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A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Burning Away the Darkness: Daniel Avery – Ultra Truth album review

Trading in his well-worn and well-loved 4/4 riddims for a pallet of moody, mid-tempo breaks, prolific producer, remixer and DJ Daniel Avery delivers his most personal – and arguably his best – album to date.

As we get further and further into the 21st Century, the idea of direct influence and causality in culture continues to dissolve, as any semblance of cohesive “scenes,” “movements,” or even “genres” get increasingly fuzzy, blurry, and – ultimately – collapse.

As well it should be. 

While there’s obviously no shortage of cookie cutter, paint-by-numbers Techno, House Music, Drum ‘n Bass, et al – judging from the continued existence of the Beatport charts – increasingly, producers are turning to their own backgrounds and formative influences for inspiration. Rather than sticking to a formula, producers and DJs are using the language of electronic music to create personal, heartfelt, and imaginative statements that feel more like miniature worlds than anonymous dancefloor fodder to shift units and sell drinks. 

producers and DJs are using the language of electronic music to create personal, heartfelt, and imaginative statements that feel more like miniature worlds than anonymous dancefloor fodder to shift units and sell drinks. 

Of course, Daniel Avery’s dense, innovate dance music has always seemed imaginative and personal, even when sticking closer to the template of pre-existing genres. It hits a whole new level on Ultra Truth, though, where he employs a mix of carefully selected samples, intricate beats, and crushing, textural noise with some of his closest friends and collaborators.

Album opener “New Faith” sets the tone, quite literally, and introduces the album’s central tenets, as a short piano loop from composer Sophie Hutchings is sliced into delicate melancholic miniatures, only to be swallowed by a river of annihilating sound like something off of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma‘s Love is a Stream, which sets the stage for a recitation of a short poem penned by Avery by Marie Davidson:

beyond the silent shadow 

under the weight of a collapsing sky

close yr eyes

and look to the light.

In a revealing interview with Clash Music, Avery speaks candidly about the twin polarities of dance music, how it can be healing and cathartic, utopian and uplifting, but it can also have a darker side – escapism, hedonism, and conspicuous consumption.  

Over the span of 15 tracks and nearly as many styles and genres, Avery explores both this darkness and light with a truly tasty mixture of moody mid-tempo breaks (“Ultra Truth,” “Wall of Sleep”, glowing Boards of Canada-worthy synths (“Ultra Truth”, “Spider”), and glistening post-dubstep sub-bass (“Chaos Energy”), all laced with snippets of poetic spoken word from Avery’s cohorts.

It’s a mixture of many of Avery’s finest moments from across his discography, from the sturdy drum programming of Love + Light to the synth explorations with Nine Inch NailsAlessandro Cortini, both from 2020, while improving on last year’s Together in Static‘s sometimes NewAge-y pallet, which feels slightly plastic and flat in Avery’s otherwise lush, reverb-rich gravity well.

With Ultra Truth, Daniel Avery invites us to turn within and look to ourselves, our own spirits and hearts and imagination, rather than allowing ourselves to be shaped and sculpted so much by external forces. Technology can be a tool, and a beautiful one at that, when it’s used properly. Like fire, technology can heal, teach, and connect or it can burn wild and out of control. It’s up to us which way it goes.

Ultra Truth by Daniel Avery

Catching Up With 2022

It’s gettin’ to be that time of year, where we evaluate all of the books and records and movies and albums that have come out this year. We’re going to be doing all we can to look back and cover notable 2022 releases this month (and probably into January 2022), so make sure to stay locked and check back often!

What are some other notable electronic records from 2022 we should cover? Let us know in the comments!

Want More Electronic Music?

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