Ultraísta – Sister
- Hamish Gibson
- 28 February 2020
Supergroup's first new album since 2012 shows multiple avenues of promise
Nearly a decade after their 2012 self-titled debut, Grammy-winning Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich (Zero 7, Warpaint), sessionist Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace) and synth-pop frontwoman Laura Bettinson (FEMME) are back as Ultraísta.
Godrich and Waronker are seasoned team players, but here they move beyond their role as creative facilitators. Godrich says they're 'able to be more self-indulgent,' and the collaborative process among the three comes off well. Bettinson's voice is solidly produced and mixed in an egalitarian way. If anything, her uniquely endearing vocals might be under-utilised on Sister, an album which shows signs of promising pop harmony while taking pride in its experimental foundations.
Tracks like the upbeat 'Tin King' drive a dancey mix of authentic drum beats, catchy bass and soothing synths. They're tied together neatly by Bettinson's hypnotically rhythmic voice, a hypnotism reminiscent of Lusine's 'Two Dots'. The music brings back memories of Godrich and Waronker's work with Thom Yorke on Atoms for Peace, and even Boards of Canada in the dreaminess of 'Water in my Veins'. Ultraísta's self-reflexive take on art is visible in 'Anybody': 'Beauty and idolatry will play tricks on your mind, fashion flicks and poetry are gonna make you waste your time.'
'Tin King' leads with the same kind of crossover appeal as 2012's remix of the group's 'Smalltalk' by Four Tet, but it's not where they impress most. 'Ordinary Boy' and 'Mariella' are more mosaic and pondering. Excitingly, Bettinson's voice comes fully into its own by the end. 'Bumblebees' and 'The Moon and Mercury' are led by her while the music slowly joins symphonically into a rich fruition of soulful, electronic ambience.
Given their pasts, the process of experimenting will likely trump the temptations of a pop record, though of course the two aren't mutually exclusive. Ultraísta's return shows multiple avenues of promise, and hopefully we'll get to see much more of them.
Out Fri 13 Mar on Partisan Records.