The Utopia Strong

The Utopia Strong

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Despite the slightly incredulous attachment of renowned snooker player Steve Davis, the Utopia Strong have delivered an oddly compelling debut. While not an entirely fair statement -- Davis has a solid history of DJ'ing and promoting obscure music -- it isn't the usual narrative to see sports personalities successfully transition into music careers, although in this case Davis is flanked by Gong's Kavus Torabi and Coil's Michael J. York. As a combined force, they comfortably navigate through trippy, off-kilter tracks, sometimes blissfully and at other times with a pensive dystopic approach. Their biggest touchstone is Krautrock, often recalling the music of Harmonia or Tangerine Dream; the former's influence is apparent from the start on tracks "Emerald Tablet" and "Konta Chorus," both with their loose and disparate elements converging to create oddly shaped musical sculptures. They also explore more mechanical, ominous tones, such as on "Swimmer" or the entirely beat-free "Unquiet Boundary." As much as the various vibes fluctuate, so do the track times; for example, smaller number "Pickman's Model" clocks in at about a minute before the ten-minute goliath "Brainsurgeins 3" unfolds. The variations are subtle at times, but present all the same, with only the closing track "Moonchild" featuring any form of vocals -- courtesy of Mediæval Bæbes' Katharine Blake -- and even then, they are heavily manipulated to fit the gradually swelling structure of the song. A distinctly sci-fi tone runs throughout, and the cinematic feel of this record marks the band's true achievement: it manages to simultaneously sound like three guys having some indulgent fun and an epic soundtrack from another dimension.

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