Urban Exploration – Terra Incognita

Posted: 10 August 2021 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

For many, Leeds will be forever synonymous with goth, as the spawning ground of The Sisters of Mercy, as well as The Mission, The March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Rose of Avalanche. But then, Leeds has always been so much more, and anyone who’s spent any time around the city in the last decade and a half will be aware that the only thing that defines the city’s sound is a complete eclecticism. There may be a leaning towards noisier stuff in recent years – well, the last ten or so – but the fact is that truly anything goes, and that’s the absolute joy of the melting pot that is such a diverse and thriving city. Bands like iLiKETRAiNS and Blacklisters, for example, couldn’t be more different, and the same is true of breakthrough acts Kaiser Chiefs and Pulled Apart by Horses.

And so here we land on Terra Incognita by Leeds-based electronic music collective Urban Exploration, which is either their third or fourth album depending on how you view their catalogue, and if you consider Utopic, Heterotopic and Dystopic as separate albums (and I probably would, but this doesn’t really carry much relevance to the task at hand, namely of discussing the new album).

The first track, ‘Beacon’, is a voyage unto itself, beginning a semi-ambient track with some subtle beats before mutating into a full-on beat-driven banger. It’s nothing short of full-on club music, and in the span of six minutes, they’ve spanned multiple genres and landed themselves squarely in the ‘eclectic’ category. ‘Virtual Light’ – presumably referencing William Gibson’s dystopian cyberpunk novel, places a looping synth motif to the fore, and it’s stark and detached. They’re big on references: ‘Kepler-186f’ is the name of the first Earth-size planet in the so-called ‘Habitable Zone’, and orbits the red dwarf Kepler-186, about 500 light-years from Earth. As such, the bands interests and influences are clearly apparent and very much on display here.

The pieces are long – the majority extending well beyond the five-minute mark – and exploratory. Terra Incognita definitely feels like it’s venturing forward and breaking new ground, tiptoeing around the space between tangerine Dream and The Orb. It’s a lot of space, and Urban Exploration seem keen to traverse it.

The full twelve-track set is a dense and dark, semi-ambient affair, which, in balancing ambience with defined beats, invites comparisons to another act who emerged from Leeds, who’ve gone on to do great things, worriedaboutsatan. The press release gives the warning / threat / promise that ‘Terra Incognita transports you to alien lands that are strangely familiar…’ and indeed it does. There is a lot of space, a lot of oddness, a lot of dissonance, and a lot of otherness circulating around Terra Incognita. It’s ain intriguing and well-realised work that is truly worthy of being described as ‘eclectic’, its experimental span leading the listener on a voyage into unknown territories, both earthly and far, far beyond.



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