Ultre: All The Darkness Has Gone To Details

Multi-hyphenate Finn McNicholas, a 24-year-old musician, computer animator, and digital artist from Northern England, hasn't yet become the film composer he at one time aspired to be, but he has succeeded in developing a distinctive musical persona (Ultre) and crafting an equally distinctive musical debut (All The Darkness Has Gone To Details). His Ultre style is distinguished not so much by its electronically-assembled beat patterns but by the dusty piano playing and a crying sound produced by a home-made stringed instrument that he describes as being like “a huge metal bow and arrow.” The album's string and piano playing references an earlier era, something like the 1930s, unlike the clicking beats and electronic treatments which align Ultre's work to current computer-generated production methods; an equally compelling tension emerges via McNicholas's precise structuring of decayed sounds.

The opener, “Pictures of Piano Notes,” establishes the album's character by exhuming an old piano from someone's attic and pairing its tinkles with the swoop of a creaking violin. The keyboard sings out a vaguely out-of-tune song in “Nobodies Favourite” while a bushel of percussive clicks clatters underneath, generating a slightly warped tango rhythm. Some pieces align Ultre's sound more closely to that of his electronic contemporaries (“Hearings,” with its morphing mass of bell tones, smears, clicks, and strings, and “Useless Nervous Minutes” where a heavy funk beat slows to a crawl), and the throbs and scrapes of “In The Nerves” show that McNicholas isn't afraid to get his hands dirty either. An excellent addition to the Audiobulb discography, Ultre's assured All The Darkness Has Gone To Details manages to be both uncompromisingly experimental and melodic.

January 2007