Author Topic: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?  (Read 3283 times)

drone on

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Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« on: February 17, 2010, 07:59:00 PM »
Recently I started revisiting my huge Umbra/Penumbra (Oophoi's limited CDR label for a brief several years) collection, and by God if this isn't the finest ambient/drone label of all time, I don't know what is.  The artwork on most releases was stunning, and musically the quality for the most part was consistently top-notch. Artists: Oophoi, Klaus Wiese, Tau Ceti, Busso de la Lune (who I absolutely LOVE, a genius! Well actually they're ALL geniuses), L.E.M., Netherworld, Perceptual Defence, Seconds in Formaldehyde, Solyaris, Sostrah Tinnitus, Seren Ffordd...I think the only release I didn't like at all was Re:Drum "Four Whispers for the Bees." Also some of the best compilations ever: "Lightnoise," "The Other Side of the Sky," "Threshold of Silence," (highly recommend these if you can find them) which featured other great artists like Paul Bradley, Tomas  Weiss, Mathias Grassow, MajaLe, Temps Perdu, Troum...

Most of this music is so excellent it'd be a shame not to reissue it on CD in the future (Hypnos got it right by reissuing the Seren Ffordd, hope more will follow!)

darkenedsoul

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2010, 08:45:02 PM »
Yes, true that. I don't have many from him though (due to costs of getting them from him). I was supposed to be on that Threshold of... compilation but I ended up on Foglands which I should dig out and re-listen to as it's been awhile since I played that one. It's a pretty good one as well IMHO (not just because I am on it lol, certainly not that!).

Mike

Blackinfinity

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2010, 08:59:38 PM »
yes among the best labels ever, even though most releases where Opphoi's own releases and projects.
But the Artwork and the packaging are really really good. I true underground label.
I really wish all labels had the same packing, I really do not like the standard plastic jewel cases.

Is Umbra still up and running ?
I have not seen any new releases since 2007 or so.

drone on

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2010, 09:46:33 PM »
Nope. Hypos bought the last of the remaining stock. (see Hypnos store).  There were three final releases in 2008 by Klaus Wiese, Busso de la Lune, and Kenji Siratori, which I've been at a loss to find (never stocked by Hypnos).  You can view them on Discogs, which has an excellent and very complete discography of Umbra/Penumbra.

nuun

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2010, 05:03:36 AM »
Hi,

Defining a label quality depends on what criterium you judge :
- music quality in itself
- artistic creativity
- sellings
- mastering & production
- packaging
- physical support (CD / CDr)
- visual / sound homogeneity

I love Oophoi music and respect his particular sound and touch.
I do recognize the efforts he put in his labels to reveal new artists (Tau Ceti, Seren Ford).
I do recognize the homogeneity of musics and visuals
Then, I understand they can be considered as good ambient/drones labels.

But, three things don't make me consider these are the best :

1. Risk and committment :
Official labels like Hypnos, GreenHouseMusic, Amplexus, Silent, Fathom took a heavy committment and financial risks ;
On the contrary, I consider that burning a CDr at home (even with the best quality) does not involve on the same level
- Official CDs = high cost + many copies (stock)
- Home made burnt CDr = lower cost + strictly limited copies

2. Quality :
Official pressed CDs quality is (on average) much better than burnt CDr
Burnt CDr have a shorter life time ; quality decreases faster with time

3. Art and packaging :
I'm ok with labels who releases strictly limited copies (< 100). This offers quite good advantages compared with pressed CDs (as seen above).
I won't debate about opposition between mass consuming art and art for small circles of connaissors.
If labels choices are built on a "art as restrictive", it's ok for me. But, if a label claim for this choice, i would appreciate it goes to the end of it, and that the packaging look like an art object, or something more personal and original.
According to me, it's not enough to mention "limited edition" on a CDr release, to be attractive and to consider the CDr you have as an object.
I'm disappointed that Umbra / Penumbra didn't offer more personal / original packagings from release to release.
It was (simply ?) printed paper with CD inside.
How to compare this with Amplexus ? What's new ?
Is there any little thing that distinguish this home made release from an official one ?
Wouldn't it be more fun to pack it in a different way or with something more that tells you that this is Home/hand made ?

To me Umbra / Penumbra are good labels, but not the greatest ever.

nuun

drone on

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2010, 08:19:11 PM »
Well, the CD vs. CDR debate is old. Fact remains a lot of great music was never released on pressed CD's.  Although CD is preferred, of course, it doesn't necessarily make a release "better."  Lots of "real" CD's have been wasted as the music contained within wasn't worth a damn.  In terms of quality music and artwork/presentation that reflected the spirit of the music, Umbra/Penumbra was unique.  Talking about risk: there was no marketing here, promotion.  It was an undertaking done strictly for love of the music and a passion for this genre.  Perhaps not a lot of money was invested here, but time and effort (especially the large number of releases) count for something. From my understanding, the sales were quite dismal, perhaps leading to the decision not to continue the effort.  A real shame. 

uhurit

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2010, 03:36:40 PM »
Bought a ton of them on e-bay a few years ago (and paid premium). All but two had a horrendous skipping problem and were mostly unplayable.. CD-r vs CD is no debate here. I've noticed that a huge number of Umbra/Penumbra releases have had a QC issue (in my case, of course). So, their demise does not bother me that much at all...sorry to sound so harsh

Blackinfinity

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2010, 05:50:58 PM »
Bought a ton of them on e-bay a few years ago (and paid premium). All but two had a horrendous skipping problem and were mostly unplayable.. CD-r vs CD is no debate here. I've noticed that a huge number of Umbra/Penumbra releases have had a QC issue (in my case, of course). So, their demise does not bother me that much at all...sorry to sound so harsh

If you play and read the cd on the fly yes it can happen...but With a good Cd ripping software like dBpoweramp and a good cd reader you can recover most likely that kind of errors...and then copy it to the HDD and burn a new copy.

Personally I really dislike the CD as format in all ways...it is not an reliable media...I think a USB stick would be a better option then a CD.
I think that will be the follower to the CD...some kind of memory stick like that... and you can use it on all mp3 players and phones etc in the future.

drone on

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2010, 08:47:53 PM »
I did have problems with some of these CDR's and would have to request replacements.  I ended up burning backups of everything though on a good quality disc.  Part of the problem I think were the "sticky labels," which I've heard are more problematic than the silk-screened/printed on disc labels, which I think is the standard nowadays, not seen too many sticky labels any more.

drone on

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2010, 08:50:42 PM »
PS: many of the earlier releases were TDK discs, IMO the worst CDR's ever made, I never use them.  I only use Maxell these days, they've been very reliable overall.

Blackinfinity

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2010, 09:53:00 PM »
PS: many of the earlier releases were TDK discs, IMO the worst CDR's ever made, I never use them.  I only use Maxell these days, they've been very reliable overall.

Just for your information,  when it comes to manufactures of cd/dvd media, not many brands manufacture their own media...they just put their logotype on it...and buy from other manufactures like Taiyo Yuden...the computer memory manufactures do the same..

For instance Plextor buy left overs from Taiyo Yuden media, that do not have enough good quality... so called second grade media... From what I know...all CD/DVDs media besides Taiyo Yuden is second grade... only TY manufactures first grade...that according to themselves will hold up to 100 years (in an optimal environment). My point is the brand might not matter it might be the same shit i.e second or third grade media... The price is probably a good indicator of it's quality though...cause high quality media is never cheap...

drone on

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2010, 11:09:57 PM »
Interesting.  I did not know that.

Blackinfinity

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2010, 11:12:00 PM »
"Rebranded Taiyo Yuden media can be found under Fujifilm, Fusion, Maxell, Miflop, Panasonic, Plextor, Sony, TDK and Verbatim Corporation brands [1]. In Japan, Korea and Greece, Taiyo Yuden is distributing its own brand "That's"."

mgriffin

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2010, 10:23:52 AM »
Since we switched to Taiyo Yuden a few years ago we haven't had a single instance of a bad disc due to media glitches.  I really think they're worth the extra money. 

When I first started doing CDRs I used TDK discs and they weren't too bad, but we did sometimes replace discs that had inexplicable noise not present in the master.  I'd say we sold somewhere near 1,000 of those TDK discs and the failure/rejection rate was somewhere around 1% which I consider too high.  Having sold many HSS discs and also CDRs made by a number of other individuals, I can say the rate of problems and rejected discs varies hugely from one to another.  Some people's CDRs fail at the rate of maybe 5-10% (including some artists/labels with some very worthwhile music), while others are pretty much zero.  Really, that extra 10 or 20 cents per disc will save you a lot of headaches replacing bad discs, and make your customers forget that the disc was a CDR in the first place.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Seren

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2010, 11:28:01 AM »
PS: many of the earlier releases were TDK discs, IMO the worst CDR's ever made, I never use them.  I only use Maxell these days, they've been very reliable overall.

Which is funny becuase TDK cassesttes were always the best and Maxell ones - well you didn't buy them!!

uhurit

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2010, 12:44:53 PM »
I did have problems with some of these CDR's and would have to request replacements.  I ended up burning backups of everything though on a good quality disc.  Part of the problem I think were the "sticky labels," which I've heard are more problematic than the silk-screened/printed on disc labels, which I think is the standard nowadays, not seen too many sticky labels any more.

Yes, I heard the same, and distinctly remember those sticky labels coming off at random, but never completely.
And once again it's a shame it had to be so sloppy, since the music was always great (especially, K Wiese's works)

mgriffin

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2010, 01:45:46 PM »
Umbra had a great run while it lasted.  For a while there, we were selling almost as many Umbra discs as Hypnos discs!  The label operation was very labor-intensive, though, as everything was hand-made.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Blackinfinity

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Re: Umbra/Penumbra: Greatest ambient label ever?
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2010, 05:29:25 PM »
I still think Umbra was the best ambient label...I think much due the very nice artworks... Oophoi does make very very beautiful psychedelic artwork... it did gives the albums a special atmosphere.. I also like the underground feel of the site..