Ultra Dolphins - Mar (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Ultra Dolphins

Mar (2006)

Robotic Empire

From the moment I received their EP compilation of old material, Why Are You Laugh, Ultra Dolphins have given me a serious challenge in trying to describe them. Their long-awaited first full-length, Mar, really does anything but to the band's reputation; it's even weirder than past compositions, impossible to pigeonhole and subsequently just as frenetic and disorderly as the band have ever been.

The best reference point I think I could use for Mar is Drive Like Jehu, as Ultra Dolphins seem to borrow quite a few characteristics from the early-`90s act. There's more stops and starts here than a 20-mile drive in rush hour traffic, with a feverish jauntiness prevalent through every single track, and as clean as the recording is, they manage to maintain a certain, strange dissonance. At few points do the band seem to directly give away their influence, but the more melodic, distortion-basted and high-pitched (all at once) vocal chants in "William's Nightmare" seems to let such slip. In a rare 'straightforward' moment in the methodical, seemingly improvised "The Great Neurasthenic," more tribal-like hums laid out over heavily distorted bass are the first set of vocals we hear in the song; particularly out of sync is the midsection with colliding, up-tempo instrumentation tracked over slower, conclusive piano. The instrument pops up several other places too, like the classy flurry of it in "Winged Babblar."

If the band's actual style wasn't weird enough, a couple completely out of form moments occur too. "Matthew O'Connor" closes with a lo-fi, quasi-vaudevillian smattering of the piano (the liner notes describe it as "clunky drunky;" I would venture that's an accurate assessment as well), while a harmonium intro in the form of the album's title track gives us our minute-long opener.

If any of the band's fans are hoping for the same bizarreness that Ultra Dolphins exhibited in their early songs, they'll find it in Mar via a vividly eccentric update on post-hardcore's elder forms. For newcomers: Mar is a scant half-hour of some seriously funky fucking shit.

William's Nightmare
Matthew O'Connor [MP3]
If You Will [MP3]