Ulrika Spacek – The Cellar, Oxford 25/9/16
Ulrika Spacek, who hail originally from Reading, are something of musical revolutionaries. They seem hell bent on throwing out baby, bathwater, bathtub and bathroom as they look to create a sound which is impossible to pinpoint or pigeonhole. There is a real mixing pot of influences in abundance, their music referencing drone rock, shoegaze, avant-garde indie and baroque pop and a great deal of importance is also put on the aesthetics of the band, using psychedelic stage lighting and projector screens to create a truly unique live experience. Their record The Album Paranoia, released earlier this year, galvanises the bands mantra of cross pollination, nondescript ideology and has a subversive, almost anarchic, undertone.
With five members up on stage and the hullabaloo of lights, video screen and lashings of overdrive, Ulrika Spacek’s show has an extremely high intensity which demands the attention of their audience and their pulsating low ends pound and pump through their intricate and combative compositions. The songs are all over the place musically and after a little while you do begin to wonder who, without the stage spectacle, Ulrika Spacek really are and what they want to achieve.
At times you feel they are trying so hard to be contemporarily undefinable that the essence of the band is somehow lost along the way. Refusing to regulate the bands style and tone is at times rewarding but there needs to be a through line of relevance, a mutual understanding between audience and performers, which at present appears to be lacking. At this moment Ulrika Spacek are a little like an artist who wants to create abstract conceptual art but hasn’t learned the basics of the trade. While their desire to confront a truly alternative approach is admirable, the end result is confused and muddy, with little or no defining characteristics.
Being unashamedly bold and aggressively non-conformist is the kind of approach which was imagined some of the greatest albums of the previous fifty years. But more often than not, bands choose less traditional avenues of thought as they evolve over time and in fact understanding basic form and structural songwriting allows them to manipulate and fragment as they see fit. Ulrika Spacek make music for the sake of not fitting in and it appears to have led them to a dazed and disorganised conclusion.