It is near-impossible to negatively critique this exceptional work of sound design. Veterans of the electronic scene Ultramarine set the quality high for other artists to follow, with their new record – Signals Into Space.
There is a lot that needs to be said about Ultramarine‘s Signals Into Space, yet it also needs to be experienced more than anything. Pick out your best headphones, strap in and enjoy these incredible songs at a moderate volume.
This album is a wonderful experience thanks to the exceptional songwriting and sound design harnessed by Ultramarine. Even in the short opener “Elsewhere”, you feel as if you’ve been transported to another galaxy. The tones and noises that are used reflect something otherworldly, fresh, and relaxing – a very exciting feeling for someone such as myself, who enjoys fresh ideas and new ways of creating sound.
The duo of Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond make up Ultramarine, and it is safe to say their 40-odd years of music-making has resulted in one of the best electronic efforts I’ve heard this decade. Their sound is hard to describe, but a mellow house / acid vibe would be appropriate, mixed with jazz and reggae beats. Each song sounds unique, and a world apart from their early releases like Every Man And Woman Is A Star.
One of the best changes from records like the aforementioned is the addition of vocals and saxophone to the mix. The duo has steered away from featured acts in the past, but this time brought Anna Domino to sing on some of the tracks. In songs like “Spark from Flint to Clay”, her vocals provide a perfect layer to distract from the beautiful bass, and effects-driven background. The saxophone really jazzes up songs, completely shifting the mood on tracks. The dynamic approach to the record means you are constantly engaged with each new song, which electronic albums can really struggle with.
Some songs like “Breathing”, hearken back to the acid filled days of Every Man And Woman Is A Star, and mix with the new sounds expertly. Simple percussion moves the song forward, whilst effects and samples pan across the duo’s soundscapes, making this a wonderful experience on headphones. The pair introduce further layers seamlessly into the song, which you’ll often find in less experienced artists’ records actually masks the original beat. In Signals Into Space, you’ll rarely find that happens. Ultramarine keep the beat present, and evolve their tracks organically, putting their work a tier above artists who simply distract listeners from the beat.
I’ve been wracking my brains for similar artists, and I’m tempted to say their record is for fans of a happier Boards Of Canada, but it also shares qualities with acts like Four Tet too. The reason I say this is because for the most part, this record is very much a chilled-out couch experience, but at points, you can imagine popping a dance to most of the tracks, just like the mentioned artists can offer.
The experimental nature of the record, and how brilliantly fresh the tones that are used feel, is what has kept the record on repeat for me. Despite handling some exceptional records for review at the moment, Signals Into Space keeps on finding itself back on my stereo. I love getting sucked in by the playful sounds found in tracks like “Cross Reference”, and chilling out to the smooth reggae influence on “$10 Heel”. This is an absolute masterpiece, by a pair at the top of their game. My eyes will be firmly peeled for festival and gig dates this year. I recommend you do the same, and make sure to take a journey to the cosmos with Signals Into Space.