As I write this the UK is held in the gentle grip of a heatwave (it has not become intolerable yet) and as a consequence it seems that as I look around me the pace of life in general has took on the slow stepping peaceful rhythm that a hot summer brings. It makes listening to ‘Interloper’ from Carbon Based Lifeforms all the more appropriate as this CD fits the bill for those days of sweet inertia sprawled out on grassland somewhere while the heat of the day rises and fades into the evening.
With this being an Ultimae release there are certain things you can take for granted. As always the production quality is high, pin drop clarity in the production only serves to enhance the listening experience and what we have here are ten tracks that maintain the quality of the label’s output. This time round Carbon’s musical direction mixes gentle melody with a slight air of menace, interspersing the gentle melodics with a bubbling undercurrent of darkness which appears early on in the album (the opening track ‘Interloper’ has nice strident insistence to the rhythm which works well against the sweeping synths).
The mood thickens as we move into the second track, as the instrumentation becomes denser and the ominous simplicity of the backbeat and whispered vocals take over. Make no mistake Ultimae might release albums of gentility but this displays a firmness in execution. If you think downtempo has to mean washed out purposeless walls of synths then this would be the album to prove you wrong.
Elsewhere we see a gradual increase the scope of the track, the sound becomes wider and on pieces like ‘Supersede’ there’s references to musicians like Mike Oldfield (I was thinking particularly around the time of albums like ‘Crises’) with the sudden euphoric rushes of sound which have a palpable sense of grandeur about them.
The pace does of course drop in places and tracks like ‘Init’ add a new definition to the words ‘laid back’, the sounds take on a more organic feel and any sharp edges are smoothed off and as a listener you are in complete free fall territory (this proceeds through tracks like ‘Euphotic’ and ‘Frog’ which if anything is the silence after the impact). The album winds down on an epic scale with ‘m’, ’20 minutes‘ ‘Polyrytmi’ having an almost regal/processional air to them.
Once again it is another strong release from Ultimae this time marked especially by a stronger sense of theme and narrative. The album has focus and direction, add to that the crafted musicianship and production and you have something that is really first rate in the downtempo genre.