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Ultramarine \ Signals Into Space [TWI 1236 / CD]

Signals Into Space is a brand new studio album by acclaimed electronic duo Ultramarine. SIS is their seventh album, having made their debut on Crepuscule with Folk (TWI 894) back in 1990.

Released in January 2019, the new long player was conceived by Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond over a three year period and features four songs co-written with North American musician Anna Domino, a firm favourite of the group since her leftfield pop releases on Crépuscule and Factory in the 1980s. "For this project we wanted to do something more ambitious and perhaps more accessible than our last album in 2013," explains Paul. "We were keen to start collaborating with other musicians again, as well as develop our method of performance-based writing and recording, which is partly improvised."

Signals Into Space also features contributions from saxophonist Iain Ballamy (ECM, Food, Loose Tubes) and percussionist & vibraphone player Ric Elsworth. It was recorded and mixed in London with Andy Ramsay (Stereolab) and mastered by Noel Summerville.

"To some extent Signals Into Space is an escapist record," reveals Ian. "Our rehearsal space is a small windowless room on an industrial estate in Essex. Possibly as a result we ended up with a collection of visually suggestive tracks, conjuring mental images of cities, deserts and tropical islands, which gradually came into focus as Anna's lyrical ideas developed. So while the music might have been conceived in a closed space it's imbued with a positive spirit - looking outwards, seeking contact."

Cover art by Studio Heretic.

CD + 2xLP tracklist:

1. Elsewhere
2. Spark From Flint To Clay
3. Breathing
4. Arithmetic
5. If Not Now When?
6. $10 Heel
7. Du Sud
8. Equatorial Calms
9. Sleight of Hand
10. Framework
11. Cross Reference
12. Signals Into Space

Meditations CD (optional):

1. Meditation I
2. Meditation II

Available on CD, 2xLP and digital (MP3). For an additional 5.00 GBP you can also order companion CD Meditations (TWI 1243) featuring two longform ambient pieces. To order your preferred format please select correct shipping option (UK, Europe or Rest of World) and click on Add To Cart button below the cover image.

Or, you can order with the option of tracked shipping from our friends at Burning Shed (click here to order)

Meditations [TWI 1243]
Signals Into Space [TWI 1236]
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"Signals Into Space, only their second album in two decades, distills elements that have always been present in Ultramarine's music into a potent new brew. Their sound is more refined than ever, but it's hard to put your finger on what, exactly, that sound is. Warm, liquid synths and gently pulsing grooves scan as ambient, but vintage drum machines add teeth. The tone of the electric bass, muscular but understated, flashes to Tortoise's spacious brand of post-rock. The watercolour wash of Ric Elsworth's vibraphone and the searching saxophone of Iain Ballamy (a member of the group Food, with multiple albums for ECM and Rune Grammofon to his name) nod to ethereal jazz. The most fitting tag might be 'Balearic,' given the album's drowsy drift; there's even a sample of a 1983 song by Orquesta de las Nubes, Suso Saiz's balmily experimental Spanish group. Ultramarine call Signals Into Space - composed in a small, windowless room in an industrial complex in their native Essex - 'an escapist record.' But it's no mere pastiche of palm trees and Mediterranean tides. Its effects are more complex, even contradictory - a picture of white-sand beaches superimposed on dull cement walls, a dream of summer bundled in heavy down. Atmospheric and skeletal, their music projects outward yet turns inward" (Pitchfork, 01/2019)

"Anna Domino guests on pastoral techno duo Ultramarine's seventh album, their first in five years. Her words appear on the mundane account of daily life that is $10 Heel, where groovy lounge atmospherics and off-tune keys shimmy. Other tracks like Equatorial Calms, Du Sud and Framework are comparably trippy, in a similar vein to Zero 7's ambient acid jazz. Sometimes the music slips into a more uncanny strangeness, where narcotic and arrhythmic chime melodies stumble beside a noir-ish alto saxophone. The polyrhythms, vocal samples and queer keyboard patches of Breathing play out like swaggering stock music for a high-end hotel bathroom" (The Wire, 12/2019)

"There is more than a glimpse here of early Ultramarine, but this isn't a band in need of some techno zeitgeist. At its core this is a meditative work: the more ambient second half is highlighted by the rich subterranean hypnotism of Framework. It's especially pleasing when tracks forego their original intent and instead get locked into micro-raves, made all the ore trippy by the persistent patter of Ric Elsworth's breezy percussion" (Electronic Sound, 01/2019)

"So should we still be getting excited about Ultramarine? In a word, yes. Anna Domino appears on 4 tracks and she contributes to one of the album's weirder moments in $10 Heel - a slightly edgy, dub/jazz poetry number. Elsewhere the mood is more bucolic and positive, although not without a psychedelic uncanniness. Ian Ballamy lends an ECM/Windham Hill edge to proceedings with his playing - gentle, fluid and emotive. Make no mistake, there is nothing here that will surprise those familiar with Ultramarine's work. We don't get a new direction or reinvention, more a massively enjoyable, supremely accomplished revisitation of past themes. I very much struggle to see how anyone, long time fan or not, wouldn't enjoy this very beautiful record" (Test Pressing, 12/2018)

"Signals Into Space is very much a mood piece, in places relaxing, meditative and a bit introspective. But it's never dull and contains some great weird pop - witness $10 Heel. At other points it takes you to another place entirely and sends you on a journey to the stars - or at least far away from the daily grind. I think we all probably need that once in a while and Ultramarine, through utilising their dreams, have come up with an album that may help you re-energise at the start of the New Year and certainly contains many delights for the discerning listener. As ethereal and mysterious as the title might suggest, but an enigma that's easy to enjoy" (Louder Than War, 01/2019)

"Ultramarine return with their second album since their 15 year sabbatical. This time they're sporadically accompanied by labelmate Anna Domino, most notably on Spark Front Flint to Clay, her nonchalant voice wreathed in wisps of synth amid quietly simmering beats. Elsewhere, their pastoral leanings remain evident in Du Sud's minimalist serenity, while Ian Ballamy's sax threads through Breathing's Arcadian rhythms." (Classic Pop, 01/2019)

"Signals Into Space is what you'd expect from Ultramarine: it's airy, spacy, and pillowy, and its textures frame unassuming loops coloured with synthetic and organic rhythms, carefully arranged reeds, winds, stacked keyboards, and samplers. The American singer/songwriter Anna Domino - whose recordings on Les Disques du Crepuscule and Factory inspired the lads early on - co-wrote and sings on four tunes. Opener Elsewhere is a drifting instrumental pregnant with minor-key melody, mode, and economical harmony; rhythms wheel through and around their sumptuous mix. Domino and Ballamy come together on Arithmetic, where dubby club jazz, angular Prince-esque pop, and spindly Anglo funk collide with psychedelic effects, trippy echoes, and multivalently layered percussion, with organs and electronic pianos exchanging pulses amid the loops and beats in the foreground. That dubwise quotient meets Ballamy's improvising as tenor sax and jagged synth chords introduce Domino, who relates a nearly perverse tale of technology and intimacy. Sampled handclaps, bass loops, and chunky guitars expand the striated cadence into a nocturnal drift of sonic inquiry. Breathing features Ballamy's sax amid disembodied spoken male vocals, a South African chorale, and a polyrhythmic Latin groove. Equatorial Calms waxes and wanes with digitally delayed sax, spidery Wurlitzer chords, and skeletal rhythms framing elegant, fingerpicked guitars. Ultimately, despite its abundant strangeness, Signals Into Space is almost bucolic in its charm, but it is also ringed inside dark, modal margins on tracks such as the spacy club-jazz of Sleight of Hand and the loopy juxtaposition of electronic abstraction and humid techno grooves in closer Cross Reference. While there isn't anything revolutionary, or even new, here, Ultramarine focus on what they do best with canny songwriting, deft arranging, and sumptuous but unassuming production techniques that evince something so aurally attractive, reinvention is unnecessary." (AllMusic Guide, 09/2019)

"Rhythmic touches are often either entirely absent or delivered in a chilled out half-time jazzy touch, establishing a gentle bony structure rather than some throbbing techno piece. In headphones, the swarm and swell of the synths reminds of certain shoegaze groups that draw from electronic music, pushing up and rattling your bones with bass and ambient rattle while hi-hats and trumpet sing easy behind. This builds to a tremendous experience of space in music, a three-dimensional structure that comes clear with good speaker setup or decent headphones. You can hear why Ultramarine's records take as long as they do, spending great time making tiny touches placed just so, reverberate with precise intent. It feels like being immersed in the centre of a sound sculpture, watching the spare melodies arc and swirl and throb around you. Like jazz, the focus is less the discrete lines and more the interplay. It's easy to want, while listening to this record, something more solid and tangible to hang your hat on. But music like this tends to err on the side of the dissociative anyway. The way that, like Talk Talk's later records, the melodies and momentum dissolve into a sea of post-jazz/post-prog ambient music, gentle lapping waves of recurring sound begging by repetition to add or subtract elements" (Treblezine, 01/2019)

"For those that have previously delved into the world of Ultramarine, there are no radical departures, reinventions or surprises here. Over 30 years Paul Hammond and Ian Cooper have carefully cultivated their own sound that combines their source material beautifully. The fact that only a third of Signals Into Space features vocals means that the album works best as 'put on, zone out' work, and it accomplishes that exceedingly well. Once you become locked into it, it does a superb job of transporting the listener to a variety of sonic-inspired landscapes" (The Electricity Club, 1/2019)

"Understatement is something we've come to expect from Ultramarine and Meditations is low-key, being two elongated, serene soundscapes designed as a companion to Signals Into Space. The two tracks are slow moving, yet simultaneously seem to be over in a flash, weaving the natural (distant birdsong, a chorus of croaking frogs, the faint chatter of humans) into the synthetic (treated guitar, wavetable and analogue synths) with the joins barely discernible. The generous use of gloopy, echoing kalimba, meanwhile, makes a refreshing addition to the usual ambient arsenal and elevates this from merely abstract into the realms of truly special" (Electronic Sound, 01/2020)