Hailing from Brighton in the UK, Ultraísta has quickly became over the last couple of weeks one of my favourite albums of 2013 so far. It’s psychedelic mirages over trippy beats gives the entire album a flowing life cycle that I just fell into.
“Bad Insect” opens with waves and waves of beautiful metallic keyboard synths like thousands of tiny stings gently kissing you. The drums just keep rolling and spinning around the gentile vocals that are smooth but certainly have a presence. Some artists are guilty of just not having a specific vocal presence but Ultraísta is clear, clean but delivered. “Gold Dayzz” then goes for the chilled vibe with thin bass lines over hi hat heavy beats. It really feels like things have slowed down throughout. What Ultraísta’s vocals are very good at conveying is a slightly fuzzy chilled effect and here it works beautifully in the slightly woozy chorus. “Static Light” conveys somewhere in the middle as thick buzzing synths and tens of percussive loops build and build into a bursting train of pulsating vibes. It’s never really going nuts with really complex melodies, but it’s the album’s success is down to the collage of lots of simple hooks and motifs that become study building blocks of musical excellence.
No sooner has it abruptly stopped does the excellent “Strange Formula” start. This track mixes repetitive bass lines and vocal background melodies with really slow-moving synths (with unusual chords) and trip-beat drums to create a track that is immediate yet slightly off kilter. It’s one of my favourite on the album because it twists the usual. Strange eh? “Our Song” reminds me of some of the mid to late 90’s dance tracks because of its off-key vocals and arpeggio keyboard delivery. It also has what I call the kitchen sink drum loop where about 15 drum hits continuously roll around to form a loop. It has a surreal electronica edge and is one of the most direct radio friendly tracks on the album. “Easier” is kick drum happy. The kick drum quickly becomes a thumping ever-present thud as the rest of the track focuses on high register noises. In fact the drums don’t even sound like the drums after a while because you’re focused on the swirling repetition of the vocal and keyboard melodies as it all bleeds into each other. It also showcases Ultraísta’s penchant for awkward chords in the middle of a normal structure to perfection.
“Smalltalk” is possibly my favourite track with its trance pop edges and the excellent vocal like “You no longer seem to cope with what you wished for” it has a simple riff that is built on and twisted with different keyboards and synths and it just gets ingrained into your head. “Party Line” is the most laid back track with echoed piano and monotone buzzes bleeding over a drunken vocal and sparse percussion. Things do build but compared to everything else it’s noticeably like the come down from what was a massive night out (knowing Brighton I bet it was as well). I swear the backing vocals are singing “morning wee” as well. “Wash It Over” is a fun track because it keeps repeating the same mini melodies whilst the chord patterns change and so everything sound familiar but different. It really fits in with the artwork where everything feels like it’s freaking out but it’s really the same space. The same can be sad for “You’re Out” which has a different time signature (7/8) and so there’s a breath after each line but not quite for the same amount of time as the line that was sung. It gives a freshness to the metallic tones of the track and it’s like everything seeps out the speakers during the breath before it powers back in and its psychedelic nature is helped out with loads of vocal ad-lib on repeat in each speaker too.
Two “Smalltalk” remixes round off the album. The first by Four Tet whom stripped things down to a dance bass synth and some great Four Tet esque drums. That means triangles, weird glass sounds and fun mashed up drums. It would be a great dance floor filler especially with the vocal warping that become as much of an instrument as the rest of them. The Matthew Dear Remix isn’t quite as good on the ears with its abstract fuzzes and buzzes and lack of melody of the majority of the track although the finale is absolutely superb.
Ultraísta’s début album is fantastic. It’s alive, breathing, bursting and disorienting. There’s colour, depth, anger and solace and frankly it’s going to feature in my top 10 albums of 2013.