I’d always heard the name Umberto in musical circles here and there over the years and assumed it was the name of some aging Italian composer. Maybe by day he wrote scores for Giallo films and Italian daytime soaps, then by night he hit the Milan discos and laid down some serious disco grooves for Monica Vitti, Laura Antonelli, and Claudia Cardinale to lose their minds to. I mean, with a name like Umberto that narrative seemed to make the most sense. I bet he even double dated with Giorgio Moroder from time to time.
But of course I was completely wrong. The name Umberto is the nom de plume of Los Angeles-based musician and composer Matt Hill. I delved into his musical world around the same time I picked up his collaborative LP with Antoni Maiovvi(aka Anton Maiof from Bristol, UK) called Law Unit. The first album I heard was his newest called Alienation. A mixture of subtle dance grooves and melancholy eeriness, that was a good starting point for me. I delved back further into the Umberto discography and listened to La Llorona, From The Grave, Prophecy of the Black Widow, and Night Has A Thousand Screams. All of these albums varied in different ways, but all carried with them the feel of melancholy and the macabre. They all lived within groove and gruesome.
Out of all the albums in the Umberto canon, the one I seemed to connect with the most was 2013s Confrontations. There seemed to be just the right amount of distant techno dance grooves, eerie vibes, and Gothic, melancholy sadness to sustain me for a lifetime in the crypt. This record would be the perfect score for an alien abduction, a stroll through a haunted castle, or a demonic possession.
It’s very multifaceted.
I’ll start out with the track that hit me the hardest. “The Summoning” is just pure melancholy and melodrama. It seems to beckon from beyond the grave, inviting the living to join the dead in some ritualistic and macabre dance. Dario or Lucio would have definitely asked Umberto for his musical handiwork back in the 70s had that been a possibility. It’s such a great track.
“Final Revelation” feels like it skips a decade with its ‘DX-7 filling in for 80s electric piano’ sound. It sits somewhere between Phantasm and Nightmare On Elm Street in regards to mood. Then the song shifts gears a bit halfway thru for an almost videogame sound, ala Castlevania. Still very 80s, but we go from movies to NES. I quite like that.
“Initial Revelation” has a opening credits lean to it. You can almost see a slow, steadicam shot thru some abandoned city streets that lead up to a dilapidated house where horrors beyond horrors occurred. Credits roll by as we make our way thru this “house of horrors”.
“Confrontation” goes for a Walter Rizzati vibe. Very House By The Cemetery, and the Gothic voices doing their “Ahhs” send chills down the spine.
“The Invasion” is the last thing you hear before you’re whisked up into the spacecraft and are never heard of again. Subtle, slow moving, and ominous as it makes its way into your ears, it’s the perfect way to say goodbye to this great album(and this reality as we know it.)
As far as imagined soundtracks and spooky grooves go, Confrontations has it all. There’s also a subtle sadness that permeates the entire album that gives it an almost timeless feel.
I can only imagine that Matt Hill was as directly affected by 70s and 80s horror and sci fi as I was. He captures that late night movie vibe perfectly. As cheesy as they may seem now, back then those films captured my imagination like no other film did(yeah, even more so than E.T.) And those scores that accompanied scenes of dread and gore, they lived on far longer than the films themselves. That’s obvious when I listen to an Umberto album.