Ulan Bator: pushing rock to the limits…actually just beyond that tree, the one on the left

13th March 2017

Title: Stereolith

Label: Bureau B

Even if you don’t know the band and its rather avant garde rock musical direction, you may still be bothered by the name and see it as familiar. Of course, those of you who spent two weeks of their summer holiday in Mongolia (and I know that many of you have…and already have bags packed for a return trip) will laugh at the obvious: Ulan Bator is the capital of that fine country.

Formed in the mid-90s in France (just to confuse you geographically), the band featured the vocals, guitar and tapes of Amaury Cambuzat, Olivier Manchion (bass, metal and even more tapes: this is obviously why Amazon has sold out of TDKs) and Franck Lantignac (percussion, trumpet and no tapes at all). Lantignac left (maybe you could only stay in the band if you had a stash of C90s?) to be replaced by Matteo Dainese. They released a series of albums and a compilation from 1995 and toured with Faust. The group even worked with former Swans leader, Michael Girl when releasing the LP Ego: Echo in 2000.

This new release features Cambuzat still but two newer bodies occupy the rest of the slots: Mario Di Battisto (bass) and Sergio Pomante (drums, vocals, sax) who also helped mix the records and then mastered the thing. A man of many knobs, is Sergio. And let’s address the mastering now, while we’re on the subject. Sergio has done a good job. The mix is clean, precise, well structured and positioned to enhance the drama of the music while the mastering is on the cool side of neutral and has enough punch and excitement to maintain life and detail, even within the more explosive areas of the music.

And that music? It hinges on the (mostly) whispering death vocals from Cambuzat, whose low key style features on many of the tracks, which flows all over your floor like a leaky dishwasher. It gets everywhere, in every corner of the soundstage and soaks the music with his personality and does so without really trying. Cambuzat’s vocals allow the music to dominate, he just applies a vocal hand to the tiller, as it where, guiding it here and there. The production is experimental and, at times, rather free form, but never loses that melodic basis entirely.

I feel that this album is one to get to know. Allow it to infuse into your head. Repeated listens will enhance is power.