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Review: Ukuphambana – Outright EP

Tewksbury noise/IDM veteran dips his toes into glitched-out dance beats

There’s no nice way to say it: We are living in one of the most mundane and boring armageddon scenarios imaginable. Instead of a wasteland gangs of loincloth-clad bikers, S&M cyborgs, and mutant juggernauts galavanting around the place and wrecking shop, we’re cooperating with each other, maintaining a healthy respect for personal space, and making a lot of bread.

It’s disheartening to anyone who pines for the robots to start running things.

But amidst all the quiet ruckus and mad dashes to the grocery store to buy all the toilet paper you can eat, someone forgot to inform Tewksbury’s own analog synth wizard Chris Castiglione of this. Rather than prepare an appropriately mellowed out selection of tracks to play Animal Crossing to while weathering out the viral storm, he and veteran industrial/noise label Voidstar Productions have instead given us Outright EP, the latest from his legendary electronic project Ukuphambana. A nearly 25 minutes worth of glitching, whirring techno that would surely appease the hypothetical robot overlords we didn’t end up with.

Anyone familiar with Ukuphambana and the Mechwarrior of analog synths, loop pedals, sequencers, and oscillators that make up his rare live shows may notice a slight shift in sound from track one. Whereas previous Ukuphambana releases have been chaotic melanges of twitching beats and IDM rhythms that cannot sit still, Outright has shifted his aim towards a more danceable style. This is not to say that he’s gone full EDM bro with his synth concoctions, perish the thought; his noisy compositions click, whirr, and glitch in compelling ways as always. It’s a little more Kraftwerk than Marshmello.

Outright‘s 6 tracks feel right at home equally in some futurist nightclub, as much as soundtracking a video game taking place in a cybernetic urban hellscape, or our aforementioned robot overlord’s elevator music. Synthetic percussion clangs, analog synths quiver, bits are thoroughly crushed, and we are left with an incredibly solid EP of glitched out electronica. Ukuphambana’s latest collection of more rhythmic malfunctions fit him well, but I would not be disappointed if he went back to his usual blend of oblique IDM freakouts after Outright.

We can only hope the robots would feel the same.

FFO: Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, 808 State, Idol Brain

Key Track: “Quagmire & Botheration”

– Lilz Martin