Whenever we don’t hear from Ultra_eko for a while, we know something big is coming. Throughout his four-year career, the confessed raconteur, charlatan, professional confidence trickster, and cofounder of Underside Entertainment has delivered some of his most impressive and complex releases after periods of quiet, and his latest release, the eight-track record of ‘Light Work’, is no different.
Our last encounter with Ultra_eko came in the form of his massive two-part release, ‘On Trial’, a powerful collection of shifting hip-hop soundscapes and visceral, emotive elements. It was a double album that well and truly put Ultra_eko on the map, spawning some of his biggest hits to date, and cementing him as an undeniably unique force within the UK’s hip-hop scene. Today, the saga continues, with the future-world rapper filling us in on what happened following the events on ‘On Trial’.
Speaking candidly in the pre-cursor to the album’s release, Ultra_eko explained that he mysteriously disappeared into a homemade wormhole, entering a localised tear in the space-time continuum that occurred in the back of his Uncle Bish’s Transit van, following one too many plant-based shamanic journeys. Stuck within the tear, he contemplated and created, piecing together new tracks and looking for his way home. While the multi-genre South London artist has since found his way, bringing with him the new album, some questions still remain, in particular of his authenticity.
A distant relative has claimed that the returning Ultra_eko is a variant from a parallel universe, a fact patently obvious from the different underarm deodorant this version prefers. Nevertheless, he appears to be a close enough approximation for his Face ID to work on his iPhone, and he has brought back with him his trusted companion, the AI, Subsequel, who has remixed some of his more recent tracks.
Whether it’s the real Ultra_eko or not, the music behind ‘Light Work’ is as impressive as always, shifting through a labyrinth of jungle beats, retro synths, and spacious production with ease. On the opening track ‘Kingdom’, Ultra_eko joins forces with DaRealMrLee to produce a high-octane grime anthem, cutting open the album with a wild, dominant edge. Elsewhere, ‘Romance’, ‘Crystallise’ and ‘Sunshine’ explore more distant rhythms, adding light flourishes of electronica while Ultra_eko raps and reflects on moments from his life. They’re impressive tracks, but nothing compares to the power of ‘Win Big’ and ‘Crows Call’, where Ultra_eko pushes himself to the limit and delivers some career-defining bars.
A far more reflective release that hinges heavily on tempered tones and sweeping, retro synths, ‘Light Work’ emerges as the work of an older and wiser Ultra_eko, dipping into problems from his past to create some of his most impressive and expressive singles to date. An immersive addition to the saga, ‘Light Work’ is an evolutionary step for the South London rapper, or maybe, just maybe, it’s the work of a multi-dimensional variant stepping skilfully into Ultra_eko’s spotlight.
You can stream the full album above and decide for yourself whether we’re hearing the true artist in his prime, or an imitator from another dimension looking to make his mark.
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