Ultramarine: classic or dud?

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The ethos of United Kingdoms is pretty much my own, and I love the Robert Wyatt tracks and the way "Instant Kitten" sounds like the opening fanfare for some newly-discovered utopia, but I'm not crazy about the jazz-fusion elements which sometimes make it sound more soporific than euphoric. The three tracks I've heard off Every Man And Woman Is A Star sound better in this sense; they shimmer and shine like Paddy Kingsland if he'd been 20 years younger, but I'm not sure whether the whole album could be that good. Not heard anything else. Any other thoughts?

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 22 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I've only got _Every Man & Woman Is A Star_ and it is definitely a treat. Not as flat out amazing as The Orb's first two albums, but it has a niche (ambient twee) that it works to perfection. If you say which tracks you heard I'll tell you how the whole album stands in relation to them.

Tim, Thursday, 22 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Tim, the three tracks I have are "British Summertime", "Canoe Trip" and "Saratoga".

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 22 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I seem to have become a semi-rabid fan by default, having found the first four albums, from _Folk_ on, all used. _Every Man_ and _United Kingdoms_ are definitely my favorites, though I admit I haven't listened to them in a long while. Pleasant, agreeable and sometimes quite beautiful -- made very good sense that I got into them, the Orb and Orbital all around the same time.

Actually, my fave Ultramarine story involves fellow ILM denizen Nicole and I, when we were at Terrastock 2 in San Francisco. I pointed out _United Kingdoms_ to her in a used bin at Aquarius Records, and she said, "Well, maybe..." I responded, "Robert Wyatt's on two tracks." I think it was in her hands in about .01 seconds. ;-)

Ned Raggett, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I thought this one was on its way, as I've notice Robin has worked them into several posts recently ;)

Classic. 'Every Man and Woman..' is perfect - a techno-rustic ramble that sounds better every time I hear it. Robin - you don't have the best tracks in my opinion.

I like 'UK' less, but still lots, and perversely I also like 'Bel- Air', although I still don't know what they're trying to do. I'm a bit of a sucker for albums that have been widely slagged off by the music press as 'Bel-Air' was as I remember. There is a little bit of a 'jazz-funk-muso' vibe to parts of it that irritate, if I'm honest.

I do not have the last album (can't remember the name) - anybody got any comments on it? The reviews implied a stripped-back approach, I think.

Dr. C, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

They're a band I forgot to investigate at that time, you know how these things happen when there's lotsa stuff to listen too. I'm probably going to buy it soon enough, I'm far more inclined to get into Pastoral Techno these days. "Every Man..." sounds like a good summer record, right?

Omar, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Robin: while "British Summertime" is one of (but only *one* of) my favourite tracks on the album, having listened again I reckon you can definitely buy it without fear of being let down. It's *made* for you. The three tracks you listed were fairly representative without being superior to the rest of the album. The album's very cohesive while lazily stretching out in a couple of different directions. There's a charming Ayers track, "Pansy" which is like "Little Fluffy Clouds" with pealing guitars, the hazy Avalanches-like beauty of "Honey", dub for "Geezer", and _In Sides_ era Orbital on "Panther" . Highly recommended.

Tim, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Omar, I'd say it's a classic summer evening record. I can imagine myself lying in a hammock somewhere listening to it as the sun goes down. Nurse! The cicadas!

Nick, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ah, fair takes me back to my first glasto, '93 it was, sunday morning, sun shining, Ultramarine playing (possibly before back to the planet, mmmmm, crusty), a lovely time had by all.

carsmilesteve, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Cheers to all for the responses - IIRC, Bel Air wasn't so much hated as ignored (it was the summer of 1995, after all) but, you're right, they did get a beating for the sheer wilful celebration of music that consciously played up its blandness. I've not heard it, though, but it would have been interesting if they'd done another album like United Kingdoms - how could the music press have fitted that ethos into the simplistic Britpop jamboree of the time?

The last album was called A User's Guide. I've not heard it but, yes, Dr C, your "stripped-back" approach seems accurate from the reviews I've read.

Robin Carmody, Friday, 23 March 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

eight months pass...
I've discovered by chance this forum... Well, I think that Ultramarine's latest albums are severely underrated: I love the weird "Bel Air" sound (which I think is much more interesting that most of the jazz/electronica albums in the 90's), and I'm amazed with "A user guide" (which I was very lucky to find). I suppose that there is a lot of electronica which sound this way and even better, but still hearing songs like "Buena Vista" in 2000 was one of the most remarkable experiences I've had (musically talking).

Carlos Jurschik, Tuesday, 4 December 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Ambient twee is the best description of "Every Man and Woman.." I've ever heard. But I'll go against popular opinion and say I'm not a big fan of the album. "British Summertime" really is a standout track, as are the first three tracks ("Discovery", "Weird Gear", "Pansy"), but there's little else I really like about the album. Too often their melodies are irritating to my ears.

Vinnie, Wednesday, 5 December 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I vote classic; for me, Saratoga is the bomb track on _Every Man and Every Woman Is a Star_; I was exposed to it on the first Excursions in Ambience compilation and even in that stellar lineup I thought it stood out. I am clearly in the minority, but I think _Bel Air_ is a fabulous work. I have been listening to it regularly since it was released and I still hear new elements weaving in and out at times; the intricacy of the arrangements is simply stunning. _User's Guide_ is more restrained in style and in sound palette, but there is still some subtlety in the tracks.

Paul Lord, Tuesday, 11 December 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...
hmmm...bel-air is cheap in my 2nd hand-store, should i bother picking it up? i've wanted to get "every man and every woman..." for a while, would it make an ample substitute?

weasel diesel (K1l14n), Sunday, 30 March 2003 19:22 (sixteen years ago) link

kilian, 'bel air' in no way is "an ample subsitute" for 'every man and woman...'
if it's real cheap, tho, picking up 'bel air' won't do any harm, 'fcourse, and it's not that bad an alb, but-t-t-t...

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Sunday, 30 March 2003 19:40 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Omar, I'd say it's a classic summer evening record. I can imagine myself lying in a hammock somewhere listening to it as the sun goes down.

A very apt description! I have been listening to it this evening -- after sundown, I admit -- but it is indeed quite spectacular, and I'm actually annoyed with myself that I haven't listened to it in a long while.

This is as good a place as any to note that Darla has rereleased Every Man in the US, while LTM has done so for the UK -- and more! There's a collection that came out last year called Companion which collects a slew of tracks from that time period -- alternates, remixes, etc. Track listing:

Full tracklist: Intro; Weird Gear (Ultramarine Remix); Lights In My Brain (Spooky Remix); Geezer (Sweet Exorcist Remix); The Downer; Panther (Coco Steel & Lovebomb Remix); Outro; My First Canoe Trip (unreleased); Early Discovery (unreleased); Saratoga (Remix); Stella Connects (12" version); Lovelife #1 (unreleased); Nova Scotia (original version); Old Geezer Dub (unreleased); Pansy (live at Glastonbury 1993).

"Saratoga" is as groovy as I remember it. Grand stuff.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 4 August 2004 03:26 (fifteen years ago) link

That Panther remix is amazing. I used to drop that into sets pitched up a bit and it was ominous...

Spencer Chow (spencermfi), Wednesday, 4 August 2004 05:01 (fifteen years ago) link

six years pass...

Six years since anyone thought about Ultramarine??* Hard to believe Every Man and Woman... is so unappreciated.

Just found a 12" with the first four remixes listed on the Darla comp.

* five years, I guess...Ultramarine: classic or dud?

john. a resident of chicago., Sunday, 8 August 2010 02:57 (nine years ago) link

Ultraclassic. The remix comp they put out a few years ago is great. Still havent' heard the United Kingdom album but Every Man and Woman is A Star is good enough to warrant classic status.

brotherlovesdub, Sunday, 8 August 2010 03:27 (nine years ago) link

ten months pass...

A track from Every Man and Woman is a Star came on my iPod randomly today, and I was stunned at how much I dug it... I hadn't listened to it in years and years, and it didn't click at the time very well for me. Back then, I was looking for things that sounded like Boards of Canada, and this didn't have the same vibe. But now, NOW... This is glorious. I've been listening to that Harald Grosskopf Synthesist reissue a lot, and this is so in that pocket in some ways. It's sunny and radiant in NYC today and everything feels full of promise, and this record just felt right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN6RvXsHc-0&feature=related

Clarke B., Wednesday, 15 June 2011 15:49 (eight years ago) link

I have still never heard "Hymn", their collaboration with David McAlmont...

henry s, Wednesday, 15 June 2011 23:28 (eight years ago) link

This is still my go-to album on blissful sunny days. Has aged incredibly well.

dlp9001, Thursday, 16 June 2011 02:47 (eight years ago) link

O HELL YES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFs0I5zMjak

Heady Snobbin (Pillbox), Thursday, 16 June 2011 14:40 (eight years ago) link

three years pass...

I came to Every Man & Woman.. via the Companion comp:

http://www.discogs.com/Ultramarine-Companion-Every-Man-And-Woman-Is-A-Star-Versions/release/172881

....which is completely ace. Buy it's slighted my enjoyment of the original album somewhat - I guess because I heard it first. There is a cracking Spooky remix of 'Lights in my Brain' and a longer version of 'Stella'. Of its time but it's all aged incredibly well.

millmeister, Thursday, 4 September 2014 14:04 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

This one on the new Mark Barrott album has heavy Every Man and Woman is a Star vibes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cNKoi1Rlkk

john. a resident of evanston. (john. a resident of chicago.), Wednesday, 5 December 2018 21:17 (eight months ago) link

one month passes...

New album out today!

https://soundcloud.com/real-soon/sis-audio-preview

groovypanda, Friday, 11 January 2019 09:56 (seven months ago) link

three months pass...

I’ve been quite enjoying ‘Signals Into Space’, particularly as bedtime listening. It’s actually the first Ultramarine album I’ve heard despite being curious about them for years - clearly not curious enough.

I picked up the 2014 reissue of ‘Every Man and Woman is a Star’ at the weekend. Listened to it (and the 1992 Peel Session included as a 12”) this evening and thought it was really great...particularly the first four songs. Seems based on comments upthread that the other albums maybe aren’t quite so essential?

michaellambert, Wednesday, 8 May 2019 22:54 (three months ago) link

Every Man and Woman is their best by far. United Kingdoms seemed a bit of a letdown at the time, but I now listen to it far more than Every Man. The "Hymn" EP is pretty great, too. Wonderful vocal by David McAlmont. The others are all good, just not as magical.

henry s, Wednesday, 8 May 2019 23:29 (three months ago) link

Will keep all of that in mind!

michaellambert, Thursday, 9 May 2019 07:08 (three months ago) link

New album is great. EMAWIAS is obviously their best but Bel Air is one of my favourites too.

Remember seeing them at Phoenix Festival back in 1995 about a month or so before it came out. We'd scored some microdots and were expecting to chill to their brand of mellow electronic/folk fusion but instead were treated to this incredible set of jazzy, breakbeat weirdness. Great day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEhwySiWL2A

groovypanda, Thursday, 9 May 2019 07:47 (three months ago) link

That sounds most enjoyable.

I also come back to United Kingdoms most, perhaps because it was my first. Unclassifiable and some great tunes. 'Companion' also worth seeking out as mentioned above.

millmeister, Thursday, 9 May 2019 08:22 (three months ago) link


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