Ultraviolet is fucking acid trip. Critics, fans, bums on the street or alien prostitutes hell bent on total domination can coo about Kylesa all they want. Sure, sure, toss terms like psych-titans around. Drop on them the golden chains of “alternative rock”. Hell, for all I fucking care you can call Ultraviolet the greatest polka album since Weird Al’s debut. Point is, you’re wrong. I’m wrong. The whole damn thing is out of order. Remember when Kuato came out of that dude’s stomach and chanted, “open your mind to me” in Total Recall. Ultraviolet is like that, only weird.
When you first take a hit of acid, it takes a while for the effect to kick in. Then, suddenly, the hammer falls and your trip begins. Ultraviolet kicks off with “Exhale”, opening the trip suddenly and harshly. You can’t get your bearings over the sweeping guitars and then, just to make it more difficult, Laura Pleasants voice expands into a swirling vortex of color. Back comes the harshness of the trip with Philip Cope’s vocals but fear not, Laura is there to guide you.
Once the trip sets in, your brain begins to embrace the weirdness. That first level of tranquility is what “Unspoken” has to it. Arriving at the multiple doors of your subconscious and opening them all at once is a moment, a moment that deserves a theme song. “Unspoken” is that song. The first notes feel like you’re traveling down a staircase into something desperate and insane. Think Ralph Bakshi’s “Lord Of The Rings” animation playing in a wrap around screen as you descend this mental staircase. When “Unspoken” opens up into a soaring center, it’s as if you’ve arrived on the other side. The riff being played is effected to the point it sounds like running water with Gregorian chants behind it.
Now you’re tripping.
Sitting, staring out at the abyss is where “Grounded” comes in. The song is heavy in the way an anchor would be. Your mind needs to be grounded or you go insane. Grooving with your trip and allowing some simpler rock to motivate you to continue, that’s where “Grounded” is. It’s as if Kylesa wants to give you breathing room to collect your thoughts and simply bob your head. “We’re Taking This” is the noise of the trip. The battle between your conscious and unconscious minds. At times harsh and then suddenly peaceful, “We’re Taking This” is the visceral sound you feel as you begin to peak.
“What Does It Takes” is the first part of your peak. Fast moving and filled with dense sound particles, “What It Takes” is the breakdown of your mental faculties. When the band screams, “Is this really happening”, you question it yourself. This trip to the absolute peak is almost too much. “Steady Breakdown” is where you reach the pinnacle of your high. Open chords and gentle tones rain down softly all over you. “Steady Breakdown” is comforting, especially when Laura’s voice is there to help you relax. “Low Tide” is the beginning of the end. The slow, psychedelic-ballad nature of the tune helps center you. It reminds you this is trip and you should ride the waves of guitars back home.
“Vulture’s Landing” is the last epic on Ultraviolet. This is time and space reconnecting for you. Built on a solid foundation of 90s rock (which I mean as a kindness not an insult) Kylesa give you a ship to board for the journey home. This craft is almost entirely made of sounds brought to life through the love of a pedal board. Mixed within those effects are generous helpings of Tad, Soundgarden and Mudhoney. You’re safely being brought back through the vortex.
Then, finally, there is “Drifting”. An eloquent and lush song of simple notes and bits of noise, “Drifting” is you returning back to the world safely but with your mind altered enough to see things differently. Towards the final leg there are a few loud bumps, but when Ultraviolet ends, you know it and you’re better for having been through it.
As with all trips, there are bumps in the road. “Drifting” should have been left to its quieter devices. The sudden bombastic rock end doesn’t work. I also take issue with “Quicksand”, which feels like filler mainly due to it’s excessive love of bands like Belly and Smashing Pumpkins. At a little over two minutes it does nothing to enhance the album. Production tends to be a problem here simply because it’s inconsistent. Most of Ultraviolet sounds wonderful, but there are times when you’d like to hear more definition and a little less oversaturation of all the instruments.
Regardless of the nitpicks, Kylesa has outdone themselves with Ultraviolet. This is a band testing itself and coming out as better artists. You simply can’t pigeonhole Kylesa. Their talent and dedication to expanding the third eye is too sharp. Ultraviolet is the inside of the Monolith, the theme in God’s mind’s eye and a commanding, visceral record that invites us to think, feel and experience the music all at once.
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