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The Utopia Strong - The BBC Sessions

The Utopia Strong - The BBC Sessions

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VINYL
The history of BBC Maida Vale Sessions is familiar to The Utopia Strong. As musicians, and lifelong music fans, the legacy - the importance - of such recordings is not lost on them. Space and place influence creativity, as is the case here, and the sleeve is a loving homage to those classic BBC releases, affectionately nodding to Strange Fruit Peel Sessions from days of yore. These pieces, originally recorded live at Maida Vale for a Marc Riley session on BBC 6 Music in September 2022, capture The Utopia Strong stretching themselves and continuing to develop their aural explorations. The five-track album opens with the analogue arpeggios of ‘Minature Citadels’, a title perfectly summing up the imagery provoked by the music; evolving, jagged patterns of skylines and castellations, turrets and towers. The closing outro of squarks and drones could be twice as long and not outstay its welcome.

The nagging refrain running through ‘Lamp Of Glory’ is Mike York on the pipes, which he handmakes himself. The overall effect is a sublime, warped concoction of balearic energy and non-Western modes. ‘Disaster 2’ (a piece initially recorded on their second studio album, 2022’s International Treasure) begins with a beautiful synth drone that maintains its position, overpowering the modular patterns pulsating behind it, augmented by yet more glorious, lamenting pipes. The last two tracks both exceed ten minutes and allow the band to extend out further. Release comes as the drums kick in after six minutes of ‘The Tower Is Locked’, emulating the live sets The Utopia Strong have become famed for.The final track, ‘Weather All’, was also honed across several live performances. Having been booked for Andrew Weatherall’s Conveanza festival pre-lockdown, the band finally performed there in September 2022, following his passing. While performing this piece, the heavens opened and the entire festival, band and audience, were drenched. “It felt absolutely biblical”, says the band. Steve Davis has a rich history with the Beeb, but on this occasion he is wrangling his ever-expanding array of analogue synths, dilating his musical imagination. The heritage of the location and overall experience was not lost on the band.
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