- Ulla adds moments of clarity and focus to her ambient dreamscapes.
- In the short poem that accompanies her latest release, Limitless Frame, Ulla writes, "Being somewhere, while being somewhere else / A place I look for in other places / A moment on repeat / I made this music to hug myself." It's a beautiful evocation of the way her music creates space and environments that are dense with emotion. Reading the poem, I was reminded of the liner notes for Brian Eno's Ambient 4: On Land album. There, Eno describes how the music he makes ties together "places, times, climates and the moods that they evoke." Both Ulla and Eno work in this space, creating sonic topographies by looking at the way in which landscape becomes a repository for, as Eno describes it, "expanded moments of memory." This is particularly true of the Pittsburgh artist's latest album, a record that feels at once spiritual and earthy, melancholic yet uplifting.
My favorite song on the record, "Something Inside My Body," moves through these realms of feeling poignantly. The song's mournful piano initially emerges from what sounds like a waterfall and the slow drip of a faucet that Ulla samples. But as the rush of the water moves higher in the mix, the water also tempers the gloom, a reminder of the emotional effect that landscapes or environments themselves can have. "Chest Of Drawers" is elegiac and haunted, but the plucked melody is like finding a cozy campfire on a rainy day. On "Shelter," the sadness of the decaying loop feels less lonely with the vocal sample that, although indecipherable, feels like late night intimacies whispered among friends.
In Maya-Roisin Slater's review of last year's Tumbling Towards A Wall, she pointed out how across Ulla's prolific release schedule on labels like West Mineral Ltd. and Experiences Ltd., she had been refining the textural and especially rhythmic aspects of her murky sound. Tracks like "Aware Of Something" and "Something Else" are full of the introspective pulses, percussive murmurs and ASMR-triggering whispers of past work. But there are new, bolder features on this record. The strummed guitar on "Look Or Look Away" and "Clearly The Memory," for example, is more pronounced and clear than any of the sounds she's made in the past. The chords are gentle, but by pulling them out of the haze of the mix, the clarity of the strings makes the album more demanding, shifting the space between background and foreground.
"Far Away" takes this further. Although Ulla has worked with jazz motifs before, they've never been this razor-sharp. As the song starts, you can't help but pause and give it your whole focus as the saxophone rings out morosely into Ulla's dusky twilight. Perhaps more than any other track "Far Away" is a distillation of the poem Ulla frames the album with. It's an ode to the landscapes and memories of yesterday, yes, but the occasional guitar strums underneath feel like knowing when to stop looking out the window and to start dreaming about tomorrow.
01. Aware Of Something
02. Look Or Look Away
03. Both Feelings
04. Chest Of Drawers
06. Something Inside My Body
07. Clearly The Memory
08. Far Away
09. Somewhere Else