Daniel Avery – Ultra Truth
Daniel Avery has had an epiphany. The Bournemouth DJ and producer, best known for his hook-laden style of techno and post-dubstep breakbeats, touts his latest album Ultra Truth “a distorted fever dream of a record: riled, determined and alive.” It’s an album, as its title might suggest, that acknowledges the world for all its ugliness and darkness, attempting not to provide utopic escapism, but rather to confront these shadows head on. It’s almost the opposite approach to last year’s Together In Static, which found in Avery’s distorted sound a quiet reprieve from the heavy fog of real life, ever optimistic with rose-tinted titles like The Fountain Of Peace and Yesterday Faded. Instead, Ultra Truth takes the glasses off and casts this noise not as distraction, but as response to the current, turbulent state of the world.
While this concept could easily lapse into the morose, Avery avoids this by avoiding obvious emotional cliché. Ultra Truth doesn’t dwell on the depressive, nor does it seethe with disenfranchised angst. Instead, Avery happens upon something far more complex, far closer to the perplexing, complicated experience of actual life. This creates a push and pull across most of the album, a tension of contrasting emotions that doesn’t try to untangle anything, but rather sits in the juxtaposition. Wall Of Sleep almost buries HAAi’s pensively sung hook beneath layers of bright, glowing drone synths, underscored by an urgent and spiraling breakbeat that imbues the whole thing with a subtle anxiety. On Only, sludge is made sensual by weaving a breathless vocal between and beneath lurching, mucky trip-hop. Avery continues to play with these contrasts as much between tracks as he does within them. Higher, one of the set’s ravier moments, is underpinned by a sinister tonality from the hurricane of industrial electronics quietly raging in its background. It happens to kick into gear just as Near Perfect trails off with a recording of DJ Sherelle speaking about the dancefloor as a space of refuge and catharsis.
Moments like these strike a satisfying balance between the poppy escapism of Avery’s earlier work and the noisey darkness he plays with on Ultra Truth, revealing a sort of nihilistic omnipresence that links him back to his influences in the vein of Portishead or the icy postpunk of Nick Cave. Where there is joy, there is sadness, where there is life, there is death. Ultra Truth walks the tightrope between these two absolutes, recognizing both sides as essential to the experience of living. It’s fitting then that Lone Swordsman, a record Avery put out in 2020 after the death of his friend Andrew Weatherall, should find its way onto the tracklist here. It remains Avery’s most deftly honest work to date, even toward the bottom of this new barrel of songs that hone in on the same sort of honesty. Lone Swordsman is striking in its simplicity; a looped, steady breakbeat, waves of drone synths, and an arpeggio that has somehow been programmed to elicit both pathos and euphoria all at once. It’s truly beautiful, and speaks directly toward the soul of Ultra Truth as a whole.
There’s an incredible amount of nuance at play here, and Ultra Truth is something best experienced from top to tail sans distraction, affording it the time it needs to unfold and tell its story. “I’m no longer dealing in a misty-eyed euphoria,” Avery has said of Ultra Truth. “This is an intentionally heavy and dense album.” While unquestionably dense, Ultra Truth’s heaviness is far more multifaceted than Avery lets on. It’s not immediately heavy, sometimes it feels ephemeral, sometimes it’s actually euphoric. But it’s the effect of these sweeping juxtapositions that really lingers, making for something that stays as affecting long after it has ended.
Listen to Lone Swordsman from Ultra Truth below.
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