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Ulrika Spacek - Modern English Decoration (Album Review)

Monday, 12 June 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Formed in Berlin by two long-time friends, Ulrika Spacek have spanned categories since their inception. Taking their moniker from the amalgamation of left wing extremist Ulrike Meinhof and film star Sissy Spacek’s names, the band were quickly tagged as avant-garde Deerhunter followers with Can-like krautrock influences and a touch of Television after the release of their debut, ‘The Album Paranoia’.

If that’s difficult to imagine, though, you could quite easily slot them in alongside many of the protagonists of the current psychedelic movement, such as TOY and FEWS. Now a five-piece, the band have settled in east London and their house, a former art gallery in Homerton dubbed KEN, is where they recorded, produced and mixed album two, ‘Modern English Decoration’.

The first fruits of the new album appeared in September with the excellent single Everything, All The Time. Ulrika Spacek’s clear strength is their ability to carefully combine layers of guitar into lengthy instrumental segments that sound like fresh and exciting jams.

Following a similar path to many other Velvet Underground disciples, the track bursts into life with distorted, fuzzy guitars amid a motorik beat.

The core of ‘Modern English Decoration’ is, pleasingly, focused on a number of similar cuts. The opener, Mimi Pretend, utilises the same winning formula of a repetitive beat swirling around before echoey guitars flesh out another thumping instrumental. It’s TOY meet Mazes, sandwiching some distorted vocals between the intro and its analogous outro.

Full of Men then blends intricate guitars with an upbeat, chugging krautrock beat, at first recalling lighter psychedelic advocates such as Ultimate Painting before becoming a lot fuzzier. The band break up these instrumental passages with quieter segments as the song fades in and out of distortion.

But it’s not all a bed of roses. Echo-laden vocals that sound like they were recorded in KEN’s bathroom appear on both the title track and Ziggy, with the former’s minimalist guitar, bass and slow drums creating wishy-washy nothingness. The latter, meanwhile, mimics bands like Proper Ornaments with more subtle psychedelics. Saw A Habit Forming’s summery stripped back feel also fails to excite, with its lengthy industrial-coated conclusion of particular blandness.

Things pick up considerably for the final two tracks. Firstly, the superb Victorian Acid opens with heartbeat percussion and brooding bass like a hunter stalking its prey before erupting with clanging guitars amid a wall of distortion and warped, muffled vocals. Closer Protestant Work Slump then takes the Ultimate Painting/Proper Ornaments approach again until a further blanket of guitars elevates the track to something more satisfying.

Basically, ‘Modern English Decoration’ is more of the same as Ulrika Spacek continue where they left off from their debut. It consolidates their position more than improving it, but they can now take two good albums out on the road. It's what they do next, though, that will separate the men from the boys.

Ulrika Spacek Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed June 14 2017 - LONDON Lexington
Thu October 12 2017 - LONDON Oslo

Click here to compare & buy Ulrika Spacek Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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