Zomby – Ultra
I’m familiar with music that cares little for the audience, or at the very least has an antagonistic relationship with anyone wanting to enjoy it. There’s an art to pulling something like that off – creating a sound deliberately abrasive. It dares you to be comfortable with it; art that demands to be experienced on its own terms but has little interest in making it easy for you. Ultra by Zomby is very much in that vein.
Just when you think you’ve found a rhythm to the electronic beats and looping R&B samples – that stutter, change and find rhythm almost on their own – it breaks, it finds a new repetition; one that is new and unpleasant. The ghostly echoes sound like another album that’s died and gone to a special level of music hell; one that’s come back wrong and twisted. It’s in that dreadfulness that makes Ultra a masterpiece of sound.
It might not be fun to listen to at times. It’s an unnerving, tension-filled bit of nightmare electronica that belongs in a surrealist horror film…and not the dance floor. As such, it fulfills a necessary role within the electronic music scene, pushing the boundaries of what we can do with noises and sounds, seeking to unnerve rather than titillate and entertain.
Not every track is a dissonance-fueled nightmare, some are laid back pieces with haunting vibes and eerie percussion. At first I found that I enjoyed these less due to how repetitive the ambient waves could feel, until I realized the repetition was the point. It lulls the audience into an almost hypnotic state before startling us with another tonal shift yet again in the next track.
Nothing feels like an accident here, all of it a carefully orchestrated mood experience. It’s a skillful artistry of sound, and on a technical level, Ultra is a masterpiece. Worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something just a tad different.