Posted on October 19th, 2012 (12:00 pm) by Ben Welton

British pop once ruled the world. The so-called Brit Pop explosion of the 1990s introduced those of us on this side of The Pond to such amazing bands as The Stone Roses, Oasis, and Blur. These bands helped to rekindle an interest in the Manchester sound of the ‘80s; plus they paved the wave for current British pop-rock acts such as The Cribs, Radiohead, and The Artic Monkeys. Ultraísta, an electro-pop act based in London, might not seem like heirs of the Brit Pop kingdom, but their quirky approach to electro-pop is undeniably influenced by the funky persuasions of the The Stone Roses and the electronic soul of New Order. Ultraísta, the group’s latest album, is a ten song wave of distinctly British electro-pop managing to be both dance-worthy and uniquely trance-like. The psychedelic videos for “Static Light” and “Bad Insect” attest to Ultraísta’s interest in the club culture of the 1990s.

It must be noted Ultraísta are not some retro act. Their latest release has touches of the current indie interest in Afrobeat sounds, plus Ultraísta has a French house flavor to it, which might have something to do with the fact the group’s lead vocalist is the Parisian (via London) artist Laura Bettinson. Bettinson’s vocals drip with come-hither sexuality, especially on the track “Small Talk,” a song detailing the decline of communication between two individuals trying to get a little frisky. And while “Small Talk” is a somewhat unique take on the already trite narrative subject of sex and communication, its musical composition is a minimalist trance groove that echoes both current French house trends and Seventeen Seconds-era Cure. Such post-punk shades only serve to further entrench the British quality of Ultraísta.

One song breaking the mold on Ultraísta is “Bad Insect” — an up-tempo track accompanying a dream-like synthesizer line with a disturbingly heavy bass echo. While “Bad Insect” has some overtones of New York art rock (think Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio), it still manages to sound completely original. Bettinson’s vocals are at their best on “Bad Insect;” she coos like a nightingale trapped in a West End dance bar. Nigel Godrich and Joey Waronker create a rich texture of diverse modern music on “Bad Insect,” both popular and “intellectual” modern music. “Static Light,” another rich musical composition, rivals “Bad Insect” in terms of overall production, and yet Bettinson’s vocals are very weak on the track. On “Static Light,” Bettinson struggles to carve out her own space between a thundering bass line and a loud synthesizer, which abuses the high-end. “Static Light” and “Small Talk” are two comparable songs, for the former shows Bettinson trying hard to find space for herself within the music, while the latter is song almost entirely dominated by her sultry voice.

“Small Talk,” “Bad Insect,” and “Static Light” are the triumvirate of solid tunes on Ultraísta; the other tracks on the album do not shine as brightly. The lone exception is “Strange Formula,” a highly sexualized song that rocks and rolls in the true meaning of those words. This may sound weird, but “Strange Formula” sounds to me like an electro-pop rendition of a My Bloody Valentine song.“Strange Formula” is space-y, trip-y, and something else that ends with a “-y.” That said, “Strange Formula” is one of the last lights on Ultraísta, and as such, it highlights the mediocre quality of most of the songs on the album. Ultraísta is a solid record, but not terribly interesting beyond a few passages. I would equate it with Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula —a synthesis of multi-cultural elements that coalesces into a populist whole, while still failing to be as interesting as its synopsis.

Track List:
1.Bad Insect
2.Gold Dayzz
3.Static Light
4.Strange Formula
5.Our Song
7.Small Talk
8.Party Line
9.Wash It Over
10.You’re Out

Ultraísta's self-titled new release.
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

66 / 100
© Inyourspeakers Media LLC