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Yama Uba, the Oakland darkwave/post-punk project founded by Akiko Sampson (Ötzi) with collaboration by Winter Zora (Ötzi, Mystic Priestess) will release their debut full-length, Silhouettes, on January 24, 2024.
Yama Uba was formed in 2017 by Sampson, who was joined by Zora in 2020. The duo’s musical collaborations have been extensive over the past decade. Yama Uba released the EP, Laura/Isolation, and toured the United States in 2022 and Japan in October 2023. Formerly, Sampson was the founder and front person of the post-punk band Ötzi (Artoffact), which was joined by Zora in 2018. Zora was the founder and band leader of the deathrock/anarcho-punk band Mystic Priestess (Bat-Cave Productions), which Sampson also joined in 2020. Yama Uba plans to tour the United States and Europe in 2024.
With evocative and charismatic vocals from both Sampson and Zora, the debut full-length Silhouettes, was five years in the making. Combining the infectious sounds of sweeping guitar, rumbling bass, soaring saxophone and velvet synthesizers over synthpop beats, Yama Uba makes several nods to their post-punk and darkwave predecessors, yet creates a sound entirely their own. Mixing and additional percussion were carried out by Charlie Vela (known for his work on Twin Tribes albums), with additional percussion by Michael Daddona (Malocculsion, Ratskin Records), while the album was recorded and produced by Sampson. The album artwork was designed by Pearl Thompson (The Cure).
“‘Silhouettes’ was meant to be a quickly written album but ended up taking five years, reflecting times of heartache, perseverance and emotional breakthroughs,” Sampson states. “In writing this album we redefined not just our music, but also ourselves in the process. As a whole, ‘Silhouettes’ is about personal transformation and self-discovery, and is a reckoning with the power of time.”
With the power of an ’80s crush anthem, synthpop banger “Shapes” is propelled by disco snare and electro claps. Sampson delivers a poignant ode to the curious need for love coupled with the pain of intimacy with croons and shouts that could beckon Toni Basil or Strawberry Switchblade, before Zora breaks into a melodious saxophone riff that both scorches and soothes. Fans of Sampson and Zora’s previous projects, Ötzi and Mystic Priestess, are sure to appreciate “Facade”: a hard-hitting, slamdance-worthy track that lies somewhere in the realms between the urgent drive of Killing Joke and the raucous shouts of The Cult. Blistering guitar and thundering bass pummel over industrial beats, demanding an escape from dystopian modern societies, an end to the illusion of interpersonal hierarchies, and a return to the authenticity of self. With a B-side matching the power of the first, the band shimmers with infatuated joy in their loyal cover of “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” by The Passions before finishing off with “Angel,” a mournful and raging track that balances dark synths with yearning guitar before descending into church bells and rain samples, emanating as many Portishead vibes as it does SRSQ. Throughout each track, Yama Uba emerges as a songwriting unit able to capture the complexities of the human spirit, as fragile as it is powerful, as it experiences its own evolution.