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Ultrasonic Grand Prix - Instafuzz (Preorder 19/01/24)

Ultrasonic Grand Prix - Instafuzz (Preorder 19/01/24)

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Ultrasonic Grand Prix - Instafuzz

Label: Non Delux - NONLP011 - 5063176025616
Format: LP, Album, Black
Country: UK
Released: 19th Jan 2024
Genre: Funk/Soul
Style: Funk/Soul

The story of Ultrasonic Grand Prix is one of two vintage 60s guitars and their owners.

I love my 1967 Vox Grand Prix guitar,” declares multi-instrumentalist / producer Shawn Lee - creator, among other feats, of the soundtrack for Rockstar video game classic Bully, and one half of Ultrasonic Grand Prix. “It is a serious beast and an important part of my arsenal. Every tone you need…’

For guitar maestro Barrie Cadogan - of Nottingham Freakbeaters Little Barrie, best known for the main title theme of ‘Better Call Saul’, The The, Liam Gallagher and playing on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ - it was the Vox Ultrasonic, also from the same period, that caught his eye. “I first became interested in Vox guitars because of people who used them like Spacemen 3 and the James Brown band of the late 60’s”, he explains, “but it was when I was part of a recording session at Anton Newcombe’s studio in Berlin that I had chance to get to know the Vox gear better. I was borrowing an Ultrasonic from a friend for a while and Shawn already had his Grand Prix. I thought it would be a good name for our project whenever we got it going.

’It was with this shared passion for these weapons of vintage, psychedelic gold that the suave, velvety, and off-kilter cool of Instafuzz was born. While a project born of recent times, the flames of Instafuzz were first ignited all the way back in 2010, where the two met during mixing sessions for Little Barrie’s 2011 LP King of the Waves.

Snap forward a decade and we find Cadogan ripping guitar licks on Instagram, the workaholic Lee using these as inspiration to lay down rhythm tracks on analogue drum machines. And not long after that, cut to the two trading files back and forth furiously online, birthing music together in ever more completed forms.

“We’d been talking for years about making some kind of record. Cadogan explains, “but we were always being pulled in different directions with other commitments. Shawn got the ball rolling for real when lockdown happened, called me up and said, “You know we keep talking about doing a record, well the time is now”. I’m so glad he did. ‘

And the music that did emerge was weird, startling, and insatiably groovy. With one foot dipped in the organ-warbling garage of 60s psych, and the other vibrating in the mind-expanding fractals of the British Acid House boom, Instafuzz plies the earthly quintessence’s of blues, rock, soul and jazz, against the preternatural discomforts of programmed drums and unhinged synthesisers to produce something distinctly and nostalgically futuristic.

It’s a style that pays its debt to this project's launch-pad inspiration, 2012’s ‘Personal Space’ compilation. A collection of underground U.S 45s from the late 70s and early 80s fittingly dubbed ‘Electronic Soul’ - an appropriate descriptor, incidentally for these experiments from Ultrasonic Grand Prix:‘It was late Little Barrie drummer Virgil Howe who first played me the ‘Personal Space’ compilation," Cadogan notes. “The track Money by Spontaneous Overthrow is the one that got me thinking about doing something built on that inspiration, and it had to be with Shawn. He had the tools and the skills for the job.With all the graininess of a documentary film compiled from bits and pieces of raw archive footage, Instafuzz mashes various details and cuttings from its choice influences to invariably intriguing effects. The guitar twang-meets-intense synth of emphatic opener ‘Seamoon Rising’ is The Limiñanas at The Haçienda. At another extreme of the spectrum, ‘Green Means Go’ drifts into the neo-psychedelic waters of The Soundcarriers or Vanishing Twin - hauntological, uncanny, cruising into the wonders of egoless delirium, suspicion and atemporal intrigue.

While largely without lyrics - the song-titles themselves reflect this cultural-cherry-picking mentality expressed in the hybridity of sonic influence disclosed therein. ‘96 Tiers’ puns on the garage classic by Question Mark and the Mysterians, making it sound more…’trippy’, adding, incidentally, a synthesised Latin groove no one asked for but everyone needed. ‘Right Left’ draws upon that classic U.S Army Chant (“I don’t know what I’ve been told…”); “A Guy Called Harold” - not so subtly namechecks the iconic acid house pioneer and creator of ‘Voodoo Ray’, while the awesomely titled “Slippery When Chet” - the best named of the lot perhaps - exceeds the average person’s RDA of funk and wah-wah with exquisite indulgence.Within this lysergic collage pulled from 60 years of counter-culture, memorably binding Instafuzz together - its punctator and delineator - comes the crazed, impassioned voice of midwestern Baptist preacher The Prophet Five.

A longtime fan of the Prophet, who used quotes from his local Sunday morning radio show for personal in-jokes and catch phrases among his friends, Lee pulled the samples on Instafuzz from a cassette tape owned since the early 80s that he’d recorded via Wichita college radio station KMUW - “I had his shows recorded on cassette and was always waiting for the right record to use them on. At last it is now!!!!!” proclaims Lee.A treasure trove of lyrical gold, each little snippet of the Prophet is a precious pearl in its own right: “Can I get a Witness? Or at least a glass of Water?”; “One day, there was a man who dreamed of a wah-wah pedal. I said, “don’t be such a cry baby!”. He is the avatar of Instafuzz, the vocal embodiment of the record’s playful, yet deeply spirited sense of nostalgic wonder.‘I dunno if it’s a nostalgic record or not.” admits Cadogan to contrary, however.” I didn’t think about it. Yes, there’s some old kit being used on the album with sounds that we either grew up or fell in love with at some point, but for me it feels like new territory. I’ve not been part of a record like this before.

‘Music always has a touch of nostalgia”, adds Lee, “Everything you’ve ever heard in your life becomes a part of you and you are always chasing that spark that originally inspired you to do this thing in the first place.”

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