The Ultimate Form
Composed as a ballet score, commissioned to accompany Linder Sterling’s collaborative performance work The Ultimate Form – the latest Stuart McCallum solo piece exists – and works – as an album in (and of) its own right.
The opening piece, The Ancestors, is the longest track here – over six minutes, a subtle ambient wash builds, gentle pulse beneath, skittering percussion slowly creeping up all over the track, all the characteristics are there to tie it back to his work with The Cinematic Orchestra, to link it to other guitarist-as-orchestral-composers, such as Adrian Utley or the more recent Penguin Café Orchestra material. From there a series of shorter pieces fill out this brief (29 mins) album.
The Bride and Bridegroom dispenses with the beat, no pulse here, just a Decoder Ring-like build, as Eno-like, the music inches forward, growing dramatically more intense as it shape-shifts.
Strings are employed for Youth – a two-minute cue that offers a familiar, er, cinematic orchestration and is reminiscent of some of the material on band-mate Phil France’s similarly stunning set from last year. Youth and Bridegroom has a hint of hip-hop to its evolution, before Youth, Bride and Bridegroom combines the creeping drama of the strings with the frenetic groove pieces; a stunning highlight in fact.
There are gentle bridges – This Kind of Expectancy – and slightly abrasive passages too (Montage II) but it’s a fascinating set of sounds. Intriguing to hear this score isolated, away from any of the images and movements it was cut to, the closing title track is stately and gracious and will have you hitting the ‘play’ button again to soak up another flow through of The Ultimate Form.