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Ut – Ut / Confidential


Ut - Ut + ConfidentialFor me, Ut were the unsung heroes of that Noise New York scene and to see their essential work being re-issued can only be a good thing. Crawling from the same scene that spawned Swans, Sonic Youth, James Chance and Richard Hell, what made the band special was not that they were all women; this was a scene that had strong women like Kim Gordon, Lydia Lunch, Ann Magnusson and generated bands like Mars, DNA and Band of Susans. No, what made them special was their absolute democracy; the three members played all the instruments and revolved both live and in the studio, all three musicans wrote and all three sang. To have three equal members all committed to a particular sound or band direction makes for a pure distillation of that idea, and that is what Ut had.

Sadly, considering the band’s twelve-year run, forming in 1978 and disbanding the first time around in 1990, they only produced three studio LPs and two EPs — but what fantastic records they are. This release, the first in a series of planned re-issues of all the material is the very essence of the band. Compiling their first EP and the three-track 12″ Confidential from the first album, this is forty minutes of pure unadulterated power trio dissonance and coiled-spring intensity.

The tracks are laid out in chronological order, so the first thing that you hear is the cavernous, drums falling down the stairs EP opener “Sham Shack”; the only track on the EP featuring a bass guitar finds it played like a lead, cowbells adding to a sense of frustrated urgency and what sounds like a vox organ adding dreamlike background entrancement to the proceedings. Those synths sit at odds with the two drummers pounding out a tribal rhythm, and Sally Young‘s deep mysterious voice intoning obscure poetry. It is a fantastic opener which the next track, Jacqi Ham‘s “This Bliss” immediately attempts to trump. Jacqui’s voice is more ululating and the detuned duo of guitars, one febrile and spitting out notes like shards of glass and one more sonorous and dealing out punches to the stomach, weave around the frustrated, rambling vocals. I could attempt to reprint some of the lyrics, but it is pointless. They are suited perfectly to the music and make sense in the moment if you wish to look hard enough.

This first EP is a long, powerful listen and interestingly enough was produced by the band with Scott Piering, who I am sure was PR for Blast First at some point, as well as being the KLF‘s meddler in chief, and was engineered by Charles Bullen of This Heat at Cold Storage. Their impeccable credentials notwithstanding, this EP has a conviction and depth that finds Nina Canal‘s track “New Colour” with the guitar straining at the lead like an out of control puppy fighting against her resonant, mellower vocals beginning to hit a stride. The last two tracks are longer and they truly are absorbing. The addictive six minutes of “New Colour” leads into the slightly more palatable eight minutes of “Exilee Goes Out”, which with its cavernous drums and Sonic Youth-like guitar intro gradually leads into double-drum Fall territory. The vocals are conversational, but like MES himself — who was at the top of his game around this point — would you want a conversation with them? Better to just allow them to lull you with their fascinating poetry and esoteric perspective, to allow the story to unfold as the band batter and scrape you into submission.

By contrast, there is a little more sweetness in the three tracks from Confidential. Sally’s voice has developed a sense of lightness, certain lines hover just above the ground, travelling cross-country as the bass and drums mesmerise with their droning simplicity in the same manner as Sonic Youth or Band of Susans. They allow that story to unfold, giving a suitable backdrop to the fascinating lyrics. Kristin Hersh was certainly listening to Jacqui’s voice and also noting the way that her songs are so likely to change direction at a moment’s notice. The needling guitar, dipping and prodding at the coyote-like vocals, paints a desert backdrop on “Bedouin” and the song shimmers and shakes in that blasting sun. By the time the final track appears, the drunk and emotional ‘Tell It”, we have heard two tracks each by Nina and Sally and three by Jacqui.

Each writer possesses their own style within the framework of the band, but the telepathy or understanding between them means that although each person acts as musical director for their track, nobody is fighting for supremacy, and the end result is just about the ultimate in how a trio should work. For me, the band was unique in this respect, but the sheer power, monumental energy and passion that they bring to the music, along with their abstract philosophising and desire to wring the freakiest discordant sounds from bass and guitar, makes them quite superb. It is high time that they were rediscovered and this is the perfect starting place.

-Mr Olivetti-

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