Daniel Avery has pulled out all the stops for Ultra Truth. There’s a little bit of everything here, then something more. The album straddles multiple genres, from ambient to modern composition to electronic to pop. The release was announced six months in advance, and since then there have been singles, videos and remixes. A host of guest stars appear, including some on vocals. The CD, tape and vinyl formats each include a different bonus track. There’s just no way this album is going to fail.
The fuzzy opener “New Faith” builds from piano to drone, drops into silence, then offers a spoken word overture: “Beyond the sun and shadow, under the weight of a collapsing sky, close your eyes, and look to the light.” Avery states that he once offered music as a distraction, but now looks “directly into the darkness.” When the dance beats begin to drop, one gets the sense that this approach has worked; the artist sounds liberated and optimistic.
The three early singles expose Avery’s love for classic 90s sounds. “Wall of Sleep” is built on a combination of vocal and drum loop, halfway between trip-hop and trance. “Higher” delves into drum ‘n’ bass, adding organic percussion, while “Chaos Energy” ~ the first single, featuring Kelly Lee Owens and HAAi ~ combines the earlier influences, beginning with spoken word and falling into breakbeat. Unlike other mixed genre albums, the potential singles are not limited to three. “Devotion” is another swift club piece, at 3:52 requiring no edit, although one can imagine a bevy of remixes. The most unusual track, “Only,”(with Jasmine) is perfect for Halloween, bordering on industrial with repetitions of “only the monsters love me.” Unfortunately, the album is released four days after the kids have received their candy. The piece draws a line between the light and the darkness, as Jasmine seems more whimsical than frightened, having made peace with her intended suitors.
Over the course of the album, Avery continues to walk the road of “New Faith”s opening words. “Near Perfect” imitates the opener by ending with another voiceover: “it was just this really beautifully intense feeling of like, joy and excitement, but I couldn’t show that outside …” The tempered euphoria leads to “Higher,” implying that the struggle is headed in the right direction; yet it reverses in the subsequent piece: I don’t know why I’m in the middle of something I can’t wake up from, and you’re a part of it. Avery seems to imply that the battle is ongoing; but where does it end? The titles of the three unheard pieces – “Out of Silence,” “Time Takes a While” and “Trip” – imply different roads, as well as a choice. One also has the choice to do nothing (in this case, to stream), making “Heavy Rain” the closing piece. On this path, the album’s last words become “I know I’ll see the light again.” This is a pretty good ending to a non-linear war, but if one is still unsatisfied, one may open Door #1, 2, or 3. (Richard Allen)