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Ulterior - flyerUlterior
Ditto Destroyer
NBI Club, Berlin
Friday April 1 2011




Just down the road a bit from Eberswalder Strasse U-bahn station in Berlin, you'll find the Kulturbrauerei - which, as its name implies, is an old brewery now transformed into an arts centre. It's a bit like the old Truman brewery complex on Brick Lane in London, although, what with this being Germany and all, here everything is neatly refurbished and scrupulously clean. In London it looks like they've only just rolled out the last of the beer kegs and nobody's swept up yet.

Here in Berlin, one of the refurbished brewery buildings now contains the NBI club, roughly Berlin's equivalent to our own 93 Feet East. It even has an equally baffling name, although after diligent research (I looked at the club's MySpace page) I can reveal that NBI stands for 'Neue Berliner Initiative'.

Right now, my own neue Berliner initiative is to get the schwarzbiers in, and pay some attention to our first band of the evening. Ditto Destoyer brew up a stew of machine-beats and effects, the bass laying the foundations, the guitar slashing and sweeping and skidding over the top. The music is a constant tug of war between the structure of the rhythm and the sonic colour being layered and splurged over it: the vocals appear in a cloud of reverb like an areroplane glimpsed through cumulo-nimbus.

It all sounds like a fight between the Jesus And Mary Chain and the old-skool Sisters Of Mercy in a nightmare psychedelic cellar. That's a compliment, by the way. It wouldn't necessarily be a compliment for every band, mind, but it is for Ditto Destroyer. The set draws to a close in a scribbled maelstrom of sound, when suddenly it all goes a bit drum 'n' bass. The guitar has cut out: a bad connection somewhere in the wires. The guitarist frantically scrabbles among his effects pedals and manages to bring the guitar back just in time for a final schlang. I don't know how many people in the audience noticed that, but if anything it shows the room for manouvre Ditto Destroyer have engineered into their songs - and it proves that anything's possible if the rhythm keeps going.

Ditto Destroyer / Ulterior

Ulterior know all about keeping the rhythm going, for their songs are driving, hammering things, all pistons and valve springs. They also know a thing or two about the Sisters Of Mercy - Ulterior's take on take-no-prisoners rock 'n' roll with technology hard-wired into the drum position is a very Sisters-esque modus operandi, of course. And, given that the Sisters themselves have spent the last decade or two touring to their fanbase without releasing any new material, you don't have to be a strategic genius to see there's an Ulterior-shaped gap at the dark and fierce end of the rock scene.

Plenty of bands have tried to do the Sisters thing over the years, of course. At one time the goth scene was full of sub-Sisters groaners, rumbling along to the underwhelming tick-tock of a drum machine. But none of those bands ever made it big. They Ulteriorwere too much like forelock-tugging almost-covers bands, obsessively trying to reproduce the exact sound in homage to the masters - and anyway, none of them even tried to stick their heads above the goth scene parapet. There was never going to be any future in that.

What we needed was a band with its own agenda, its own sound, plenty of attitude and the willingness to kick its influences around with a healthy dose of disrespect - and not even recognise the existence of any parapets. Now, that sounds like Ulterior to me.

And that's what they're doing right now: kicking the dark, fierce racket around, all shades and leather and here-we-stand-we-can-do-no-other, beat bombardments and killer guitars, building towers of melodrama in the smoke. They slam out 'Sister Speed' as if the brakes have failed. 'Sex Cars Sex War Sex' is a huge and howling anthem.

Someone shouts out for 'Weapons', but that one has been ruthlessly stripped from the set these days. "We've written some songs since then," remarks vocalist Honey, sardonically. And it's true that Ulterior's newer material has more structure about it - the band is indeed writing songs now, rather than the fractured beats 'n' effects workouts of the earlier days. But I hope 'Weapons' hasn't gone for good. It's still a killer groove, even if it sounds rather minimalist up against the new stuff.

There's more audience interaction. 'Thanks for bringing the rock back," calls a voice. "Did it ever go away?" muses Honey. Well, maybe not, but I think we needed to be reminded just how downright effective the battered old rock beast can be when it's let off the leash by a band who don't give it too much deference. It's last song time now, and 'Big City, Black Rain' is an epic closer. The band leave the stage amid cloulds of feedback, smoke, and noise. The noise just keeps on going - the monitor man reaches around the bass amp to prod the strings of the discarded bass, keeping the signal in the wires. It's an odd free-sound coda to the performance, but we've had our lot. That's Ulterior for you. Dark and fierce gets the job done every time.


Ulterior: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Ditto Destroyer: MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Ulterior by name here.

Find an Ulterior album review here.

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