There are few things in life quite as mesmerising or outrageously euphoric as the nine-strong Umlauts army effervescing in fulsome force. Rebelling against labels, transcending borders of land and time - packed with twin vocalists equally competent in their skewering south-London drawl as they are in German, Italian or French - as in touch with the nostalgias of First-Generation post-punk or 80s pop as they are with the techniks of contemporary pop or big beat dance - the Umlauts are paragons of trans-europe excess, dripping with inarguable edge; shambling wildly from chaotic cool to bombastically exquisite order; invested with unhinging, socio-political bite, dancing in a rave of their own.
Compiling the best of the Umlauts first two EPs - Ü (2021) and Another Fact (2022) - and appended with a clutch of new material - Slags offers the most comprehensive versioning of this Umlauts experience as yet extant on record; a salacious digest of wild experiments present and past.
Taking its title from the by-product of the smelting of metals - the not-so-subtle cheapness in wordplay is relevant too - the music of Slags also represents a work of immense amounts of energy and heat. From their breakthrough EP Ü, aptly opening the record is thunderous live staple ‘Energy Plan’, defined by quote from multi-disciplinary artist Joseph Beuys and charged with post-industrial foreboding. Also plucked from that record comes the puckish splatterpunk of ‘Um Politik’, and radio ‘hit’, ‘Boiler Suits and Combat Boots’, a mission-statement satire against cultural uniformity, and perhaps the ultimate epitome of the Umlauts disco war march, stylish as fuck.
And if their first EP was in their own words, basically an ‘accident’, its follow-up Another Fact is by all evidence a work of more immaculate designs. With the addition of Italo-disco influences, and of Caroline’s Magdalena McLean on violin duties, The Umlauts sound lifted towards more operatic and nuances heights - the tense violin bow sweeps on ‘Non è Ancora,’ or ‘Frightened’, or the delicious synth-popping sheen of ‘Sweat’ adding yet further spikes of melodrama to their sound. Not forgetting the , That EP’s title track proffers an appropriately magnificent closer here - the slow burning, heavy hitting techno vision loaded with string stabs, balalaikas, and a bicycle pump - an epic in every sense.
And, alongside the ‘Slags’ , the three new tunes included here are the ‘Slugs’ of the Umlauts’ Oeuvre “Like slugs, the band say, they are slippery, maybe slipperiness describes our approach best, ideas glued together with plasmic sludge, searching for something, enjoying the search.”
Speaking out against “acts of harassment by those whose duty should be to protect” - ‘Dance and Go’ delivers a squelchy, undulating, irresistible dance-punk drive. ‘Mad Blue Love’ rants against rants against relationships built on the sandy grounds of false expectations, while ‘Prédateur’s’ Swaying Art-pop curiosities strings out one of the band’s most intricate arrangements to date.
“It feels like the end of a chapter for us”, offer the Umlauts as a parting word, “returning to our work from the last 3 years, becoming slugs, starting again.” If it achieves nothing else, Slags stands pregnant with rich anticipation for whatever wanderings are yet to come from this most unique of bands. For sure, It’s already been a riveting ride.
1. Energy Plan
2. Dance & Go
4. Boiler Suits & Combat Boots
5. Non È Ancora
6. Mad Blue Love
8. Um Politik
10. Another Fact