Monster X - Ultra (Opal Tapes)

Monster X – Ultra (Opal Tapes)

Far out into the leftfield there is a place where music and the audio arts meet, and art starts to replace music as the defining force. Stood there you would barely notice the change in influence like when Voyager 1 finally left the last weak grasp of the sun’s gravity and set sail into interstellar space. On one side of this musical heliopause there is a relatively coherent but wildly avant-garde and experimental harmony, on the other side less rules apply, entropy reigns and accepted structure and industry construct fades away. Monster X exist just this side of the jump to full artistic dissonance. This is dance music, techno even, but not as we know it.

Confusingly presented as a four track vinyl EP on Opal Tapes, the digital release of Ultra features eight tracks of expertly crafted K-hole electronics. With only hints of melody, abstract by nature and expanding Monster X’s wayward beats and free-form electronic appetizers, the digital release delves even further into grid-free musical semantics and elliptical euphonic orbits.

So, don’t be fooled by opener ‘Summer’ with its simple childlike synth progression as a disquieting drone creeps in like danger lurking, the clown in the drainage channel; and ‘No Device’ with its techno palpitations designed to unsettle with little in the way of repetition to adjust to, while swathes of synth overarch like jarring discordant cantilevers, as if having the machinery on the outside holding everything together; institutional and factory-like. But in retrospect, the opening two tracks are a gentle introduction to the increasingly discombobulated astro-jazz that makes up most of Ultra.

Grab’ grabs desperately at a coherent sound, the drones are there in the background behind seemingly random industrial techno that just about makes some sense to the ears. It’s thought provoking stuff, if that is the right phrase, as synthetic beats and waves of sound jostle with deeply manipulated steel drums and bells that disperse just as your brain starts to adapt. Then it’s off at a tangent again, as if startled, and that is the theme throughout Ultra, as once organic sounds are engineered and smashed together like in an EDM version of the Large Hadron Collider to create wholly new particles of tracks and miniscule new sounds to be blown up into full scale recognisable noise. So, snippets of tune weave in and out of fragments of hip-hop and percussive atonality like dust clouds and protoplanetary songs.

Disjointed is a word one could use but really it seems churlish to split a review of Ultra into individual tracks or segments when conversely there seems to be a loose connectivity linking everything together like strands of DNA (albeit bite-sized tracks being part of the music industry’s annoying white noise even for a cassette label like Opal Tapes). However ‘Happy New Slave’ is one track here that may exist on its own, and most likely to sneak onto the slipmats of unsuspecting 4am techno DJs as slices of drones and a drum and bass rhythm are cut and pasted into a collage of overlapping rounds and junglist melancholy.
Then ‘Rejekt’ and ‘Ultra’ close things out as the most inchoate tracks blurring the divide and nudging their way anxiously into audio art territory as if trying to break out of the heliosphere bubble. ‘Ultra’ in particular is a paranoid, cold and terrifyingly lonely drone like the unimaginable emptiness between the stars.

Ultra is released on 6th September through Opal Tapes.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.