Is This Love or Confusion? (Self-released)

    The first song on Ultragash's Is This Love or Confusion? is titled "Space Oddity." And yes, it is indeed a cover of the famous David Bowie ballad from 1969. But outside of the title, this isn't a fact that becomes immediately apparent for at least a good 45 seconds into the song. It bristles and throbs with harrowing blasts of distortion and static. It's chaotic and tense and messy, and it's not until Brennan Gervasi, the sole artist behind Ultragash, sings "Ground control to Major Tom," that it's obvious or even halfway apparent that this the "Space Oddity" and not just a song of the same name.

    Throughout the new album, Gervasi makes entry points into his confrontational and sensory-overloaded electro-psych both challenging and elusive. By putting a familiar song at the beginning of the album—even if it's not necessarily recognizable in the form that Gervasi presents it—Ultragash does the listener a solid. Things are about to get out of hand soon, and it helps to have something comforting there to anchor this excursion into manic digital punk.

    Challenging as Is This Love or Confusion? might be, it's also a thrilling listen. This has almost everything to do with Gervasi's ability to turn a blustery storm of distortion and noise into an unexpectedly compelling melody with the flick of a wrist. His songs are alternately immediate and impenetrable, sometimes at the same time. "Beautiful Cannibal" juxtaposes thudding electronic beats with a nursery-rhyme chant in a way that comes across like a schoolyard version of Death Grips. Meanwhile, on "Home to the World," it's Gervasi's own nervous yelps that immediately serve to put the listener on edge, while the impending explosion of bass and beats are ultimately what turn the song into an absolute banger.

    It's hard to figure out where, exactly, Ultragash's music fits. It's not rock music, but it certainly thrashes and throttles. It's not really dance music, either, but in his best moments, Gervasi has what it takes to get asses moving. Ultragash's music doesn't always make sense; that's what makes it so damn exciting. 

    Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff


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