Ulan Bator - Stereolith album review

Beguiling and minimal eleventh album by the long-serving Faust collaborators.

Ulan Bator - Stereolith album artwork

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Since their formation in 1993, Ulan Bator have had an original take on the cumulative beauty of repetition, but anyone expecting an album of their lengthy, slow-building journeys or the spiky guitar surges of yore will be disoriented – enjoyably – by these pared-down offerings.

On Fire typically feels like an enticing preparatory sketch for a longer composition, with a bubbling synth rhythm and an a capella second verse. With its cyclical bass and drum patterns and incantatory vocals, Blue Girl nods towards Faust – who Ulan Bator have worked with – in its vocal lines. Spinach Can is shaped by a staccato two-chord figure as guitarist/vocalist Amaury Cambuzat admits, ‘I lost myself in a spinach can’, and the song gently shifts up a gear. Longest song NeuNeu, unsurprisingly, sounds like Neu!, with an oscillating two-note synth riff joined by drums half way through, and a vocal refrain reminiscent of Klaus Dinger’s exclamatory style of non-singing. On Lost, over stately Eno-ish piano and synth strings, Cambuzat intones, ‘It’s so good to be lost/lost in my thoughts’, perhaps a verdict on his distracted, cryptic creations that, paradoxically, make up such a compelling album.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.