Jammers of misfortune


When we reviewed this Belgian unit’s previous disc, Sowberry Hagan, on the aQuarius list four or five years ago, for some reason we omitted to discuss their (ironically?) hyper-masculine name. That could have been the only review of them ever not to talk about how they chose to be called Ultraphallus. Well, gonna mention it now, if only to let you know that if you were to assume on account of their moniker that their music was especially aggro, ugly and crude, that would be an ultra-fallacy (sorry). While they are quite heavy and noisy, there’s an artier, and sometimes softer side to the Ultraphallus equation too (arty enough for the Sub Rosa label now, following an association with Riot Season).

Practitioners of a peculiar style of downer experimental sludge rock, Ultraphallus’ music on The Art Of Spectres can be a difficult, doomed-out listening experience, referencing a variety of diverse, deviant musical influences (a few they cite include the Swans, Autechre, "death-metal," and the Residents!) and rarified cinematic obsessions. For instance, one brief 1:23 interlude here is titled “The Death Of Mark Frechette,” memorializing an event which I googled so you don’t have to – Frechette, the star of Antonini’s cult classic Zabriskie Point, died in 1975 at the age of 27 in a prison weightlifting accident. Ouch.

Elsewhere, though, the album's morbid, ominous atmospheres are a bit more epic than that, Ultraphallus doing everything in their considerable power to create emotionally weighty, creepily cinematic soundscapes. A fundamental framework of shaking, shuddering drone-distortion and trance-inducing percussive pummel tends to run throughout these seven tracks, over which strange, often distressed singing occasionally intrudes. The vocals never really get deathly like you might expect; instead their stylings range from weirdly whispery to almost warbly melodic. The proceedings are also laced with electronic effects, disembodied trumpet, rhythmic reveries, and surprising moments of ambient bliss - providing more of a moody and unusual context for the slow, lumbering, ultraphallic sludgery of the guitars. RIYL: Oxbow, SwansOld Man GloomToday Is The DayThe BodyHey ColossusGnod... (–Allan)

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