Ultra Magnus Chemical One, Chemical Two

Ultra Magnus has been kicking up Afrobeat etudes in Toronto for about four years. What originally started as a means to study and understand the musical and cultural origins of Afrobeat has turned into a unique sound. Chemical One, Chemical Two is the story of that transition. The whole collection was produced by Al-P (MSTRKFT) and named after two sessions at Chemical Sound in Toronto, a great natural-sounding studio environment for this type of band. The initial tracks show a band that’s equal parts enthusiasm and precision, with a touch of no wave/outright chaos in the sparingly syncopated guitars and unrestrained grooves. The minor keys in a few songs and aggressive horn arrangements serve notice that this is not a derivative band out to ride an easy-gigging Afrobeat trend through summertime festivals. For one thing, Fela never sang about videogame imagery with such conviction as "Superdodgeball.” These initial tracks start you moving but by mid-disc turn into fully realised ruminations on the possibilities for arranging music for an eight to ten member line-up. "CCC” kicks in with an ominous acid bass synth and more spacious rhythm arrangement. "Papa Ya” is even more distinctive with Ellington-ian chords and many layers of 6/8 rhythms burbling throughout. Throughout, one never doubts that they can pull it off live, even with the care taken in the studio. Given the progress documented on this first disc, better is yet to come. (Independent)