“manages to completely avoid every current trend being flogged at the moment to approach a timelessness that rewards upon repeated listens” – The Vine
Umpire are Perth’s widescreen indie-rock craftsmen, combining sprawling rock sounds with reflective melancholy, expertly wielding massive sun-drenched melodies, serpentine guitar parts and soaring vocals to spectacular effect. Australian audiences first became familiar with the band via with their debut single ‘Streamers’, which achieved widespread critical acclaim, national airplay and won WAM Song of the Year in 2009.
Now We’re Active
Now We’re Active is the debut album by Perth’s (Australia) widescreen indie-rock craftsmen Umpire. On Now We’re Active, Umpire combine sprawling indie-rock sounds with reflective melancholy, expertly wielding massive sun-drenched melodies, serpentine guitar parts and soaring vocals to spectacular effect. From lead single ‘Green Light District’ through the chiming guitar surge of ‘The Canyon’ to gorgeous finale ‘Cyclones Into Sunshowers’, Now We’re Active is a stunning release, as expansive as it is propulsive, as heartbreaking as it is life-affirming. Immaculately produced by bassist Simon Struthers at Forensic Audio, the album’s ten tracks bring progressive rock influences, indie-pop sensibilities and shades of math-rock into explosive collision, then shape them into songs that are at once epic and intimate. After the last song fades you’re left with a lump in your throat and admiration of how Umpire’s songcraft and sonics are so consistently elegant, melodic and widescreen. Now We’re Active is much more than a collection of tracks – it’s an album that blossoms beautifully on repeat plays.
Umpire’s brilliant self-titled debut release, featuring the standout track ‘Streamers’. ‘Streamers’ received rave reviews and widespread high-rotation airplay on both Triple J and community radio, as well as taking out the grand prize in the WAM Song of the Year in 2009. The Umpire EP presented a beautiful progression from three of the band members’ amazing work as Mukaizake, while moving into more accessible yet equally complex songcraft.
Based in Perth, Western Australia, Umpire was formed in 2006 as a studio songwriting and recording project, where Simon Struthers, Geoff Symons and Michael Lake had the opportunity to utilise the studio as an instrument, developing their songs without the pressures of playing as live band. The band released their first self-titled EP in 2009, which featured the standout track ‘Streamers’. ‘Streamers’ received rave reviews and achieved widespread high rotation airplay on both Triple J and community radio, as well as taking out the grand prize in the WAM Song of the Year in 2009.
The founding members of Umpire (Geoff Symons, Simon Struthers and Michael Lake) have a long history in the Perth music scene, playing in many seminal progressive indie-rock bands, including Adam Said Galore, O and Hidden Shoal’s very own Mukaizake, so it was a natural progression for the band to develop their live show by adding drummer, Josh Watkins. Performing the songs live has allowed the band to tour Australia and play with many of their musical heroes, including Stephen Malkmus, Built to Spill, Paul Dempsey, The Jezebels, Sugar Army, Jebediah, Love Of Diagrams, Dan Kelly, Bob Log III and Tame Impala.
Hidden Shoal is excited to end the celebration of its 10th year of existence with the new compilation album Eat Your Friends, comprising remixes and covers of Hidden Shoal artists, by Hidden Shoal artists. This freely downloadable album not only showcases the wealth of original music released through Hidden Shoal, but also the creative ingenuity and deft musical touch of the remixers and cover artists.
From searing solar-flared adaptations to delicately reconstructed covers, deep space jam reworkings, and shimmering ambient tapestries, Eat Your Friends reimagines the Hidden Shoal discography in new and beautiful ways, playing to all the strengths of the roster’s dizzying array of talent.
Includes remixes and covers by: Antonymes, Arc Lab, Glanko, Wayne Harriss, Liminal Drifter, Makee, Chloe March, Markus Mehr, Erik Nilsson, REW<<, Slow Dancing Society, Tin Manzano, Willem Gator, and Zealous Chang of music by: Arc Lab, Brother Earth, Cheekbone, City of Satellites, Medard Fischer, Gilded, Glanko & Daniel Bailey, Kryshe, Memorybell, Erik Nilsson, perth, Slow Dancing Society, Tangled Star, Umpire, and Zealous Chang.
Eat Your Friends is available now as a free download via Bandcamp and is also streamable via SoundCloud. Listen and then throw yourself into the wormhole as you explore the originals and more work by the remixers and cover artists. For all the filmmakers, games designers and others in need of engaging music, don’t forget that all tracks in our catalogue are available for licensing (film, tv, games, compilations etc).
Hidden Shoal is extremely excited to be celebrating its 10th birthday this month. It’s hard to believe that back in May 2006, Perth-based musicians Cam Merton, Stuart Medley and Malcolm Riddoch began Hidden Shoal Recordings as a means to put out releases by local artists. Tim Clarke, based in Melbourne, joined the team in 2007. Hidden Shoal has since gone on to become a much-loved independent label and publisher, releasing over 120 albums from a diverse range of international artists and licensing music from its catalogue across film, tv, web and compilation.
Stay tuned for special anniversary announcements in the coming months!
We’re very excited to announce that the stunning debut releases by Perth bands Mukaizake and Umpire – originally released in 2003 and 2009 respectively – have now joined our publishing catalogue. Umpire’s self-titled EP and Mukaizake’s Mapping the Static are each such accomplished debuts – and round out both outfits’ discographies for Hidden Shoal. Fans of both bands will know of the shared membership, and having all four releases by the two outfits together sets up wonderful trajectories and crossovers between them. These releases are mathy, rocky, languid and melodically rich.
Check out Umpire’s debut EP and album here, and do the same for both Mukaizake albums here. The tracks from all four releases are available for licensing (master & sync cleared) for film, tv, web, games and more. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any licensing enquiries.
Throughout the month of May 2012, Hidden Shoal Recordings is celebrating its sixth birthday. Later in the month will be the release of the latest free sampler album, Triangulating Nature, which compiles 12 singles released over the last 12 months. Other delicious surprises will be revealed in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more info.
Since starting up in Perth, Western Australia in 2006, Hidden Shoal has developed an enviable roster of genre-defying global and local recording artists. With 40+ acts from 10+ different countries, ranging from British ambient artist Antonymes through to American musical experimentalist Todd Tobias and beyond, the committed team at Hidden Shoal continues to play an integral role in promoting exciting new independent music.
Umpire’s wonderful new single ‘Supply Chins’, off their frighteningly awesome 2011 debut album Now We’re Active, had a sweet little write up over at the fantastic Australian zine Mess + Noise. Check out the post here and download the track for free here.
Hidden Shoal Recordings is excited to announce the release of ‘Supply Chins’, the second single from Perth’s widescreen indie-rock craftsmen Umpire, taken from their brilliant 2011 debut album Now We’re Active.
On an album crammed to breaking point with hooks, ‘Supply Chins’ has perhaps the catchiest hooks of all. Alternating between a massive fist-pumping chorus and reflective verses, the song builds towards a breathtaking climax punctuated by sumptuous horns, weaving vocals and driving guitars. This is indie-rock at its most unashamedly anthemic.
Umpire combine sprawling indie-rock sounds with reflective melancholy, expertly wielding massive sun-drenched melodies, serpentine guitar parts and soaring vocals to spectacular effect. From singles ‘Green Light District’ and ‘Supply Chins’ through the chiming guitar surge of ‘The Canyon’ to gorgeous finale ‘Cyclones Into Sunshowers’, Now We’re Active is a stunning release, as expansive as it is propulsive, as heartbreaking as it is life-affirming.
Just a few quick miscellaneous bits and pieces we’ve been meaning to pass on. We have recently set up a page on Google+ so if you’re a G+ user then head over and join the Hidden Shoal circle. We’ve also been building a HSR Radio playlist (mp3 clips) over at our YouTube Channel which is now clocking in at over 3 hours of music and growing weekly as we continue to add more tracks.
Oh and stay tuned as we still have free tracks from Umpire and Antonymes/Slow Dancing Society coming your way before the end of the year!
The wonderful crew at Scene Point Blank in conjunction with Hidden Shoal have another super cool competition running. This time there’s some awesome Umpire goodies up for for grabs including a bunch of Umpire CD’s, Umpire t-shirts and Mukaizake CD’s (featuring 3 members of Umpire). That’s a win-win-win! So head to Scene Point Blank, enter and wait by the mailbox.
Love for Umpire continues to grow as more sets of ears manage to wrap themselves around the band’s glorious debut album Now We’re Active. Along with their recent chart sucess in the US the band have also been scooping a bunch of glowing new reviews. Check out the latest batch in PopMatters, Stereo Subversion, Muso’s Guide and Leonard’s Lair.
Also lovely to hear ‘Milking a Thistle’ beaming out of the breakfast show on Triple J the other day. Nice one Tom Ballard!
Umpire’s outrageously great debut album is getting lots of deserved love including some excellent charting in its early days at radio in the US and also a bunch of glowing reviews (more on the latter soon). The album has been nestled in the official CMJ Top 30 charts at KMNR, KRNU, KWVA, WHFR, WMCX, WRBC, WSHC, KRUA and KTSW. This is still early days and these are just the ones we’ve got reporting on so far. More I say!
“Over almost a decade, Hidden Shoal records developed a reputation as a consistently innovative and experimental music label, giving to us music of remarkable qualities whether it was the instrumental excursions of Gilded, the blissed-out indie of My Majestic Star, the electronica of Marcus Mehr, the alt.folk stylings of Kramies – the HSR list of significant talents was a lengthy one. I say was, as in 2014 or thereabouts, the Hidden Shoal label underwent a reorganisation of sorts, and it began to seem that one of the more influential Australian record labels of the recent past was itself going into hiding. Perhaps so, although only to return refreshed, renewed, invigorated and with its varying artistic visions intact – the Eat Your Friends compilation proves that the Hidden Shoal label is properly with us again.
One thing I’ve found when reviewing compilations is that not infrequently, when I put them into my music players, the tracks separate instead of remaining in their album folder, and that has happened with my copy of Eat Your Friends, encouraging me to view each of the tracks as a single release rather than view the album itself as a cohesive whole. Then there’s the fact that only some of its contributors are already known to me and so, ditching some of my preconceptions about what it’s going to sound like, I began listening to the 11 tracks in a random sequence, and prepared for the unexpected.
Firstly, there’s singer/songwriter Erik Nilsson’s “Moksha Can Wait”, a song which electronic composer Marcus Mehr has taken and adapted to his subtly developed production sound, a track that begins almost inaudibly and builds to a staggering crescendo of soaring, roaring electronic sound and with Nilsson’s guitar and piano providing a counterpoint to Mehr’s swirling atmospherics. The ambient chill of City Of Satellites is given an added gloss by Tim Manzano, although I’m not so sure what he’s actually done with the track – it does sound a lot like the City Of Satellites I know from their Machine Is My Animal album, although as the track progresses and the rhythm and bass begin to disintegrate into a dubby conclusion it seems more apparent where Manzano has left his mark. Arc Lab’s “Through The Burning Glass” is remixed by Glanko, beginning with a club-level bassline before levelling into a noir tinged synth epic. And just when you thought the tracks on Eat Your Friends were entirely instrumentals, Rew perform a cover version of Umpire’s “Green Light District” and they do it with a vocal, alongside the strings and crashing cymbals and haltingly uncertain rhythms, a highlight of an album each of whose tracks is in one or another way remarkable.”
“Lot of fine beards in this strapping Perth band. Taken from their debut album Now We’re Active, Supply Chins is a swinging, shimmering sing-along indie track with a slow blowing explosion of a chorus. It is big and beautiful, optimistic and ambitious, bursting with horns and swinging guitars and a melody that floods your head with light.”
Excerpt: “‘Green Light District’ kicks it all off with jangly but epic sweeping guitars-guitars that suddenly take off with abrasive but melodic washes, especially toward the end the vocals soar ala Wings-era McCartney. On “Supply Chins”, the now moody, distorted guitars rub against regretful but dreamy vocals-a psych pop masterpiece. Likewise, “Jewellery Can Be Disturbing” features brash guitars and fragile vocals. From the brilliant pop of “Streamers” to the noisy, memorable Milking a Thistle,” Umpire display a dizzying command of pop and rock melody, with slightly abstract lyrics that add to the depth of these seemingly simple tracks. The closer, “Cyclones Into Sunshowers, is a gorgeous and poetic song that is always grounded such that it never threatens to devolve into pathos. This debut by Umpire is mature, catchy and crunchy, with a poise and sense of the dramatic lacking in bands who have been around for years. “Now We’re Active” is a truly active record, by a band that has hit the ground running with a surge of insight and power.”
“Purveyor of a soaring brand of indie rock that radiates a sun-bathed relaxation, the Australian four-piece Umpire has put together quite a nice little debut LP here. The most appealing aspect of Umpire’s offerings is the clipped-yet-fluid mid-rangey guitar grooves (equal parts redolent of Modest Mouse and math rock) that form the bedrock for the group’s Panoramic ambitions. The band is so adept at knitting those circulating riffs that it falters in comparison on the quieter moments (largely reserved for the final tracks on the record), where things are noticeably looser and less considered. No matter, for Umpire sticks to its strong suits more often than not on Now We’re Active, resulting in a pleasant, beaming album that’s likely to ease listeners into a contented frame of mind.”
Excerpt: “‘Green Light District’ reflects an upbringing on left of centre American radio rock. It’s anthemic but it has a core of misery running through its veins. The second song, ‘Supply Chins’, is propelled by crunchy guitar riffs and FM friendly choruses. It’s an impressive start from Umpire and they very rarely lose momentum after that. The guitar and vocal curveballs on ‘Corner An Owl In An Alcove’ and ‘Jewellery Can Be Disturbing’ are as inventive as their titles suggest and even more compelling… ‘Streamers’ and ‘Milking A Thistle’ sees them invigorated with youthful exuberance, whilst the stark, echo-laden ‘Spotlights’ proves they can perform ballads and still send shivers down the spine. Intelligently the group have learned from experiences in progressive, American radio and post rock to produce a satisfying and complete record. This is proof that mature rock can also thrill.”
Excerpt: “… Although Now We’re Active is the band’s debut album, the general brain usage and song writing behind the project initially began in 2006. Umpire’s album has essentially been five years in the making, with a taster given via the 2009 released self titled EP, but news of a ten track record was naturally going to be intriguing. Now We’re Active defines Umpire’s style brilliantly in their ability on one album to present fast, complex guitar rhythms, typical of the math rock genre combined with slower, pleasing, melancholic sounds. These polarities can be seen from the tingling fade out of ‘Spotlights’ to the powerful guitar and drums in the first 10 seconds or so of ‘Jewellery Can Be Disturbing’, personally a highlight on the album…. Umpire have quoted one of their influences as ’90s alternative band Pavement, and this can definitely be heard throughout Now We’re Active, perhaps in the cool, slightly indifferent vocal style Symons and Pavement’s lead singer Stephen Malkmus both use. The abundance of the start and stop technique is seen often throughout the album – I read a review that believed this technique was over used by the band and this perhaps can be seen on ‘Corner An Owl In An Alcove’ although this is actually one of my favourite songs on the album…. I am going to ambush the opportunity to roll out the much used phrases ‘lump in the throat’ and ‘hairs on the back of the neck standing up’ – they can be accurate but just kinda suck, so I am going to nimbly skirt the edges of the cliché minefield as best I can. All I can say is the fading end seconds of ‘Cyclones Into Sunshowers’ definitely leave you with a bit of a tingly feeling.'”
Excerpt: “The guys of Umpire are obviously working with a motif: the lyrics, musicality, even the album cover — featuring a wide blue sky and open field — of Now We’re Active all are driven by a sense of expansiveness. The group uses echoistic qualities, minimal but well-placed drums and pointed song titles (“The Canyon” is a literal example) to convey a sense of the natural, the wide and serene. Each track sounds polished and extremely well crafted yet incredibly sincere, primarily due to the soaring, evocative quality of the vocals. Now We’re Active has an astounding sense of progression. Somewhat repetitively employing the use of loud-soft-loud dynamics (think Death Cab for Cutie), the musical and songwriting talents of these guys produces some real standout tracks…. Were every track on Now We’re Active to be as perfectly balanced as “On The Fringes,” the album would be much more of a standout. As it is, the LP is still an extremely strong debut but sometimes struggles with a lack of variety in its song structures. Within the expansive feel of Umpire’s music, that just means they have room to grow.”
“Umpire are an indie-rock band out of Perth that neatly balance their anthemic qualities with a bit of artistic depth. Their vocalist who I think is Simon Struthers recalls The Shins’ James Mercer with his clear and ringing high notes while the seamless intertwining of indie-rock, pop and prog sensibilities produces a sound that is both highly listenable and far from boring. I find I’m enjoying this quite a lot.”
Excerpt: “These songs are both cerebral and sentimental, swerving through tricky structures and wordplay even as singer-guitarist Geoff Symons waxes romantic… Like Transatlanticism-era Death Cab for Cutie, Umpire uses the dramatic tides and crashes of post-rock and math-rock to heighten the emotion of what’s essentially muscular guitar-pop. On tracks like ‘The Canyon’, there’s a clean-cut lilt to Symons’ voice that can’t help but recall Ben Gibbard’s. That said, these songs also have the stop-start volatility of cult ’90s guitar heroes like Polvo and Chavez. Produced with absolute crispness by bassist Simon Struther, the instruments move like an intricate conversation between old friends. Which makes sense, given the long history of these players… This is a very specific kind of indie rock: inventive and self-aware but grounded in ringing melodies and lived-in emotions. Now We’re Active is weird, guitar-addled fun.”
Excerpt: “Perth has had a strong history of Pop bands…. The latest in the pop lineage is Umpire whose members have history in bands such as Adam said Galore, O, Mukaizake and they’ve just released their debut album “Now We’re Active” on Hidden Shoal. The album contains all the trademarks of a good pop release with a major factor in it’s sound is the crystal clear production of bassist Simon Struthers work at Forensic Audio. Strong melodies, darting in guitars, strong hooks and enough grit to provide an enjoyable listen…. The label press release that comes with the promo I received mentions that the band “formed in 2006 as a studio songwriting and recording project where … opportunity to utilise the studio as an instrument, developing their songs without the pressures of playing as a live band”. Normally you see such references of the studio as an instrument in electronic/experimental music, but it suits Umpire as you can see they have put a lot of thought into the music and how it sounds. The highlight track for me (pretty much liking it the first time I heard it on RTR) is “The Canyon”. It’s opening line could be the mantra of this blog especially when it comes to me reviewing: “I can’t articulate all these thoughts zigzagging through my head, there’s no exit” covers all the ground I mentioned above and is a mini epic clocking in at 5:19 and being the longest track on the album…. “Green Light District”, the lead out single which can be picked up for free here has a very summery and fresh sound reminding me of The Go-betweens, not musically but in that care free feel that they had on songs like “Spring Rain”.
Umpire’s music is available for licensing (master & sync cleared) through Hidden Shoal. Please contact us with some basic details about your project and the track(s) you wish to use and we’ll be sure to get back to you straight away.