflectiveness to creepy tension. Next comes a portion based on avant-garde chamber (something like Varese-meets-Cage), followed by an eerie section dominated by mellotron and organ, distant yet captivating. The final section is the most sinister, with a horrific emergence of distorted organ segued into the initial theme's reprise. Great!! Waters penned 'Grantchester Meadows' and the long-titled next track: the former is a pastoral ballad that sets the pace for other acoustic pieces to appear in following albums; the latter is an experimentation on processed voices and noises that create rhythms, cadences and atmospheres, plus a touch of humor, too. Gilmour's 'The Narrow Way' is the other highlight in this studio item: with a first part that explores a candid mixture of country and acoustic blues ornamented by weird slide guitar intrusions, and a second part focused on Western- flavored psychedelic hard rock, the main section consists of a melancholic rock ballad with heavily bluesy undertones. Mason's 'Grand Vizier's Garden Party' is a demonstration of multiple percussions and a drum solo developed in crescendo, refashioned through studio processes: its entrance and finale are mellow flute solos. A very interesting ending for a very interesting experiment: the traces of this double album's endeavor will be fairly noticed all the way to the "Meddle" album, so the most important value (not the only one) of "Ummagumma" is its way of reshaping PF's vision in its avant-rock context.

[I dedicate this review to the memory of the recently departed Richard Wright].

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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