Introducing: Yama Uba – Silhouettes + 3 Qs

“Yama Uba is the dark synth pop/post-punk project of Akiko Sampson (Ötzi/Psychic Eye Records). With expansive vocals, explosive bass guitar and heavily layered synths over synthpop and industrial beats, Yama Uba’s sound and live performances have captivated audiences across the United States, Mexico and Europe. Their upcoming album, Silhouettes, will be released in October, 2023 on Psychic Eye/Ratskin Records.   

Since 2017, Akiko Sampson has shared stages as Yama Uba (or in their previous project, Ötzi) with darkwave, post-punk and punk luminaries such as The Chameleons, Pink Turns Blue, She Past Away, Light Asylum, and Twin Tribes, amongst many others.”

Photo by Najee Tobin

‘Silhouettes’ is a strong debut album that captures the shifting perspectives of its five-year writing period, and the emergence of Yama Uba’s uniquely crafted sound. With Akiko Sampson’s charismatic vocals and rumbling bass combined with Winter Zora’s sweeping guitar and saxophone soaring over velvet synthesizers and synthpop beats, Yama Uba makes several nods to their post-punk and darkwave predecessors while creating a sound entirely their own. Throughout each track, Yama Uba emerges as a songwriting unit capable of capturing the complexities of the human spirit, as fragile as it is powerful, as it experiences its own evolution. States Sampson, ‘‘As a whole, ‘Silhouettes’ is about personal transformation and self-discovery, and is a reckoning with the power of time”

I typically do not feature music from the darkwave and post-punk genres on our blog, as they are somewhat unfamiliar to me. However, when Ratskin Records shared their latest album with me, I was intrigued and decided to give it a listen. To my surprise, I was drawn in by the album’s clever nods to older music in these genres, while still presenting a fresh and modern sound.

As a child, I remember listening to Marilyn Manson and my parents reminiscing about their Depeche Mode days, so I had some familiarity with these genres from a young age. This album, however, truly transported me back in time and evoked a sense of nostalgia that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

The album is filled with an incredible amount of energy and features fantastic guitar riffs that are accompanied by equally remarkable synths and the occasional touch of saxophone, which together make for a truly unique sound. If you’re looking to expand your musical horizons and venture outside of your typical musical preferences, I highly recommend giving this album a try. I took that leap and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Do not forget to get this album on vinyl or CD.

I reached out to the band and asked our 3 Qs, and both members answered:

What inspired you to start making music and what keeps you making music?

Winter: There are no bounds of where I draw inspiration from. I grew up listening to everything from heavy rock and punk to classical, pop, and jazz. I’d say what inspires me the most is how someone can bring so much expression and passion out of their instrument, and how that can melt into everything else going on around that.

Akiko: When I was three years old, I would climb up to a piano in my house and bang out discordant sounds, and I’d announce that I was a jazz pianist. I’ve always been drawn to making music without needing any prompt, so I guess I expect music to provide inspiration rather than require it. What keeps me making music is that the world of music, in both listening and playing, is so vast. Music is like a labyrinth with no dead ends, where you can keep exploring new turns forever, and that never stops fascinating me.

What was the most challenging thing in your music (artistic) path?

Akiko: I’ve found that valuing myself, my mental health and safety is something I have to push myself to do in a turbulent industry that prioritizes fads and homogeneity.  Staying true to yourself and your art requires years of dedication, a willingness to set boundaries, and courage to find your own direction. You have to choose your own integrity over external validation over and over again, which is something I don’t think any of us are socialized to do. That’s definitely not always easy.

Winter: It’s always a challenge when you don’t fit inside the box or status quo of what is acceptable or palatable. I strive to break down all barriers within art and music, and refuse to believe anything is impossible.

What would you dream to do if anything was possible?

Winter: It is always my dream to encourage and inspire others to go against the grain and be true and authentic to yourself and everything that you do. My musical journey is never-ending, and I dream to express and create for myself and others in ways that are transformational, and to reach heights higher than before.

Akiko: I’d find a skeleton key that unlocks doors to parallel universes.

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