Ultra Vivid Scene: Mercy Seat

Mercy Seat

4AD 1989.  BAD906


This single was, I think, the pinnacle of Kurt Ralske’s musical career.  This is a re-recording of the song, the original being on his debut album where it stood head and shoulders above the rest of what was an excellent album.  This much longer version gains most of the extra time from an extended intro which builds to the song itself over around three minutes.  Normally these things are just padding to justify the 12″ format, but here the majesty of the song, both lyrically and musically needs this build-up to really work its magic.  There’s less guitar distortion here than in the original, but more delicate meandering around the melody which gives the track a fragility which suits it.  The mesmerising bass line is still much in evidence though.  Somewhat surprisingly a very young Moby plays guitar on this.

The single includes the album version of the track as a closer and a couple of exclusives, which while completely overshadowed by the title track are well worth hearing.

Ultra Vivid Scene: Joy 1967 – 1990


4AD 1990.  CAD0005


I posted UVS’s debut album the other day and it’s been popular, so here’s the follow up.

The title is the inscription on a fictional tombstone, death being one of Kurt Ralske’s obsessions.  However the album isn’t at all as bleak as you might expect; if anything it’s uplifting.  If you’ve heard the first album, this very much continues the journey, but the sound, thanks to producer Hugh Jones and a bunch of session musicians is fuller and more open.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing – the strangely claustrophobic and sparse sound of the first album is like no other and reflects Ralske’s insularity.

Obvious stand out is the single, Special One which feature The Pixies’ singer Kim Deal as a guest vocalist.  I’ll post the single version another time.

Ultra Vivid Scene: Ultra Vivid Scene


1988 4AD; CAD809


This is in effect a solo release by Kurt Ralske (although Moby plays guitar on Mercy Seat), and is in my view one of the best albums from the late 80s.  The heavily distorted guitar work and twisted lyrics are reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, although Ralske absurdly claimed at the time that he didn’t listen to music and wasn’t influenced by anything.  As is almost always the case it’s the song writing which really elevates this release, Mercy Seat and The Whore Of God being stand-outs for me, but really there’s no weak material here at all.  The worst than can be said about it is that the overbearing drumming is too 80s, but then, it was recorded in the 80s, and the overall effect is superb.  Actually I like records which bear the marks of the era during which they were recorded.

I also have the 12″ single of Mercy Seat which is even better than the album version.  I’ll post it here at some point, but it looks like another two weeks before my vinyl ripping gear is back in service.

Further purchases?  Well there’s nothing available.  UVS seem to have been forgotten about.  None of it’s collectable though, so it’s cheap second hand, and since he never really put a foot wrong artistically, it’s worth getting whatever you come across.