Boomkat Product Review:
Ryoji Ikeda's latest follows a run of gallery releases, returning to the advanced frequency study of his legendary trilogy "dataplex", "Test Pattern" and "Supercodex". A lengthy, propulsive set of speaker-challenging rhythmic material, "ultrasonics" isn't what you might expect, veering from glitchy gear into industrial filth that has more in common with Skinny Puppy and Meat Beat Manifesto than Oval.
Few artists have managed to become as synonymous with a sound as Ryoji Ikeda, and on his latest release he reminds us just how much control he can exert over glitches and sine waves. The initial run of tracks on "ultrasonics" is a masterclass in the kind of Gen X-friendly hyper-digital sound that bounced around between early innovators like Carsten Nicolai, Frank Bretschneider, Oval and Mika Vainio. Lead single 'ultrasonics 01' isn't anything unexpected, just a brilliant rendition of the Ikeda process, with garbled voices, thick subs, and rattling hi-freq clicks that form uneven, even psychedelic staccato rhythms. Just like it did back in the early '00s, this music sounds lashed to our contemporary reality, a place where data dumping is now a part of out interaction with technology on almost every level. Ikeda's sounds are a vibrational reflection of both technology and our anxious contemporary philosophy - melancholy pads flutter across hyperspeed rhythms and nauseating subsonics force our brain to react to something, anything.
Things take a turn when we hit 'ultrasonics 07', and Ikeda's microscopic beats are dilated into thick, sampled EBM drums. The mood here is unexpected but not unwelcome, and while Ikeda's palette is widened, the underlying mood is coherent. 'ultrasonics 08' is another intriguing left turn, sounding like a hyper-digital approximation of Autechre's exceptional debut 'Cavity Job' (seriously - just listen). It's exciting to hear Ikeda subverting expectations like this; after years of gallery work and sound installations, his return to the album format is a place for some of his roundest productions in years. Later on, he experiments with plaintive ambience ('ultrasonics 10') and meets these textures with rapid-fire beats to realize some kind of fuzzy version of fast-paced dance music ('ultrasonics 11-13'), playing us out with glacial, minimal drones. The album plays like a retrospective of Ikeda's career that doesn't just focus on his own innovations, but the sounds of his influences too.