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UL8

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Album Review

At once a soundtrack to a series of projects and installations over three years' time in Europe, and a celebration of electronic music in both '70s and '90s guises, UL8 finds Mark Fell, on a solo break from his work in SND, creating an often compelling collection of pieces. Divorced from some of the visual context, there is doubtless something missing in the end result, but the three larger collections, plus the concluding "Death of a Loved One," all shudder with roiling energy. The opening of "The Occultation of 3C 273" establishes a striking balance from the start, its skittering riff and beats calm enough to be meditative yet focused on such a strong groove that it makes you want to dance . It's almost an equivalent to art rock; nosebleed minimalism beyond the implications of microhouse. As the parts progress in order, Fell increasingly brings in the beats; everything feels more and more rushed, total gabba madness in its own way. The next section, "Vortex Studies" shifts into long, slow grinds and pulses like a lightcycle revved up and stuttering, while its Part V could be a Digital Hardcore release from 1996, heard from a room or two away like an uneasy nightmare. In contrast, Part VII and its loping pulse and glitchy kick is a slightly different turn-of-the-century tradition. "Acids in the Style of Rian Treanor" is fairly upfront about its goal, thanks to the title: Part IV is completely insane in that regard, with bubbling intensities and an extreme flanging of core tones feeling like an untethered machine without a floor to stand on (or just a straight-up bad trip in the best way). "Death of a Loved One" is both contiguous with the rest of the album and suddenly mournful, thanks to the background synth swells; it's a nicely different way to bow out a disc.

UL8, Mark Fell
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