Many bands try this recipe and many sound dreadful - sometimes it’d be nice if people left the shoegaze sound alone. But Ursula Minor manage to pull it off by imposing their own ideas on their influences, allowing plenty of room for both spaced-out rambles and immediately accessible melodies - ‘Two Past Weeks’, for example, is a veritable pop tune, smothered by only a thin layer of fuzz, while the title track and EP closer, ‘Laudanum’, is a nine-minute rollercoaster of sky-scraping guitar lines and throbbing crescendos.
This EP is a thrilling ride that manages to be both brooding and uplifting; a visceral collection of songs that grow organically. Ursula Minor are onto something here, reinterpreting bands that are constantly being reinterpreted at the moment, but doing it with subtle intelligence, enthusiasm and, most importantly, a sense of enjoyment. It’s compelling stuff.
Drowned in Sound
This independent release from Ursula Minor came to MM towers a little bit late in the day and was destined for the weekly round up column, but it’s so good that it’s got to be promoted to a full on review with plenty of spins inbetween.
This Glasgow quartet are purveyors of fuzzy space rock, but rather than exploit any shoe gazing pretensions, opening track “Westphalia” and to a greater extent “Send City Down” finds itself nearer to the dark dreamy chasms of a brilliant first album Verve. Both songs are searching, almost drowning via the machines of pummelling guitars soaked in swirls of echo. Beneath all of this and surfacing resolutely on “Sick Fuzz” is a thick strand of electronica, although this is smashed by the runaway thunder of a brutal bass guitar. You end up with a really dizzy mix of JAMC and late career Joy Division – although in this case the comparison is related more to the thick decaying urban textures that Ursula Minor seem to spit out with glee.
Without doubt “Two Past Weeks” finds them nearer to the sonics of MBV but somehow they thread in the melodies of Ian McCulloch. The closing title track “Laudanum” (fact fans, it’s a alcoholic tincture of opium favoured by the Victorians ; now how goth is that ?) is a spinning cascade, stuck in a groove and collision of HGV sounds with galaxies of distortions. Marvellous.
Manchester Music *EP of the week*
Ursula Minor combine the shoegazing grace of My Bloody Valentine with the reverb heavy sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sometimes, if something’s gone, it really should be consigned to history. The Drybrough Cup and white dog poo a couple of the more obvious examples. However, Glasgow 4-piece Ursula Minor never ever really got started - one of the better acts to play the T-break tent at T in the Park, they seemed to follow this acknowledged stepping stone to stardom by vanishing without trace. <br><br>
Now, and it may well be 5 years later, they’ve resurfaced. Sounding a bit different than I recall - surely there was a slight Joy Division element to their sound? - their debut EP finally brings us and them to the present day. And it’s all very postmodern - ‘Westphalia’ is a krautrock bop - instrumental of course, and a fine start. ‘Send City Down’ is different, with churning bass and a slightly trippy feel - you can imagine this being the Factory Records blueprint rather than generating hundreds of Crispy Ambulance clones, had Ian Curtis and pals had been on E rather than simply living in Manchester in the 70s. However, those beats are dark industrial dance beats topped by vocals from a tunnel; it’s not the cheeriest of sounds.
‘Sick Fuzz’ probably never summed up a tune better by its title, with bass that makes the listener naueous to the pit of their stomach, as the band perform at the bottom of the well of your soul with Mary Chain vocals and Stereolabby squeaky keys. ‘Two Past Weeks’ is different again, a mess of rhythm units and a genuine pop tune in the My Bloody Valentine vein - and yes, I am making way too many comparisons to other acts. ‘Laudanum’ however defies categorisation, a hellish nightmare of a tune, with sparse rock synths and a tantric groove which threatens to engulf the listener before looping round on itself, speeding up and kind of coming full circle with some electronic beats. It seems very odd to be congratulating this lot on their debut, but it’s good to have them back.
Is This Music
This five track EP from Ursula Minor showcases a band strong and confident in knowing what they want their music to be. Wearing influences unashamedly on their sleeves, this can best be described as a heavy mix of the dirtiest sounds ever created by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Suicide and Six by Seven gritted together with an air of extreme confidence. With some tracks reaching lengths of several minutes they can border on the repetitive, yet I strangely I find that the most compelling element in this release. I’m under their hypnotic spell.
If the fact that Glaswegian quartet Ursula Minor describe themselves as an electronic-tinged Jesus and Mary Chain meets Krautrock hybrid doesn’t get you salivating, then opening number “Westphalia” certainly will. Tapping into the incendiary nature of the (in)famous Reid brothers, this instrumental number goes straight for the jugular with its driving rhythm, effervescent keys and anthem-sized guitars.
A promising start indeed from a band that is clearly unafraid to wear their hearts (and influences) on their sleeves. That’s not to say they don’t bring their own identity to the table. While the aptly-titled “Sick Fuzz” recalls The Ramones on speed or an opium-hazed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it is its ability to conjure images of the band performing in a dimly-lit fleapit, heads down, hair in the eyes and obscuring their faces that gives this track its electric disposition. The vocals are mixed so far back it’s a struggle to make out what is being said, yet this adds to the intrigue of the whole song.
There’s a feeling that this four-piece could benefit from the addition of live percussion rather than just a drum machine. In fact, in tandem with the electronics a live drum sound would give a number of these tracks that extra boost that could see them gaining new fans left, right and centre. “Two Past Weeks”, the most commercial track featured here, already possesses considerable force with its visceral feedback straight from the Kevin Shields “How to Make a Wall of Noise” handbook. Live drums, though, would just give this track that extra edge it needs. That being said, the Interpol / Editors (should I say Bowie?) vocals will definitely appeal to an indie-crowd, suggesting they could have a minor hit on their hands.
On a personal level, closing number “Laudanum” is my favourite track and this is purely for nostalgic reasons. Here Ursula Minor employs those swirling oscillations that Hawkwind have built a career on. Whether they are produced using David Brock’s revered audio generator is a different matter, but this song possesses a similar catchy riff to that of “Silver Machine” as the band set about powering this track skywards much like a space shuttle with banks of overridden guitar. An excellent end to a diverse and exciting new Ep, witness the birth of another great Glaswegian act.
Equally invoking Krautrock’s chug-a-lug rhythms and shoegaze’s woozy aesthetic, this Glasgow quartet must be cranked to 11 for full effect. Once there, the guitars completely take over, blanketing the subtle electronic nuances and washed-out vocals that occasionally rise up. there’s a reason this band has a song called Sick Fuzz.
URSULA MINOR – Laudanum (The Foreign Office) – Scottish band with a five track debut EP. They’re doing a kind of airy/brooding Spacemen3/Jesus And Mary Chain/Krautrock thing and doing it very, very well…
With a backbone of electronica, a mere whisper of drums, a plethora of droning guitar and indistinguishable vocals, Ursula Minor’s new EP sucks us into a world of dark noise. Reliving the sounds from the shoegazing era of the late 80’s, Laudanum is a welcome diversion from today’s punk revival. Citing influences from My Bloody Valentine, The Velvet Underground and The Cocteau Twins, Laudanum highlights the creative juices of Ursula Minor’s band members and throws them into the spotlight as one of Glasgow’s more promising exports. My suggestion: catch these guys live first then buy the EP. This band’s meant to be listened to at deafening levels.
Forty Shades of Noise
Edited by ursulaminor on 1 Apr 2009, 09:29
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