ULYSSES’ “Entendre” is a piece of work that’s sumptuous in its minimalism. The collective elements cut a dark musical figure which produces melodies that are surprisingly bright and intense, wrapped up in lullaby, but energetic rap tones. Between the eras of ‘industrial-rock’, ‘alternative-rock’, ‘trip-hop’ and ‘post-rock’, there is a genre drawer where bands that don’t fit easy definition, are dumped into, to be sorted out later. That’s where ULYSSES goes for now. After all, it’s hard to pinpoint a project in cross genres so widely defined that it could encompass everything from orchestral rock drones, to alternative hip hop and space-age electronica.
ULYSSES is a singer/producer duo hailing from Boston MA. “With our first project, Entendre,” say the duo, “we are creating a sound that is very unique in its own right. We wanted to make it very trippy, weird, psychedelic, and ultimately a sound that sounds quite foreign yet oddly familiar. Think along the lines of Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, but not quite. At first we were just messing around, but then we realized we are cultivating our own vibe with this music.”
“Entendre” owes an obvious debt to its atmospheric soundscapes packed in simple layers of somberly shimmering instrumentation and blissed-out but clearly discernible rap vocals. But the remarkable thing about it all—and the thing that actually makes ULYSSES unique, even in an era that is increasingly impossible to categorize – is that its epic sound is achieved without creating multi stacks of synths, guitars and who knows what other noise.
In the production of “Entendre”, ULYSSES incorporate minimum instrumentation to achieve maximum sound, using various tones into rolling swells, and then layering it all over crisp trip-hop beats and deep-space bass.
Their embrace of technology is warm and sultry and nothing like the commonplace overstuffed electronic arrangements most of their contemporaries or peers use. It could even be said that ULYSSES’ virtually dark wave, nearly ambient rock sounds, use slowed-down hip-hop rhythms as their basis.
In fact it’s what makes the music so distinctive. “Entendre” on the surface, without paying close attention, can sound spacey and ambient, but the hip-hop textures subvert the ambient genre in a most intriguing manner, adding much-needed spice to a style that can be unflinchingly bland in lesser hands.
From the opening track, “Sputnik”, there’s a definite movement and a fluid progression that can be discerned within these tracks, as the mood and emotion is accretive and incremental. The overwhelming viscerality alone makes “Entendre” a compelling listen, even without the shifts in dynamic.
This is designed as a concept album, and the duo themselves, advise listeners to listen to the recording from beginning to end, to fully appreciate the intended aesthetics. I won’t get into the theme of the EP, as that is for you to discover and savor for yourself, though I would add, if you wanted to skip around tracks for instant enjoyment, hit on standouts “Fake It”, “Doubts” and “Horizon”. The EP is universally ‘slow’ in pace, but blisteringly intense and will hit you like a ton of bricks.