The electro-charged Baltimore duo maintains its exploratory core while taking on songs that project a greater sense of purpose
The rare times that Wume incorporated vocals on early recordings, singer/drummer April Camlin’s words were often deployed texturally, her voice warped, buried or extruded like paint on a wild, surrealist canvas. On 2018’s Towards the Shadow (Northern Spy), however, Camlin’s vocals ring out clear, the singer decrying the political and social systems in power (“Repression serves no one and limits our freedom”) and questioning the ethics of capitalism (“What do you value?”).
Reached in mid-November on the road to a tour kick-off show in New York, Camlin said this newfound clarity was the result of both an increased inner confidence and a growing desire to embrace the platform given the Baltimore duo as a touring band.
“It never really felt like a decision, like an on and off switch that flipped, but … I found myself in this position where we were playing shows and recording music and releasing it publicly, and it started to feel like an opportunity to share the things that were important to me, so I wanted to speak to some of what I see happening in the world and also within myself,” said Camlin, who joins keyboardist/electronic manipulator Albert Schatz in concert at Dirty Dungaree’s on Saturday, Nov. 23. “When we started this project, I never thought it would take us to the places it has, and I certainly never thought about having a public voice, and it can be intimidating to know you’re being heard and seen. With that, it’s like you have to be really accountable to your words, and so it took me some time to really be comfortable owning that, and now it’s coming more and more.”As an FYI, Wume is actually pronounced "Wume." Sign up for our daily newsletter
This evolution is further reflected in Camlin’s vocabulary choices. While the musician said that she often obscured song meanings in the past, adopting more poetic, slippery language, she is now writing with increased directness. On “Functionary,” for one, Camlin even recites from Eros and Civilization, a 1955 book by German philosopher Herbert Marcuse that explores the concept of a non-repressive society (the text helped shape the 1960s counterculture movement, among other things). The newfound clarity and sense of purpose that she has deployed in her word choices is further mirrored in the cleaner, more readily discernible vocal takes.
Musically, however, the duo still relies on a more ethereal, difficult-to-pin-down approach, often engaging in long jam sessions in search of those random instrumental instances that can make the hairs on one’s arms stand on end.
“When something is special, it’s instantly apparent to me, and I’m always trying to capture that moment and preserve it,” said Schatz, who laces dense, krautrock-leaning tracks such as “Ravel” with percolating electronics and buzzing synths that come across like the amplified inner workings of a supercomputer. “We throw away a lot [of what we record]; I’m not precious about every little thing we’ve done. For me, it’s about [locating] some kind of spark where it’s like, ‘This is good and could potentially make a good song,’ which is a hard thing to describe, but I know exactly when it’s happening.”
This freewheeling attitude has fueled Wume since its 2009 inception; Camlin said the two musicians never even made a decision to start a band, initially bonding over little more than a shared interest in exploring their respective instruments in new ways. “I had really just started playing a drum kit, and Al had just started getting into synths, and we were both very interested in working with odd time signatures and syncopation,” said Camlin, who, like Schatz, still considers herself a relative novice (“I’m not really well versed in any instrument, to be honest,” Schatz cracked). “So we just started jamming together, and it was like, ‘Oh, I guess we have a band now.’
“I was talking to Al the other day and I was like, ‘Man, I think it’s really special we’ve been making music together a decade,’ which feels crazy to say. And it still feels fresh, and that spirit of playfulness is still there. I mean, the songwriting process is always really painful and difficult, and we’ve really had to fight to bring these songs to life, but I think there’s just this certain kind of spirit to something when you don’t really know what you’re doing, and I find it to be liberating.”