Some music does not lend itself kindly to reviews. As with most anything in life, tangibility is sought after and valued in an album. Abstractness, obscurity, and irony are fine insofar as the reviewer is able to grasp what it is that is abstract, obscure, and ironic. Any elusiveness is irritating for the reviewer, and can be fatal for the review. Many, for example, sustain that Selected Ambient Works Vol. II is a critical point in music, maybe even a masterpiece. "It changed the way we listen to music" elegized our very own TMT review for Aphex Twin's Drukqs. While very vague, that really is the only way to convey the significance of the album.
As I write this, "Every Day I Love," the final song on Ultravisitor, has just come to an end. Far from intangible and abstract, it is a beautifully simple, almost-folksy song. And while there are many other similar songs on the album -- some jazzy, some quaint, some subtle yet refined, which make for a very favorable, easy to write album review -- when taken in context (that is, when juxtaposed with, say, the disorder of "Steinbolt," or the hip-hop tinges of "50 Cycles"), such songs take on an entirely different light.
The title track serves as a sort of exposition, foreshadowing the widely various facets of the rest of the album. The tracks that follow indulge Jenkinson's love for more acoustic-based songs and are nothing short of stunning. And for an album as sundry as this, they fit together and play off each other gloriously. Two smaller tracks, the bass-heavy "I Falcrum" and the solely acoustic "Andrei," hold together the larger "Iambic Poetry," which is perhaps the greatest achievement on the album. It contains a humbling drumbeat that builds throughout the entire piece, and its glanderous, jazzy keyboard line fills the song with an air of awe until both erupt. The keyboard and drums are all over the place, yet everything is together. However, I would be lying if I said that part of me didn't wish that the rest of the album would follow in a similar vein.
But Jenksinson has different plans. The middle of the album is as hard-edged and relentless as anything of Squarepusher's, if not more. Admittedly, it may at times seem too much, due in part to the lengths of each of the songs in this section. It certainly seemed so upon first listen. But, as with most dense pieces of music, multiple listens reveal something completely looked over upon initial listens. The album still sounds largely abrasive, yet there is now a sort of paradoxical cohesion between the contradictory sections of the album (as I will soon try to convey). Everything climaxes with the chaotically tuneful "Steinbolt," where everything is pushed to the forefront. Had the juxtaposition of "Andrei," and "50 Cycles" not been previously presented, though, it is unlikely that it would have had a similar impact.
Once again Ultravisitor descends into a (relatively) temperate mood. "Circlewave," parallels "Iambic Poetry," in terms of sheer awe-inspiring drumming, only here the influences are jazzier; sort of what Buddy Rich would sound like if he were on Warp. "Tetra-Sync," on the other hand, borrows greatly from Jaco Pistorious and does so flawlessly. As the last two tracks play, the thought of "Wasn't I just listening to...?" once again resides, only this time working in reverse. Ultravisitor ends on a subtle, much welcomed note, and everything is back to the way it was. Like the calm of the ocean after a violent storm for a man lost at sea, it is good to be back in calm waters. O, but it wasn't always like this, reminds the Sea. Had my storm not been so violent, had its winds not scored your skin, and had its water not been so demanding of your senses, would you have likewise been so ever appreciative of this now gentle breeze?
2. I Fulcrum
3. Iambic 9 Poetry
5. 50 Cycles
7. C-Town Smash
9. An Arched Pathway
10. Telluric Piece
11. District Line II
14. Tommib Help Buss
15. Every Day I Love