Words: Sophie Williams
A clue that Reading discordant rock four-piece Sundara Karma are not your average band: their second album is named after Ufilas, a Greek 4th Century bishop who created his own alphabet in order to translate the Bible. Frontman Oscar Pollock has similarly crafted 13 songs that channel his innermost feelings, conveying depth that belies his gregarious persona.
‘Ulfilas’ Alphabet’ is a great reinvention after the band’s 2017 debut ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect’. This is a clear gateway into a sphere of daring artistry that Sundara Karma previously only flirted with. Lead single ‘Illusions’ is ridiculously confident in the way that its bouncing hooks support Pollock’s juddering croon, while the hypnotic ‘Higher States’ is a bonafide stomper that dances around a sonic palette of disco and electronic pulses.
The title track builds to a soaring crescendo guaranteed to make the heart race and ‘Duller Days’, peppered with hints of gothic prose, fires out one of the wildest one-liners of the album: “Necromance is as common as the flu”. Sometimes the lyrics are glib – “Have you found the reason / You’re not bringing home the bacon?” Pollock asks on ‘Sweet Intentions’ – though this is balanced out elsewhere, most notably when he poignantly notes on ‘The Changeover: “And what a horrible thing / I can’t find the affirmations my mother sends to me.”
Eschewing the anthemic choruses of the band’s last album, ‘Ulfilas’ Alphabet’ takes the listener into semi-psychedelic territory, mixing spectral melodies with bruising guitar lines. Sundara Karma’s gigs will still be packed with fans and their trademark glitter-clad costumes, but this time they’ll be singing back whip-smart allusions to gothic literature. I mean, where’s the harm in that?