Oakland post-punk/darkwave duo Yama Uba released debut album ‘Silhouettes’


Yama Uba, the Oakland darkwave/post-punk project founded by Akiko Sampson (Ötzi) with collaboration by Winter Zora (ÖtziMystic Priestess), released their debut full-length, Silhouettes, on 24 January 2024. The album is available on vinyl, CD, and digital formats via Psychic Eye and Ratskin Records

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,” Sampson states. “I just wanted to get out there and start touring. But as I worked on it, Winter joined the band, the pandemic came and went, and we had the luxury of creating music we wanted to hear without any outside pressures. We were completely in our own world in our magical little studio, so we rethought and rewrote over and over. The subject matter also shifted, reflecting what was important to us at different stages of our lives. Over time, we ended up redefining not just our music, but ourselves in the process.”

“As a whole, ‘Silhouettes’ reflects times of heartache, as well as times of perseverance and emotional breakthrough,” Sampson says. “It’s heart-forward and more vulnerable than we’ve ever been as songwriters, and I think that was absolutely necessary for us to get through some of our hard times. Ultimately, ‘Silhouettes’ is about celebrating personal transformation and self-discovery, and is a reckoning with the power of time.”

“‘Silhouettes’ is an expression of many different forms of transformation,” Zora explains. “It’s about shedding old layers, rebirth, transmuting energies and surrendering to the shadows in our life. We make peace with our shadow selves, and leave old things behind that no longer hold form for us anymore. Throughout the album, we’re honoring the shadows that disappear and reappear throughout our lives. It’s a reminder that we will always transform and change, but our silhouettes will always be with us.”

STREAM/DOWNLOAD the album on your preferred digital media AT THIS LOCATION.

ORDER the album on CD/vinyl/digital as well as merchandise HERE (Band), HERE (Psychic Eye), or HERE (Ratskin Records).

Track Listing:
1. Disappear
2. Shapes [Listen]
3. Shatter
4. Facade [Listen]
5. I’m in Love with a German Film Star (The Passions cover) [Listen]
6. Isolation
7. Laura
8. Claustrophobia
9. Angel

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.

As a debut album, Silhouettes captures the shifting perspectives of its five-year writing period and the emergence of Yama Uba‘s uniquely crafted sound. 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.

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