Makeunder is the moniker of songwriter Hamilton Ulmer. Trained as a composer, Ulmer's work is the byproduct of a seismic collision between symphonic-in-scope and pop music, at times part Richard Wagner and David Byrne, part Bélá Bartók and Stevie Wonder, part Benny Goodman and Dirty Projectors. Grandiosity and bombast are baked into Makeunder's vernacular, and Ulmer's wide singing voice is the tie that holds together the entire affair. But despite all this diverting enormity, at its core Makeunder crafts powerful songs about death, survival, migration, & loss, depicting scenes from life on the forgotten margins of society.
The project's first release, Radiate, Satellite, was written and recorded over five early mornings on a laptop's internal microphone as Ulmer cleaned out his childhood home. The instrumentation was simple - with a rusty alto saxophone, a family violin, a small hand drum, and layers of vocals, the EP recounts scenes from the life and death of a rural Californian family, engaging in shades of classic soul, Stravinskian flourishes, brassy melismatic vocals, and 40's big band charisma.
2015 saw the release of Makeunder's Great Headless Blank, a six-song EP about the circumstances and consequences of Ulmer's father's passing from lung cancer. NPR Music's Bob Boilen called it "one of the most outstanding and challenging new bits of music I've heard this year [...] "Great Headless Blank" is punctuated by sax and claps that glue the off-kilter soaring vocals like fingers holding onto a cliff. I sensed the song was about desperation and hope but honestly I was simply fascinated by a sound filled with choral harmonies and influences that could include Béla Bartók or Ornette Coleman or Talking Heads."
Makeunder is currently recording its next album, due for release in 2017.