REVIEW: Ui: Answers
Ui: Answers [Southern, 2003] (mp3)
Three words? Too much bass
When Tortoise started to lap up critical praise and hipster audiences, the door was opened on an entire new genre that includes talent (see: most of the Thrill Jockey catalogue), and achingly dull ex-punk rockers with nice tattoos (see: Tristeza). Ui have quite garnered the same amount of fandom and respect as their post-rock colleagues, and though the group is hardly dull, I've always found their two-bass-and-no-guitar setup somewhat gimmicky. While Ui can certainly lay down a groove, their previous work consisted of little more than rote postrock exercises.
On their second full-length, Answers, Ui have added multi-instrumentalist Erik Sanko to the mix. With New York jazz mainstays the Lounge Lizards and squealing rockers Skeleton Key on his resume, Sanko brings some much-needed life to the group. Though inconsistent, Answers is Ui's wake-up call to the scene: they're still a force to be reckoned with.
The first half of Answers, however, finds Ui sticking close to the well-worn path they've traced for nearly a decade. The basslines are thick, the drumming perfect, the songs are fine, but there is nothing here that hasn't been done before. Ui are just doing it slightly funkier. The song are well-executed, quickly forgotten, and while Erik Sanko gets to throw in some keyboard here and some guitar there, the bass is still the driving force.
But literally half-way through the record, on Track 7 (there are 13 tracks total), Ui become... fun. Fun? I thought post-rock wasn't supposed to be fun. Tortoise have never been fun - frankly, they've become downright pretentious with the faux-fusion jazz that populated Standards. Tortoise and its brethren in Chicago may be interesting, but so too are they stiflingly self-important. But Ui get fun. "Boxer-Painter" finally puts Erik Sanko in the driver's-seat, and the results are wonderful. A shimmering guitar-line, as if stolen from Archer Prewitt's bag of tricks, leads the way to an infectous jazz-tinged throwdown. The tune folds beautifully into the bluegrass flavoured "Banjo," featuring said instrument in a leading role. "Please Release Me" shows the string instruments playfully teasing and chasing each other. Right up the close of the record, Answers is a booty-shaking good time. It's like halfway through, Ui decided to take off the thick, chunky, black-frame nerd glasses and... have a party.