ALBUM REVIEW: Ultraísta – ‘Sister’

Words by Kate Lockyer

Ultraísta is a vibrant electronic pop group that just returned to the music scene in 2019, on hiatus since their second album of remixes was released in 2013. They have burst back onto the landscape with their new album out March 13 titled ‘Sister’, which combines all the best eclectic elements of Ultraísta’s ingenuity to create auditory magic. Lovers of electronica will be delighted by the ability of ‘Sister’ to enthral you with kaleidoscopic synth and rhythm, while drawing the listener into the story with deft lyricism.

Formed through a collaboration between GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer/musician Nigel Godrich, celebrated drummer Joey Waronker, and singer Laura Bettinson, the band is a testament to the notable talent of its members. Ultraísta’s name emerges from the Spanish literary movement of ultraism, which favoured free verse and was highly experimental, creating fresh, daring imagery and metaphor. The heritage of this name is reflected in Ultraísta’s style, which is boldly experimental and uses modern audio engineering techniques to their fullest. Their sound is a melting pot of influences and ideas, including afrobeat and electronic music. The music is overlaid with Bettinson’s silky vocals, and while the instrumental sets the mood, she tells the story. She says, “This band is ultimately a celebration of our friendship. The three of us all have such busy schedules, and we live on different continents, but the music always brings us back together.”

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‘SISTER’ TRACK LISTING

  1. Tin King
  2. Harmony
  3. Anybody
  4. Save It ‘til Later
  5. Ordinary Boy
  6. Mariella
  7. Water in My Veins
  8. Bumblebees
  9. The Moon and Mercury

Tin King is the first song on ‘Sister’. The album is spring-loaded by the momentum of this song, with lyrics and percussive beats oscillating in coils that hook you in. The up-tempo syncopation of the looped vocal track really shines thanks to the imbued tone of the lyrics. Through the lyrics we are warned about the insipid monotony of the high life, echoing the composition of the vocal loops. The negative mood of the song is deceptive, as it is quite an addictive tune. The pseudo-chant that is created by the jagged, staccato vocals will entrance you. Despite conveying a certain urban tedium, Ultraísta has created a song that is by no means tedious, instead compelling you to come back for more. 


Starting with gentle percussion in Mariella, you can hear the influence of afrobeat in Ultraísta’s music. The band has said that they bonded over a mutual love of afrobeat, and the rhythmic percussion underlying the rest of the track seems to give the song a heartbeat, a pulse that brings it to life. The smooth vocals and gentle piano are overlaid on electronic effects, making the song feel like it ripples outwards over calm water. This creates the perfect soundscape for a song about reflection with lyrics that read, “Be young, be hungry, be wiser / Beware of your nostalgia / Don’t bear it on your shoulders”. Mariella is a serene meditation that has been composed so that each element complements the others; listen to this to find your Zen zone.

Bumblebees is another unique song on the album, bearing a narrative that is shared fluidly between the background sound and the lyrics themselves. It is a song about love and life, and acceptance. Though it is soft-spoken, it has a vibrancy that peeks through somewhere between the qualities of Bettinson’s voice and the sounds of life we hear in the birdsong that has been added to the track. Again, the electronica elements are mesmerising, with standout composition from Ultraísta.

Fans of electronica should get excited for the return of this group. With ethereal tracks, ranging from the ambient noise of birds twittering and insects chirping in Bumblebees to the mellow resonance of Harmony, the album creates an inviting dreamscape. ‘Sister’ was released through Partisan Records/Liberator Music on Friday 13 March.


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With thanks to Mushroom Group

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