Ulrika Spacek

Ulrika Spacek


When the history books have been written and the BBC4 documentaries made about the world of alternative music in 2016, there will need to be entire sections dedicated to the ubiquity of psych rock. A movement that revolves around reinterpreting the music of the original wave of hallucinogenic, distorted underground guitar bands in various Western cities in the 1960s, there are now more bands plying their trade in this music than there ever were fifty years ago. Tonight, Reading’s latest addition to 2016’s psych roster, Ulrika Spacek, are stopping off in the Soup Kitchen to attempt to prove that they have something unique to contribute.

The intriguingly named five-piece (the Ulrika is actually a reference to the German Marxist militant Ulrike Meinhof rather than the erstwhile Gladiators presenter) have certainly mastered the essential constituent parts of the modern psych band. Their triple guitar attack is like a concrete wall coming at your eardrums, and in a place like the Soup Kitchen, that is a thrillingly terrifying prospect. Drummer Callum Brown’s galloping rhythms seem to dictate the pace at which the concrete wall is approaching, and when his pace picks up, so does our heartbeat. Ben White’s basslines sound like the heartbeat of the Soup Kitchen itself, as it does everything it can to remain standing. Ulrika Spacek have got it.

 The question, therefore, is what makes them different? After all, the truth is that there are many bands in this country alone that can pulverise their audiences with their heavy, hypnotic tracks. Well, on tracks like ‘Beta Male’ and new single ‘Everything: All The Time’, they demonstrate that they are not scared of allowing old-fashioned melodies to emerge out of the swamp, although in most cases no sooner have the melodies dared to stick their head out that the swamp sucks them back in.

Perhaps more distinctive is their willingness to strip all of the heaviness away. In a recent interview, frontman Rhys Edwards named ‘Airportism’ as his favourite cut on their debut album The Album Paranoia. It is a gentle, beautiful song, and tonight it shows Ulrika Spacek in a completely different light to the rest of their set. Edwards for the first time allows vulnerability in his voice to emerge, and if that interview is to be believed, this might be a sign of more such things to come in the future for this band.

It is still the one exception tonight, though. The head-nodding, immense, gun-slinging tracks like ‘Nk’ and ‘There’s a Little Passing Cloud in You’ dominate the setlist, and the assembled psych-addled crowd lap up every second of it. They are a strong entry into the 2016 psych rock trend, it just remains to be seen whether they will be one of the bands that the trend will be remembered for.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.