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Under the name Umberto, Los Angeles-based electronic musician Matt Hill composes music that pays homage to the soundtracks of '70s and '80s horror films, as well as other musical genres from the era such as Italo-disco and ambient. Following the release of 2009 debut From the Grave..., his music quickly gained a cult following among fans of retro-styled synthesizer music, and it wasn't long before he was scoring actual soundtracks, such as 2012's Night Has a Thousand Screams. While Umberto has mainly been a solo venture of Hill, he has collaborated live and on record with additional musicians, particularly Justin Carrick.
Originally from Kansas City, Hill became a touring member of Justin Wright's psych/Krautrock-inspired Expo '70 project during the late 2000s. Umberto's debut album, From the Grave..., was originally issued by Wright's Sonic Meditations label in 2009. The album was reissued on vinyl by Permanent Records in 2010, eventually going through several pressings as Umberto's fan base grew. Second album Prophecy of the Black Widow appeared on Los Angeles-based Not Not Fun that year. Umberto released several singles and EPs in 2011, including the '80s action movie-inspired 7" Freeze! and the more spacious Final Exit and Welcome to the Chillzone.
In 2012, Umberto's first proper soundtrack, Night Has a Thousand Screams, was released by Mogwai's Rock Action label. The project returned to Not Not Fun for the release of the 2013 full-length Confrontations and 2014 12" Temple Room, which revisited the leadoff track from Prophecy of the Black Widow in two extended disco mixes. A few other singles (including "La Llorona" and "The Child") appeared in 2014 as well. Umberto's second soundtrack, the Antoni Maiovvi collaboration Law Unit, was issued by Death Waltz (home to numerous reissues of vintage horror soundtracks) in 2015. The label also released a stand-alone Umberto single titled "In the Night." He returned to Not Not Fun again in 2016 with the full-length Alienation. The album included vocals by Edward Tonoyan and Viktoria Gokun, and went in more of an '80s ethereal/darkwave direction than Hill's previous work.
After a three-year absence, Umberto signed to Thrill Jockey in 2019 and released Helpless Spectator, which featured cellist/bowed banjo player Aaron Martin and pedal steel guitarist "Idaho Joe" Winslow. While the album was a bit of a departure for Hill, he returned to horror-disco with the Outskirts of Reno EP, issued by Giallo Disco. ~ Paul Simpson
- Kansas City, MO
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