ULAN BATOR EGO:ECHO (YOUNG GOD RECORDS) REVIEWwhere pop music lilts, Ulan Bator soars; where it finds respite, Ulan Bator scratches, carves and gnaws. French culture has a way of imposing a certain sado-masochistic, reverent disdain for upon its art Â– particularly music. For the French, itÂ’s not enough to love pop music: One must love it with a co-dependent disgust of a couple on the verge of murder-suicide. French avant-rock abusers, Ulan Bator, clearly love the pop-music tradition in the same way Â– because its first release on an American label is like tracing the trioÂ’s finger-shaped bruises all over the throat of classic Brel, Bacharach, Morricone, Spector, Beatles, Krautrock and early Pink Floyd. However, where pop music lilts, Ulan Bator soars; where it finds respite, Ulan Bator scratches, carves and gnaws.
Produced by the master of musical attrition, Michael Gira (Angels of Light/Swans), Ego:Echo merges elements of psychedelia, chamber pop and droning folk. Â“Santa LuciaÂ” nabs Sonic YouthÂ’s bent-guitar approach to detuned pop, but further mangles it with jagged jabs of ringing bar-chords and sinister bass lines creeping beneath the dissonance. Elsewhere, a fuzzed-out, mechanistic bass line, fanged Wurlitzer organ chords and a barely audible chorus of menÂ’s voices announce the marching drone of Â“Etoile Astre.Â” The tune builds upon its repetitive groove, systematically adding then subtracting instrumental and vocal harmonies. The closing epic, Â“Echo,Â” pits a flowing haze of sounds against a laconic revision of Mitch MitchelÂ’s slashing beat from Â“ I DonÂ’t Live Today.Â” The droning layers disperse beneath the guitaristÂ’s string-raking chord chops and a pulsating bass line as the album staggers to a close, exhausted and eviscerated. Although there is nothing Â“radio-friendlyÂ” or traditionally Â“PopÂ” about Ego:Echo, the passion for music which Ulan Bator exudes clearly indicates that violence is being done to the thing they love.