November 12, 2002

Ultramarine "Every Man and Woman is A Star"

I was talking to a friend about current buzz-band Interpol. They said they thought they were a great resurrection of that whole Joy Division/Factory sound. I said, as I always do, that if you want really great Factory records, go to the source, instead of looking for beauty from those paying tribute to the sound. Why spend your time and money and effort praising the imitators, when there's tons of greatness to be found in the original source?

The same theory can be applied to Ultramarine, if you replace "Interpol" with, say, "Moby" or "The Orb." Okay, so the Orb and Moby are roughly contemporary with Ultramarine, it doesn't really matter, because, well....Moby was more DJ than "artist" at the time, and The Orb, while trance-inducing, were never anything less than utterly cerebral; they certainly didn't make music that needed chemicals to appreciate fully. (Of course, I could open up a whole can of worms here and say that Every Man and Woman is a Star is saying the same thing as "We Are All Made of Stars," but I won't.)

I'll also confess and say I don't know a lot about techno/electronica music. I was vaguely aware of it in the early 1990s, but I thought that the whole Rave scene was (and, erm, still is) a bit too hippie, a bit too excessive, and a bit too boring for my blood. More importantly, I didn't think much of what these "artists" were making. One guy behind a computer may come up with some interesting sounds, but I'll take real instruments over fake ones any day. And there are plenty of real instruments on Every Man and Woman is a Star, too--such as guitar, flute, clarinet, and violins, as well as the occasional moments of human voice. Inspired in part by the British band's trip to Arkansas (?!), the group felt inspired to make "music for the body and the mind" and they've certainly accomplished it. Every Man and Woman is a Star really feels warm, loving, and natural--it's not going to knock you out with heavy beats or trendy club anthems, which was a definite step away from their contemporaries. At points, such as "Saratoga" and "Panther," you'll be hard-pressed to not classify this record as light-jazz or, possibly uptempo New Age.

That the world missed Ultramarine's second album, Every Man and Woman is a Star, is no surprise. Originally released in 1992, it suffered the fate of being released at the same time their record label shut down. It's a bit of a pity, too, because the music on here deserves so much more than obscurity. My first listen to Every Man and a Woman is a Star was a quiet pleasure. You'll be hard-pressed to pin a date to these songs, because they sound so..utterly...modern! Those Moby comparisons? If you didn't know any better, you could easily throw some of this together with some of Moby's recent compositions, and the average listener would be none the wiser. Moby should be sending Ultramarine some sort of gratuity for borrowing so heavily from them, or maybe Ultramarine's just waiting for Eminem to get through with him to reclaim their crown. Whatever the case may be, you could do worse than to spend the time tracking this album down. It's the perfect balm to the hard days in your life.

---Joseph Kyle

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