Album Review : Uboa - The Origin of my Depression (2019)
If you’re wondering what the hell is a Uboa, don’t be too hard on yourself. Two weeks ago, I didn’t know either. It’s a cult video game character that looks like an uneasy middle ground between a wandering ghost and a dog. It’s also the dark ambient/noise music project of Xandra Metcalfe, a young Australian transgender woman who seems to have been going through a lot, lately. Her latest album The Origin of my Depression is a raw, terrifyingly honest expression of that. If you’ve ever lost control of your mind, this album will resonate with you like few others.
The Origin of my Depression is (obviously) a very personal album for Uboa. Song titles like Detransitioning, Epilation Joy and Misspent Youth leave little to the imagination. Xandra Metcalfe is clearly struggling with her transgender identity on this record. On Detransitioning, she calls herself ugly; on Epilation Joy she talks about facial surgery; on Please Don’t Leave me, she begs for mercy like the inside of her mind was on fire. Her suffering is really stripped of all the mental mechanism a person usually protects herself with.
Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of The Origin of my Depression, though is formless and unpredictable soundscapes. Xandra was really able to convey a sense of emptiness to her music. She didn’t do that with silence, white noise or any cheap tricks dark ambient artists usually rely on. She uses echoes and thin, brittle instrumentation that almost feel like background noise caught on tape. If you want to hear the difference between silence and emptiness, this record is exactly it. There’s a lot of space and scope to Uboa’s music and it’s never completely filled.
But Uboa’s emptiness is undercut by moments of great suffering, which are expressed on The Origin of my Depression by screams, static and harsh distortion. That’s what feels so real about this album: being caught between emptiness and suffering. If you’ve been there, you know. So, it’s a very personal record, but it expresses wordless feelings so accurately with its soundscapes and its stream-of-consciousness lyrics that it’ll speak to anybody who’s experienced depression. There’s something cathartic and healing to know someone else understands what it’s like.
Before I go, there’s something to be said about Angel of Great and Terrible Light and Misspent Youth, which are the two most structured songs on The Origin of my Depression. And they do take half of the album’s running time. The former is perhaps my favorite song of the record, with its pounding industrial drum and haunting glockenspiel *. It’s a beautiful, desperate fuck you to God and to the randomness and unfairness of the human condition. Misspent Youth is maybe the most conventional song, except for its length. It lacks the personality and the urgency of the others.
The Origin of my Depression is an emotional experience… but it’s mood music. It’s music so potent that you probably won’t reach for it unless you feel a certain way. I cannot explain you what that feeling is, but if you listen to the album, you’ll know immediately. It’s not for everybody and I… probably wouldn’t recommend it if you’re feeling emotionally unstable. It’s that accurate and unnerving. I loved it. The Origin of my Depression is never going to be regular rotation music for me, but I don’t think it was created to be.
* I think it’s a glockenspiel? Whatever the instrument is, it’s used in almost every song and it really fucks with you. It’s like the sound of your lost innocence.