Ultraista - Sister.

Coming back after an 8 year break, synth pop supergroup Ultraista hit us with a whole new album destined to get you jumping about the room grooving. Featuring the talents of Laura Battinson (FEMME), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) and Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M) it's the collaboration the decade deserved to start with. A blend of their styles, it completely captures you, sending you on a rollercoaster of thrills, dips and turns.

Two cymbal hits and a wandering bass bring the album crashing in with a memorable dancey tune (Tin King). Staccato vocals, match a kick rising in the mix; already an indicator that the vocals present within the album are going to be at a constant intertwine with the instrumentation. Gradually, Bettinson’s vocals have less clarity as more layers melt into the mix getting wrapped into this building whirlpool of sound, that rises and dips but in such a linear gooey way with never anything close to abrupt.

‘Harmony’ opens with two tribal sounding drums singing to each other with a very raw natural texture. Arpeggios contrast this beautifully as they bloom into the waves of the track - a synth fanfare introducing Femme’s relaxed vocal performance. Gradually elements dip out and reappear, but you constantly get this sense of progression in the track, layers upon layers of melody building up on each other until you get something symphonic by the climax.

Around the mid point of the album, you’ve got the unsettling yet beautiful track ‘save it Till later’. Throughout there’s a constant turbulent drone that whines beneath everything, barely losing its presence. Contrast this with Bettinson’s bright singing voice and the mood constantly flickers between lulled and unsettled. Noticeably more stripped back than a majority of tracks on this album, it sits perfectly in the middle allowing you a breath between the massive digital symphony (or synth-ony if you like).


Alright, picture yourself in the coolest nightclub known to man, it smells like David Bowie and shrugs at anything close to lame. Now, what track are they playing? Ordinary Boy seems like a good fit. With these pump up drums that force your body moving and the indifferent casual delivery of the lyrics, it oozes cool. Listening to this track anywhere is bound to make you feel like the slickest motherfucker in the room, for me that’s an empty kitchen with a fly I’ve named Jerry. Suck it Jerry.

Bringing down the atmosphere to a smooth calming tone, is my personal favourite ‘Bumblebees’. Opening with ambient sounds of insects and birds which set the feel of a perfect day in the woods, the singing string section drives the song forward into a full adventure. A gentle piano played with single notes weaves through the track, bursting through the thick sound of strings with bright bursts plodding amidst the layers of instrumentation. The drums have got this nice sporadic pattern which I couldn't stop focusing on. Right the way through, they mimic the sound of the ambient opening, always keeping the motif of bird song rumbling throughout.

Furthering the ‘take a step back and relax’ atmosphere is the interstellar ‘The Moon and Mercury’. Completely out of body from the rest of the album, it lets the vocals shine; organic on top of the repetitive bleeping of the keys. That electronic arpeggio holds a sort of lullaby melody, contrasting perfectly the high energy ‘Tin King’ from the beginning of the album. Progressively, the song becomes organic in feel, strings bloom in the mix, overpowering the digital bleeping. The drums here take on a different meaning, suddenly they begin to sound like a heartbeat, kicking beneath everything around them. As Bettinson’s voice burst into the album with staccato power, it leaves in a melancholic drift. Curtains pulled, the theatric escapism slides away and you’re back in the room. The album has reached its end.

Sister, is the perfect album to completely send you away from the lockdown blues. It enthrals you in its story from the moment you press play, sucking you in until everything outside the speaker just becomes background dressing. A golden example of a supergroup done right, their hands on approach to creating is exciting as all hell. If you’ve read the review, and you think “hey, that sounds pretty neat” then check out their music videos online first. They’re an unbeatable intro to the creative juices that flow when these three collaborate and a solid welcome to the wonder that is ‘Sister’.