Ultrasound, a band from England, appeared out of the post-Britpop wreckage with a unique audio stockpile of emotion and noise. The music they made didn't always work, the band's eyes and ambition often bigger than their abilities, but they were overwhelming with ideas and imagery and a series of luscious, increasingly acclaimed and popular late '90s indie singles that ended up to be better than their debut, the band's one and only album, which, exactly a decade ago, destroyed the band, who were never seen again.
Ultrasound deserved a lot more.
In the late '90s, the Britpop hangover was at its height, mirroring a country lodged back into pre-millennial tension and self-hate. A bleakness crept back into major music culture, from bands like Mogwai, Radiohead, and Verve, but also with the icons of the decade's earlier, once-joyous champions like Pulp and Blur, who both suffered public breakdowns and unleashed the darkest works of their careers. The British music scene, for better or worse, was not much fun anymore. But it was here, gathered in London from a dozen different bands, Andrew "Tiny" Wood, Richard Green, Vanessa Best, Matt Jones, and Andy Peace saw a window ready to be flung open.
Ultrasound arrived and it was obvious they were out of place.
The band was aging, theatrical, and overweight. They were a floodlight of krautrock, King Crimson, Rachmaninoff, Dexys Midnight Runners, and Metal Machine Music. They wrote songs as long as EPs, built on chaos and trickery, but full-throated with a very English sense of melody and expanse. Tracks like "Suckle," "Underwater Love Story," "One Plus One," and "Aire & Calder" were enormous in length and layers, wonderful and different, coming off like rival bands' whole careers. Where others of the time bunkered down with dread, digging inwards, Ultrasound took the culture's fatalism and burst back with an unfashionable pride and brick-shattering volume, looking for something else, something new, just to celebrate it, whatever it was, even if it was going to end tomorrow.
Nothing was better than "I'll Show You Mine" and its apocalyptic, white-light romance. Or "Stay Young" with its single-firecracker start and electric, next-generational call-to-arms climax.
"In the future all this will be yours," they sang, "So do what you want."
But their story was short.
After a series of successful singles that rallied the band around the walls of the mainstream, first from the Fierce Panda label and later Sony's Nude, the band kept vanishing into the studio. If Ultrasound's songs were already ridiculously long, the debut album was looking to be even worse, too big for the sum of its parts, spreading public doubt instead of anticipation. In 1999, when Everything Picture finally materialized, two discs and all, it felt like an anti-climax, overshadowed by its lead-up, and it came across like something made by a band from their own future, long after the highs and lows, kicking back against the collapse of their own hype and ego, ideas stretched as far as possible, whose members had gone and lost their minds.
And that was it. Then they were gone.
Time, at least, has been kind.
Ultrasound have only grown in affection over the years. Their singles remain remarkable things. Everything Picture, in reality, has become a spectacular achievement. And because of its arrogance. Its ambition. Its faults. Its astonishing, heart-stopping, twenty-minute final moment.
Melody Maker once wrote, "And that's the crux of Ultrasound -- they're infectious, hypnotic, inspiring, the band who can make you trade the real world of fat blokes and prejudice for the stars, the endless stars. Give in." Adding, "It's time for the dreamers to win for a change."
We've tried to write about Ultrasound all year, but couldn't.
Honestly, local hiphop was all I could pay attention to this year. There were a few albums that could some play from me though, just not 10 of them! (Apologies in advance to any dino-hoppers on Line Out (yeah, right) for Raekwon's exclusion from this list- but Only Built For Cuban Links 2 didn't really move me too tough.)
1. Shabazz Palaces - S/T & Of Light
I can't say enough about it. You'll see soon enough. Shabazz is the future- big props to Dave for being first on it.
by Gina Young
on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 4:31 PM
In the Oughties, the Nineties made a comeback. THEESatisfaction photographed by Maceo Paisley.
Man, have I been procrastinating or what? I've been passionately resisting making any kind of Top 10 of 2009, and especially putting off any Top 10 of the Decade. What's up with that? Maybe I'm just refractory. Maybe I have a deep Catholic guilt complex about naming a "top" anything when I haven't heard every album released this year, haven't compared every possible single all in one sitting based on uniform criteria...
Ah well. I'll work with what I've got. Here's a last-minute list of my favorite Seattle shows of 2009, in somewhat preferential order. No, it's not comprehensive, because I can only be so many places at once. Plus, I didn't even see half the shows I intended to see this year, and I didn't count any of the shows at which I performed, even if I loved the headlining act. So yes, I'm probably leaving some things out. But this was some pretty good shit. Did you catch it?
1. Mirah @ Bumbershoot Mirah added sharp punch to her trademark sweetness and gifted us with the most dynamic stage show I've seen from her yet. I love it when a musician I've been following for years manages to surprise me. It was romance in the sunshine for the packed-out crowd.
2. Thee Satisfaction & Canary Sing @ the Rendezvous The performers and the audience combined were like a Who's Who of Seattle's female hip hop community, and for good reason. The amount of talent and potential I saw from both duos bodes well for 2010 and beyond.
3. Dirty Projectors @ Neumos You know your band is good if half the audience is regretting not pursuing a master's in music.
In an interview with Derek Walmsley in the December 2009 issue of The Wire, Goodman observed: "These fictions of sonic warfare signal the importance of the often neglected politics of frequency, which cuts across the whole of sonic culture."
Anyone who's listened to a Merzbow or Masonna record or attended a My Bloody Valentine or Sunn O))) (among many other possible examples) show can relate to Goodman's interest in sound as weapon and enforcer of social control. Take good care of yourselves out there.
The dizzy, glorious orgasm that is New Years Fucking Eve looms greedily over our souls. There is so much to do. (So much!) No one could possibly do it all. But if you don’t drop with a sickening thud by 3am, and wake up two days later tied to a filthy mattress in the woods somewhere with absolutely no memory of the events that lead you there and a wild and unnerving urge to get thee to a free clinic QUICK, you are a failure as a human being. So. Do your best. Begin.
FRINGE at The Eagle! I know it doesn’t seem possible. I KNOW! But Fringe, which is relatively new you understand (only five-ish installments under it’s glittery belt at this juncture!), just continues to shock, titillate and appall, in all the very, very most bestest of ways.
Tonight’s very “Unofficial Capitol Hill After Party” (after what? The imagination sizzles…) will feature…
The royalty of Seattle trash, booze, blood, Bowies, bulges, fog, drag queens, performances, spectacles and dancing! The party starts at 9:00pm, but continues on until 4am, with a late-night show by the whole royal family of Filth, featuring JACKIE HELL, PHOEBE FONDUE, CARESSA DICK and AMOANIA and DJs NARK, Skiddle, Rheal, and Tony Burns.
All that AND Tony Burns? Wow. $10 at the door, 314 E. Pike.
BUT FIRST! Do these things! (In completely random order—linear thinking is for boobs, don’t you agree?)
NYE at the ALIBI ROOM with Verse and Barbarella! Jesus, but I haven’t been to the Alibi Room in ages. I have no logical explanation. (Maybe it’s the germy Gum Wall outside keeping me at bay. Could be.) But this is a good excuse as any, tonight’s NYE thing features my favorites DJ Barbarella and DJ Verse. They will be spinning in the downstairs part of the place, which reportedly has just been all remodeled to better fascilitate your manic New Years enjoyment. The Alibi Room is at 85 Pike Street, which is in Post Alley, which is in Pike Place Market. Across from the aforementioned Gum Wall (ugh). No cover! 9 o’clock! Bring some handi-wipes!
And, of course, if you are really gay (which you are), there are other things you MUST do, before or after (or even during, if you’re a wizard) the other things I just mentioned above, and they are, in equally random random order… BERSERK at PONY! This is where I’m stopping first, naturally. (Where else would I want to stop first? I ask you.) The visual spectacle! The audible delights! The outer space theme? Well, okay. Outer space. (You are encouraged to dress the theme, of course.) DJs PonyBoy, Danny Damage and Tea Bag. Event gets going around 8pm. 1221 East Madison. (Oooh! Can't wait!)
AN INTIMATE NYE WITH SYLVIA O’STAYFORMORE at Orient Express! Orient Express? Okay, Orient Express. A cocktail party-style affair hosted by Seattle’s reigning Drag Hostess, Sylvia O’Stayformore. It is all the way down in the, um, “SODO” district (which is odd, as there hasn’t been a “DO” in some time), and there’s no cover, and New Yearsy Chinese food is sure to be available in plenitude. 2963 4th Ave South, so you’ll have to take a cab or something. Recommended by Drunk of the Year hopeful Number 3!
CHERRY at Re-Bar! Just for you, lesbians! Very special New Years Eve edition, with DJs Amateur Youth and Judicial! 10pm, $10 at the door, 1114 Howell Street.
And lastly, of course, COMEBACK “NEW YEARS SLEAZE” with Josh Peace at Chop Suey! Comeback is usually only on Friday. Tonight is, of course, Thursday. Weird. All the beautiful usual suspects can be expected. (Colby B! F.I.T.S.!) $10-$15 at the door, 9pm. 1325 East Madison.
And there we are. Get to it, people. 2009's a-wastin'. Your dirty mattress awaits. TONIGHT!
Sure, you know, I guess I like Norah Jones as much as the next guy, but I'm still confused as to why someone would send me this 2010 Nora Jones calendar (about the size of a CD card) in an effort to promote some band called Hockey, who, from the 30 seconds of it that I listened to, failed to leave any sort impression on me whatsoever.
There is nothing I have to show for what I blew my money on this year besides a whole bunch of records (I don't have a car, I don't have any savings, and I still need a bed frame and new sheets). Yes, 2009 did some serious fiscal damage on my wallet, but it still nurtured my soul musically. These are the ten records I absolutely loved in 2009. 1. Comet Gain Broken Record Prayers (What's Yr Rupture)
At the end of each year, I am one of the two people in charge of compiling a top ten list for a hardcore radio show I host called Dead Air (original name, eh?).
After wading through a stack of mediocre-to-incredible albums and old playlists, this is what we came up with.
10. Living Hell- Oblivion (Eulogy Recordings): With their first release on Eulogy Recordings , Living Hell came back this year with a crushing record that could easily be mistaken for the newest Integrity release , and that's a good thing.
9. Narrows- New Distances (Deathwish Inc.): The first full length from a studio project between two friends, Dave Verellen (Botch) and Rob Moran (Unbroken, Some Girls), reminds us all how much we missed them. Now here’s to hoping there’s more where this came from.
8. Xibalba- Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias (Self-released): Two thousand and nine was the year of heavy, heavy hardcore — maybe it’s a backlash to early 2000’s melodic hardcore or maybe it’s just dudes dusting off their old Disembodied and Sepultura CDs. On their self-released debut, Southern California’s Xibalba brought it slow and low with enough going on to keep the chugging interesting and the kids spin kicking like it’s 1996.
I put this list together on my parents' computer (PC, dial-up) on Christmas Eve, under deadline to submit it to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll, so there may be a little bit of hastiness to it. I'm fairly certain it reflects what I've really liked and listened to most this year, though, and I'm happy with it. The more I've been thinking about it, the more I think that all these year end lists only really gain currency when, as with Pazz & Jop or Pitchfork, they're part of a larger, aggregated survey, such that some kind of mean critical consensus or canon can start to be seen. In other words, these aren't The Most Important of 2009 or The Unequivocal Best of 2009 or whatever, because they don't really need to be. These are just the records I enjoyed the most this year (also, this may not be the same order in which I submitted them to P&J, like you care). Ahem:
Albums 1. Animal Collective — Merriweather Post Pavillion 2. Why? — Eskimo Snow 3. Juan MacLean — the Future Will Come 4. The XX — the XX 5. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — The Pains of Being Pure at Heart 6. YACHT — See Mystery Lights 7. The Field — Yesterday and Today 8. Throw Me the Statue - Creaturesque 9. Art Brut — Art Brut vs. Satan 10. Lindstrom & Prins Thomas — II
Songs 1. Animal Collective — Summertime Clothes 2. Juan Maclean — One Day 3. YACHT — Psychic City (Voodoo City) 4. Wavves — So Bored 5. Pains — Young Adult Friction 6. Phoenix — 1901 7. Grizzly Bear — Two Weeks (Fred Falke Remix) 8. The XX — Islands 9. Shit Robot — Simple Things 10. LCD Soundsystem — 45:33 (Prins Thomas Diskomiks)
by Dave Segal
on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 2:09 PM
Friday January 1 Saturday January 2, local radio journalist Andrew Walsh's interview with me regarding my "lost" record collection (which I wrote about in excruciating detail here) will air on Seattle station KUOW 94.9FM, around noon Pacific time.
The segment runs about five minutes, but encompasses decades of pain, at my expense. Therefore, those who gorge on schadenfreude should tune in (others, of course, are encouraged to listen, too). Don't say I never gave you haters anything.
According to information supplied by iTunes and confirmed by my heart, these are the 38 songs from the past decade that I loved the most.
I stand by all and am embarrassed by none (though #29 is so tied to a time and place—specifically, the days after 9/11—that I was surprised to be reminded of how much I once loved it. But seriously, White Blood Cells was about the only thing able to get me out of bed from 9/12 to roughly 9/17...then, all of a sudden, they belonged to the world, I'd burned out on my favorite tracks, and we all moved on...)
by Dave Segal
on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 11:11 AM
DJ Rap—who used to be one of the world's top drum 'n' bass selectors, but has gravitated more toward house in recent years—spins at Contour (807 1st Ave. S.) tonight, with support by Eva, Sean Majors, Dowlz, Johnny Fever, and Mixed Up Mike. The details for this Kaos Theory event: 9 pm-2 am, $25, 21+; www.brownpapertickets.com.
by Jeff Kirby
on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 10:45 AM
My favorites from 2009:
1. Phoenix — Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix 2. Converge — Axe to Fall 3. Mos Def — The Ecstatic 4. Bill Callahan — Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle 5. Grizzly Bear — Veckatimest 6. Mastodon — Crack the Skye 7. POS — Never Better 8. The Flaming Lips — Embryonic 9. Andrew Bird — Noble Beast 10. Wolves in the Throne Room — Black Cascade 11. Baroness — Blue Record 12. Kings of Convenience — Declaration of Dependence 13. M. Ward — Hold Time 14. Animal Collective — Merriweather Post Pavilion 15. Yo La Tengo — Popular Songs 16. Mount Eerie — Wind’s Poem 17. Obits — I Blame You 18. Shook Ones — The Unquotable A.M.H. 19. Wilco — Wilco (the Album) 20. MC Paul Barman — Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud
My picks for the best records of the deacde after the jump.
(Neumos) Decibel Festival director Sean Horton (aka the superb DJ Nordic Soul, who'll help usher in 2010 tonight) again flaunts his impeccable electronic-music curatorship with this NYE bash. Seattle techno/IDM producer Lusine appears reenergized with his most accessible release, the refulgent A Certain Distance; Apparat is another master of dulcet, song-based electronica; and Nosaj Thing has emerged as one of the fecund L.A. underground's most skilled creators of abstract hiphop that's melodically rich and rhythmically vital. Heady good times. DAVE SEGAL
CAKE, Throw Me the Statue, locust
(Moore) You know all about CAKE, happy-rhythm, guilty pleasure, indie/country/pop-rock band that's handy with a trumpet and the cutting lyrics: "She doesn't care/Whether or not he's an island/She doesn't care/Just as long as his ship's coming in... He's got a gold watch/She's got a silk dress/And healthy breasts that bounce/On his Italian leather sofa." And you know all about Throw Me the Statue, another happy-rhythm, twinkle-melodied, indie-pop band that's a bit less quick with the glee and whose most morose moments sound like a picnic in the park. What you might not know is locust, one of Seattle's best modern-dance companies, led by the sophisticated but pop-smart dancer and choreographer Amy O'Neal. Josh LaBelle, director of Seattle Theatre Group, has talked about trying to get modern-dance and rock audiences together—it's a great idea and a great way to shake in 2010. BRENDAN KILEY
Book of Black Earth, Harkonen, Lesbian, Shining Ones
(Comet) Originating in Tacoma as a high-school hardcore band back in 1996, Harkonen evolved into one of the Northwest's finest thunder purveyors. They mastered that combination of thick-ass power chords, gnarly bass, and unrelenting kick-and-crash-cymbal drumming that elevated trios like Engine Kid, Karp, and Enemymine into cult status. Yet Harkonen never managed to extend their dominance too far beyond the state line, and even in Seattle they seemed grossly underappreciated. They eventually dissolved in 2004, leaving behind a legacy of amazing recordings. After a bittersweet reunion for local musician Brian Redman's memorial service back in October, the band agreed to one more reunion show on New Year's Eve. The year 2009 was grim, and this show is a perfect way to bulldoze it into history. BRIAN COOK
Minus the Bear, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground
(Showbox at the Market) The guitar-tapping wizardry and four-on-the-floor beats of Minus the Bear's debut album, Highly Refined Pirates, were born from an infatuation with math rock and popular dance music. Repeated exposure to the Warp Records catalog bore their glitchy, loop-heavy sophomore effort, Menos el Oso. A newfound appreciation for Yes and Pink Floyd yielded the proggy Planet of Ice. With a new album set for release next year, it raises the question: What's been rotating on MTB's stereos? The answer, apparently, is a hefty dose of Funkadelic, Betty Davis, and Ohio Players. Now, white guys tackling funk is risky business—for every Big Boys and Minutemen, there's a 311. But if past explorations are any indication of ability, the Bear will pull off a bumpin' backbeat with aplomb. BRIAN COOK
U.S.E, Aqueduct, Fresh Espresso
(Crocodile) Fact: What you do on New Year's Eve will directly affect what happens in your life for the entirety of the next year. If you sit at home being grumpy and miserable, then you'll have a grumpy and miserable year. But if you go to the Crocodile tonight, for the brightest, happiest, catchiest, and confetti-filled dance-pop performances happening within Seattle's city limits, then obviously your 2010 will be a nonstop posi-party. And don't be scared—Aqueduct will warm you up before U.S.E's infectious onslaught with his self-deprecating (but still utterly charming) songs about Guns N' Roses and relationships. MEGAN SELING
Spurm, the Trashies, TacocaT, the Uzi Rash
(Black Lodge) Are you fucking kidding me? The Trashies reunion with this lineup is not to be missed. For the uninitiated, the Trashies play, well, trashy, fun punk rock with song titles like "Let It Be Trashed," "Blue Tarp," and "In the Gutter Together." They played a house show more than two years ago that was supposed to be their last show, and there's no word on whether or not this reunion is long-term, so your best bet is to get your ass down to the show and go crazy like it's their last last show even as you hope that it's not. The only way this party could be better is if it were at the 24/7 house. GRANT BRISSEY
The Fall of Troy, Blood Cells, Man Without Wax, M. Bison, Stage the Empire
(El Corazón) Schoolyard Heroes fans, take note: While the band may have played its last show ever just one week ago at this very venue (sad, sad), you'll be happy to hear that a number of the band's ex-members have already risen from the ashes with a new band called Blood Cells, and they're opening tonight's show. They have exactly one song, "I Am Forever, Darling..." posted on MySpace, and while it's very reminiscent of Schoolyard Heroes (Ryann Donnelly is back on vocals), it is less shtick-y than before, as they seem to have shed the recurring horror-inspired themes—in this song, at least. Only time will tell what other strides they'll make with their music. New decade, new band—happy 2010! MEGAN SELING
by Dave Segal
on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM
Montreal-based electro-pop producer CFCF's "You Hear Colours" (off his Continent album) lifts the break from Turkish psych-rock legend Ersen's "Güneşe Dön Çiçeğim"; my oh my, what a fat bump it is. CFCF swaddles it in luxurious synth and silvery guitar spray, somewhat muting its devastating impact, but props to him for recognizing a killer break—one that I suspect will surface with increasing frequency in 2010. (Willing to bet that Madlib or Oh No's probably already used this.)
Jeez, it's been hard to get any work done this afternoon, as I've been fighting the temptation to play these tracks on repeat.