Friday, May 28, 2010


"Ultra were one of the shadiest of the post-Industrial avant-experimental groups, with next to nada available in terms of info and a deliberately cryptic/parodic stance. They were in fact the brainchild of Jon Carlson with contributions from Christoph Heemann and Achim P Li Khan of HNAS, inspired in part by their response to the early Whitehouse and Come Org releases. But in their attempt to lampoon and amplify the urges behind the most transgressive Industrial noise they went well beyond the remit, birthing a form of subtly psychedelic avant garde that is as beautiful as it is hilarious. There’s a sophistication to the recording that bears Heemann’s unmistakable thumbprint (he appears on 11 of the 18 tracks), with hazy drone sunsets that are pure Mirror, elegiac avant piano instrumentals and great barracking Industrial/rock assaults in the mode of Whitehouse/Ramleh, including the classic “New Centurion” and their amazing take on The Sodality’s “I Can’t Stand A Bitchy Chick.” The schizophrenic atmosphere makes for the perfect confusion, lurching from fizzy, melancholy tone-poems to fists full of Industrial brutalism. If you’re at all attuned to the more experimental/avant garde side of Industrial music, the side specifically inspired by the NWW list and articulated by labels like Pinakotheca, then might wanna move in. This deluxe double LP reissue restores their classic 1997 Roman Holiday album complete with additional stray singles and a bonus 7” featuring unreleased material from the Zoll sessions. Edition of 500 copies. Highly recommended."-David Keenan

"Here’s to the libertines, eh? Deluxe vinyl reissue of Ultra’s 1997 CD of the same name, given the business: over an album’s worth of compilation, singles, and unreleased tracks appended, in effect blowing out the impact of a very dense and troubling record to a level of mournful introspection rarely achieved in the noise/taboo timeline. Roman Holiday alone is a visceral lashing of steaming male frustration, made by people who give the impression that they’ve turned a corner few dare to approach.

The uncalculated, everyday volume of masculine anger released by the populace is given a strange new voice by the men who made this record, one which both highlights its overtones of power and dread, and underscores the utter ridiculousness of it all. Wah abuse has rarely been captured in such a telling manner, and the sex dungeon beats of “Doll Rally” are like staring into the dark, waiting for something to attack you. To scream the lyrics of “I Can’t Stand a Bitchy Chick” behind carsick electronics and abrasive, cyclical bursts of noise, is only funny if you think there’s a joke to be in on, and if that’s the case, it’s the most dangerous interpretation of all – though for most, laughter is an acceptable response. Our nerves do that to us. Listen to it alone and you will feel the slump hit you, a blow to your self-control. That’s power. That’s provocative. That’s also somewhat unpleasant, but this music may have been made to draw the beast out of the male ego, and feels so unctuous at spots than many people would gladly run across the room to change the record. Certainly there were points – particularly in the Ted Bundy worship of “A Letter of Introduction” – that sickened me outright. It’s a valid emotional response to something so base and abusive, but the fact that Ultra plays the backing track of soundtrack violins and tape-spliced fear for its intended shock value as well, the interpretation that allows the laughter to cut through the seriousness of the read is there. You may not want to know someone whose voice sounds like that, and who utters these words, but if you did, how funny would it be if he sounded like this hysterical funboy?

This becomes more of a conundrum for the listener who sits in for what comes before and after, particularly the drone-based tracks that make up most of the bonus material. Here, Ultra’s skills in wringing tears out of the dishrag are laid plain. Ambience has rarely been so achingly gorgeous, and it’s in this way that the group proves they have far, far more on the agenda than making you nervous, or of people questioning why something like this is in your home. If TG fucked with decency ‘til it got sick, and Coil let it fester without treatment, Ultra squeezes the infected area until it bursts, proudly oozing forth in a defiant blaze of self-immolation, and it’s only the brave who’ll follow them into quarantine. Fortunately, the people who made this record seem smart enough to escape the piercing, painful one-trick-ponyism of Whitehouse or the Brainbombs (two shockers which the sicklings, who’ll probably miss, have been sweating so hard for some time), and express themselves with an elegance wielded both as a product of restoring beauty through sadness, and as the ultimate faceturn.

Transposing these sentiments to music is neither easy nor acceptable in polite society, so the fact that Ultra gives itself carte blanche to personalize these goings-on with such wild and fruiting abandon, a hat trick that few noise/ambient acts could ever pull off to this measure of success. The easily offended will be better off not knowing this record exists, and the boutique pressing of 500 copies (including a single of outtakes from their Zoll album) will guarantee its obscurity, but as the side three label states, “Ultra offers you a listening experience of unparalleled refinement and sensitivity, and often a great deal less.” This is as fair a self-evaluation as can be told, so I’m gonna leave you to it."-Doug Mosurock

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