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Nicole’s album review: Ummagumma by Pink Floyd

<rget the live album. Sure, it’s an amazing few tracks, but that’s not what earns the double album Ummagumma its reputation as one of the worst albums of all time.

Released in October 1969, Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma is a double LP (meaning two records included, instead of one) with the first being an assortment of live Pink Floyd songs (essentially the classics up until that point, e.g. “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”) and the second an about-46-minute-long collection of experimental, borderline freak (essentially psychedelic) folk music.

But, at the risk of being crucified by music critics and fans alike, I believe Ummagumma to be, if not Pink Floyd’s defining work, one of the most retrospectively influential albums of all time.

At least to the freak folk community—which has historically included such artists as Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective and the immensely forward-thinking U.K. artist Vashti Bunyan.

Bunyan released her landmark Just Another Diamond Day folk LP in December 1970, just about one year after Ummagumma.
Though the comparison between Pink Floyd and Vashti Bunyan is most likely a stretched one, there is at least a little weight held by the claim, given some key logistics, e.g. both acts recording the albums in London at around the same time, and Bunyan recording hers with the help of a Pink Floyd–affiliated producer.

The two albums may sound markedly different—with the former’s being more unkempt chaos and the latter’s being reserved, almost childlike wonder and emotion—but the almost anti-folk techniques showcased in both suggest at least a little bit of influence on Bunyan’s from Pink Floyd.

Ummagumma kicks off with the four-part, nearly 14-minute-long “Sisyphus,” almost a continuation of the dramatic, grandiose preceding live album.

The song shifts from dramatic piano-smashing to eventual eerie ambience, concluding with samples of what could only be assumed to be airplane engines coupled with a church.

And then Pink Floyd, almost ironically, follows “Sisyphus” up with the tranquil, folksy “Grantchester Meadows,” one of the tracks (along with the infamously detested “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”) more traceable to Just Another Diamond Day.

Bunyan’s “Come Wind Come Rain” and “Swallow Song” both exhibit (well, almost, anyway) the sort of unkempt energy and unconventional songwriting Ummagumma so exemplifies. Pink Floyd can be heard almost all throughout Just Another Diamond Day.

But, if nothing else, both of these albums are just unkempt and uncaring.

Bunyan’s album seems highly influenced by Pink Floyd’s in that it meanders and gushes folk-backed unbridled emotion—something that has undoubtedly influenced countless acts since.

Both albums are important, but Ummagumma nonetheless had at least a semi-significant impact on Bunyan’s seminal album.

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