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Review: ULYSSE, Cashmere Guns

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Judah Joseph

Cashmere Guns opens like every Belgian musical endeavor ought to: with an unrelenting bed of extended, sustained synth tracks that pull the listener into the music. Brussels-based ULYSSE released their second EP, Cashmere Guns, on October 19th on Soundcloud. Last year's debut EP U As In Ulysse saw hit tracks "Success" and "Wounds" soar to nearly 70,000 and 200,000 streams online, respectively. Cashmere Guns had a lot to live up to, and it absolutely itched the scratch so many of us have had since U As In Ulysse's release in April 2014. Cashmere Guns delivers 5 tracks of Europe-inspired, indietronica aural bliss, and it's definitely worth a listen.
Opening track "Highness" employs a remarkable amount of ambient synths and percussion to set a foundation for the vocals to set the scene for the rest of the EP. Distorted organ-esque samples contribute a touch of intentional discomfort foiled by the soothing vocal track. This track's suspenseful and just-long-enough refrain is masterful.
Lead single "Witness" begins with piano in staccato, followed soon thereafter by lyrics about helplessness and vulnerability. Sung in endearing Francophone accents reminisce of Phoenix's occasional mispronunciation in their own songs, the words are mixed to the forefront of the song, creating a much clearer and more pronounced vocal than on the other tracks on Cashmere Guns. (On a personal note, I think that the occasional accented slip-up actually humanizes the song more.) The music video for "Witness" depicts the band members with numerous inanimate objects (i.e. house plants, parasols, a coffee mug), along with lyrics at the bottom to follow along. The single is equal parts catchy, earnest, and compelling. The Kanye-inspired 808s sample, masked by other synths throughout much of the song, makes a triumphant solo statement at the very end of the song, as well.
"Cashmere Guns," the song that is, makes a vibey splash in the greater scheme of the EP. The flute samples add an Eastern influence of mystery and intrigue to the song. A lot of the instrumentals on this track could as easily have been part of a Glass Animals sophomore album. But what makes this song unique is the how the group manages to marry simple strumming with effortless vocals to create a truly novel alternative track.
Cashmere Guns, as an EP, is a collection of focused songs that belong in the same compilation with one another. Other Francophone contemporary artists like Yelle and Stromae have exhibited similar mastery of synths in their music, and ULYSSE has clearly done the same with Cashmere Guns. The listener is drawn into each and every song, and as the band's second release, Cashmere Guns definitively and expertly surpasses the standard set by U As In Ulysse. Clocking-in at just over 20 minutes in total, Cashmere Guns is short and sweet, yet lasting and significant. Cashmere Guns is available now for purchase on Bandcamp, iTunes, and elsewhere.
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