Ulla - foam Music Album Reviews

Ulla - foam Music Album Reviews
Drawn mostly from a palette of piano, guitar, and chopped vocal fragments, Ulla Straus’ new direction in ambient music represents a departure from her previous albums. It’s glitchy, but also human.

There’s a point where ambient music stops being ambient—where the artist, rather than guiding you through your inner world, pulls you into theirs. On foam, her best album yet, the American musician Ulla Straus, who records simply as ulla, deftly slips across that line. In a way, she’s been moving in this direction since her first release. Floor, a 2017 cassette on Lillerne Tape Club, was two side-long cuts of pure ambience. Tumbling Towards a Wall, from 2020, was something new, all tactile textures and gurgling rhythms, a kind of fireside glitch that recalled Jan Jelinek’s Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records. Her last LP, last year’s Limitless Frame, moved further into the material world, with pianos and woodwinds drifting through its nighttime fog.

All of these records are excellent, but foam represents a breakthrough. The album draws mostly from a palette of piano, guitar, and chopped vocal samples. It’s glitchy, but also human. You picture hands on the piano keys, and a woman singing those sad notes—if not in the flesh then in a memory, or a dream. 

The more important change here, though, happens under the hood. foam is subtle, delicate, and sometimes ethereal. But it also demands your attention. This is an artist not providing a canvas for your thoughts and feelings, but communicating her own, however abstractly. Unlike, say, the Going In series from the Bunker New York, foam is not something you zone out to—the peals of noise on the opener, “song,” signal that early on. This is, no doubt, music for contemplation. You might take it in while staring at the ceiling, into the middle distance, or out the rain-soaked window of a bus. But you wouldn’t ignore it, any more than you’d ignore someone who’s lowered their voice to tell you a secret. 

foam has the glued-together feel of a collage, each juxtaposition imbued with meaning that even its creator might struggle to explain. Most tracks are fragmented, with staccato rhythms built from thin slivers of sound. Others come whole, played on one instrument, seemingly without a sample in sight. One is “marina,” a beautiful guitar piece that reveals Straus to be the rare electronic artist who could play unplugged.

For an electronic album, foam is brought to life by something surprising: the honesty and vulnerability of a singer-songwriter. This is nothing new for Straus—she said she made Limitless Frame “as a way to hug myself.” foam, soothing as it is in places, is not so pure a salve. The mood is one not of comfort, but of a delicate subject being carefully breached, a memory pondered, an invitation to, as My Bloody Valentine put it, “tiptoe down to the lonely places.” But the overall effect is not brooding, somber, or sad. It’s intimate, even romantic. It’s certainly the warmest record Straus has ever made. 

Given Straus’s versatility as an artist, foam relies a little too heavily on its core aesthetic in places. Ghostly voices, splashes of piano, and glitchy artifacts are the defining features of most of these tracks, some of which sound like different versions of one another. The album’s detours are some of its best moments (for my money, “marina” is the best thing here). Still, she’s hit upon a beautiful mode of expression. Each of these fluttering bursts of sound seems to convey a tender, personal truth. Far from getting old, this musical language reaches perfection at the record’s conclusion: “foam angel,” a bittersweet piece that’s part ballad, part lullaby, part hymn. 
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ulla - foam Music Album Reviews Ulla - foam Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 06, 2022 Rating: 5


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