Skip to main content
A Magazine for

The Manchester edition of Now Then is no longer publishing content. Visit the Sheffield edition.

Night Has A Thousand Screams

"This year at the Glasgow Film Festival Umberto did a performance along to the film pieces...we met after the show and asked if he had any plans to release that music," says Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, and it is fortunate for us that he asked. Electronic music is too often labelled as being cold, mechanical and robotic, but not the work of Umberto. Multi-instrumentalist Matt Hills manages to create minimal compositions that crackle with emotion. Since 2009 he has released the albums From The Grave and Prophecy Of The Black Widow, highlighting an affection for the film soundtracks of John Carpenter, John Williams and Vangelis. Umberto's latest release continues in a similar vein, but he still manages to infuse his music with a sense of vitality and intensity.

Night Has A Thousand Screams is based around the 1983 thriller Pieces, which is about a killer who steals the body parts of female students after he has murdered them. This may well be a grotesque concept for an album, but Umberto has been able to combine moments of dread with sections of haunting beauty.

Opening track 'Boston, 1942' at first shimmers with soft tones before being ripped apart by a sequence of harsh drones and buzzes. This simple technique immediately lends the music a sense of anxiety. 'Opening Titles' and 'The Investigation' are also heightened by the introduction of a strong percussive beat and gentle vocal noises. The method of combining soft and hard sounds is what gives the record a sinister and menacing quality. While it loses some consistency towards the end, particularly on 'Paralysed', this doesn't detract from the rest of album.

Earlier this year the band Chromatics released the record Kill For Love, which can also be seen as somewhat of a homage to 1980s film soundtracks. But where Kill For Love is vast and sprawling, Night Has A Thousand Screams is tight and compact. Because Umberto has stayed close to the film's narrative he has given the music an emotional arch which is more palatable for the listener. With the overriding use of 70s and 80s synths, some may accuse Umberto of being a throwback, but he is far from it. Music composed with such fondness and attention to detail should be congratulated.

Umberto - The Investigation by Rock Action Records