Seminal electro pioneers Ultravox have issued the artwork for their first new album in 28 years, ‘Brilliant’ which is released on May 28 through EMI.
The legendary quartet of Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann have created an album that not only stands alongside the finest work of their career but firmly places them as both a huge influence upon, and a vital contemporary force within, today’s musical climate.
Recorded in Canada, Los Angeles and the UK, ‘Brilliant’ is a stunning tour de force. “I think this record is probably the best one we’ve ever done,” explains Midge Ure, “because the songs are so much stronger than before. There’s a lovely naivety you have when you start out where you throw things together and think that they’re great and somehow that affects other people, but I think the fact that we’ve been working away separately over the years perfecting our art comes out on this record.”
The writing process for the twelve songs on ‘Brilliant’ started when Billy and Chris joined Midge at his house in Canada. “I have a house in the middle of the woods by a lake in Montreal and we realised if the three of us went to my house out there and sat down with some laptops, keyboards and guitars with no outside distractions at all, we could find out whether we were actually capable of writing something together again. And it was a phenomenal experience, a great bonding thing for the three of us; we just ate, slept and breathed music. It was a very, very instant thing, like getting back onto the horse again. We climbed back onto the saddle again and we were off and running.”
It was this sense of starting again that, according to Midge, really inspired the band. “That’s what we were trying to do when we first started, make something unique, something that came from the four of us. You can hear directly from what we were doing thirty years ago stuff that was coming out of deepest, darkest Germany – bands like Kraftwerk and Neu– but you can also hear the pop of Roxy Music and David Bowie and you put that mixture together and it becomes unique because nobody else sounds like that collective. But over the years we had an awful lot of followers and you can still hear some of that influence running through music today with other bands, the melody and the structure and the atmospherics.”
Yet the fact that the four members of Ultravox have come together again means that ‘Brilliant’ has the singular, unique sound which has inspired so many of today’s artists, but never been bettered. “If it was Ultravox with a slightly different line-up, if one of us wasn’t there it wouldn’t have that link but because the four of us are there together it has that link. Something about the persona of these characters coming together and those emotions turns it into something else.”
Further sessions in Canada and LA to record Warren’s drum parts followed leaving Midge, Billy and Chris to finish the recordings in their home studios. With the album almost complete they decided to bring in an outside producer to bring the whole album together.
“We didn’t want to lose the momentum and dry up after this amazing flurry of activity and great creative bubble,” recalls Midge. “So that’s when [producer] Steve Lipson came into the process at the end and helped us fine-tune everything. He’s very much a musician and became almost a fifth member of the band for a while, and he would challenge and question us on everything. We’d done about a year’s work on our own, very isolated and insular, and nobody else had heard anything. So once he came on board and got involved it just worked incredibly well.”
And the result is astonishing. From the opening, swelling barrage of ‘Live Again’ with its instantly identifiable piano motifs through the epic rock of ‘Flow’ to first single and title track ‘Brilliant’, there is no mistaking the sound of Ultravox; the huge choruses, the impassioned vocals, the driving rhythms and pulsing electronics.
‘Rise’ is a modern computer-pop classic while the likes of ‘Remembering’, ‘This One’ and ‘The Change’ evoke the cinematic atmospheres Ultravox do so well. Coupled with the widescreen drama of ‘Let It Lie’, the chiming exoticism of ‘Satellite’, the sinister tension of ‘Hello’ and the chilling heartbreak of ‘Fall’, Ultravox have crafted an album that may well be ranked as their finest work to date.
The final part of the jigsaw puzzle was choosing which record company to release the album through, as the band had a number of offers on the table. But it was EMI, the band’s home for many years that they decided to return to. “We’ve always had the EMI connection through being signed to Chrysalis and EMI did such a fantastic job with the reissues around the ‘Return To Eden’ shows that it felt very natural. EMI got it, and understood what we were doing and understood the standards we have. We spent six weeks rehearsing for a three week tour to make sure it was as good as it could be and EMI are able to work to the same high standards.”
‘Brilliant’ is released on May 28th.