Spacey synth sound
Experimental pop-rock trio, Ultraísta, have just released their sophomore full-length LP, Sister, since their self-titled debut back in 2012. Fast fact – the band’s name is inspired by some early 20th-century Spanish literary movement known as “ultraísmo” and, as the band collectively confides, their sound “was conceived from a love of Afrobeat, electronica, art and inspired by tequila.” An odd lot, indeed, comprised of Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s highly revered producer; Joey Waronker, regular session musician for R.E.M. and Beck; and chartreuse Laura Bettinson. Both Godrich and Waronker are members of the supergroup Atoms for Peace. Anyways, on the radar gun this project clocks in at 42 minutes of runtime with nine songs. All the tunes sort of blend into each other for a hazy, fractured stretch of a listen teeming with copious amounts of ambient synth, club-beat percussion lines and water-logged vocals. The team crafts an unremittingly jaded soundscape that drips with verve.
The first track, “Tin King’,” has a panoramic warping and muffled acapella while also led by this Daedalian drum-track. It’s very layered from the outset, much is happening and has this disorienting effect. Instruments come and go, not limited to just this track, although this one seems their most illustrious out of the rest. Various modulated synth waves prevail through all the tracks as this is their primary weapon in the project; it’s an electronica album, and it’s all executed in a very fractured manner and dangerously lacks any inherent structure.
It’s also chock full of these digitally synthesized arpeggios sounding like the wind-chimes outside a nursing home in an interstellar ocean, sometimes even the likes of celestial insects in the track “Bumblebees.” This track is another dissonant utterance within the sonic oeuvre – broken tick-tack metallic bongos, slow ambient notes struck with bored patience, breathless singing and even some stately strings! This track is particularly touching. It’s one of those you dance to in a covert room and just lose yourself. It’s wavy and voluminous.
Sister, holistically, is like this spectral space soundtrack scored for daunting interplanetary exploration, with the aperture at the part when you see the ship softly exploding in the near-distance just out of reach and any remaining hope. It’s really delicate and melodic and morose, especially in tracks like “The Moon and Mercury” wherein there’s a clear contrivance to make it sound warbled and ethereal, yet offset with slightly crass, slightly despondent lyrics like, “I don’t know what it is to know myself,” or, “prick me in the ass so I can see the shadow of a moon and mercury.”
All in all, the mercurial instrumentation disinterring and disintegrating makes the piece overly-wrought and hard to follow, a bit cacophonic. Yet, if all aspects of the music were separated it’d sound really immaculate and all, but it’s just really muddled and kind of drowned out by all the peripheral noise. Although, the thing still sounds like an obsidian prism pirouetting under a corona of stars, yet it’s overly lavish, a little cloying. So, if you’re content with an inundation of tightly-tuned channels blending into a kaleidoscopic head-twist then look no further, sonic discombobulation will now shower upon you.