Reissue for genre-defining masterwork
Long before Bibio, Tuung or Minotaur Shock came on the scene, or the term folktronica was coined, Ultramarine pioneered a highly original mixture of pastoral guitar plucking and machine made rhythms. Their debut album, ‘Folk’, released in 1990 on the legendary Les Disques du Crépuscule label, was decades ahead of its time, and is celebrated on its 30th anniversary with this remastered reissue from new label, Foam On A Wave.
At the time of its recording, Essex duo Paul Hammond and Ian Cooper were influenced by an unusual blend of Factory and 4AD-era post-punk, dub, jazz and the peculiar pastoralism of Canterbury’s prog rock scene. UK acid house and early Detroit techno were also filtering into their imaginations. Though less audibly electronic or bucolic as its sequels ‘Every Man And Woman Is A Star’ and ‘United Kingdoms’, Ultramarine’s debut still blended the synthetic and organic in a way that was way ahead of the curve.
‘Bronze Eye’ for instance, sounds like a live band, but its stately dub rhythm, jangling guitars and accordion come doused in delay effects and twittering electronics. The funked up ‘Bastard Folk’ sounds like a Postcard band collaborating with The Sugarcubes, with a spiralling synth figure in the background. ‘Antiseptic’, meanwhile, has a rolling breakbeat that seems to chime with the baggy grooves of Primal Scream, The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays, with squalls of distorted guitar noise, electronic blips and a cut and paste, hip hop energy in its frequent rhythmic interludes.
Perhaps one of the biggest comparisons is A Certain Ratio, a band who started out making doomy punk-funk, but absorbed all kinds of influences into their musical mix by the close of the 80s. It was with their following records that Ultramarine really broke through, but ‘Folk’ is a hidden gem, which connects decades and various musical scenes in a way managed by few other artists since.
Possessed of a unique atmosphere, ‘Folk’ a classic that deserves to be rediscovered – or discovered for the first time, by a generation open to its genre-melding sensibility.