Review: Uboa – “The Sky May Be”

I haven’t heard a record this year that sounds like it has as much acid running through its veins as The Sky May Be, the new, digital-only release from Australian experimentalist Uboa, a.k.a. Xandra Metcalfe, out last week on Bandcamp.

Tracks like “Thigh High Cat Tights,” perhaps the release’s best track, are harsh noise pushed to the brink of an unerring physicality — with vocal screeches and wrenching, guttural wails accented at times by what seems to be, to the best guess I can give under all of this editing, a droning viola. The excellent “Salivate on Cue” pulls similar tricks, with rapid cuts providing a kind of industrial-shaped percussive thrust to the screams and buzz-saw noise. If it isn’t evidence already, Knurl ain’t got nothing on Uboa here.

But this is not just a record cranked up to 11, as much as its constant shifts in tone will keep you on edge — quite purposefully, I’d imagine.

On the title suite, Metcalfe paints aurally with restraint, plunging into deeper themes – the individual parts are half-titled things like “Dementia” and “Zenith” – with a broad range of colors and textures. “The Sky May Be (Entropy)” features a spare, repeating figure on piano that is downright haunting given the surroundings. “The Sky May Be (Extus)” mixes ethereal, airy mixes with more, pain-filled screams but “The Sky May Be (Zenith),” which closes the release, returns listeners to the other side of the planet with an unsettling sense of calm.

Metcalfe’s other 2018 release — The Apple of Every Eye, a smoggy, three-track sound-duet with fellow Australian Muddy Lawrence (a.k.a. Reece Prain) – was good stuff. But this beats those tracks to a bloody pulp. – Justin Vellucci, Swordfish, Oct. 24, 2018

About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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