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Martin Bisi - Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy

Martin Bisi - Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy coverThere are no operatic voices here as there was on Feral Myths, but Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy continues the renowned New York producer and artist's constant concern about urban gentrification, environmental degradation and the future of cities. Bisi is an activist taking a key role in protests in Gowanus and Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy focusses on urban spaces, both real and imaginary in a thought-provoking clutch of varied songs. Naturally his home city, where he lives and operates his legendary BC Studio, set-up with Bill Laswell with financial backing from Brian Eno and the base for some legendary recordings from Sonic Youth, Swans, Naked City, figures heavily alongside tracks about Berlin and onwards and upwards into space. The whole EP is a commentary on urban environments and its interaction with people.

"Here we live in abject pain" sings Martin Bisi on the opener 'Manhattan Local Train' with guitars couched in soft jazz touches laden with melodica as he recalls the subway line running through Manhattan's richest areas where passengers, both rich and poor, rubbed shoulders on a train ride reflected in the rickety, ratchety drums, passing stops and eras, where Bisi recalls the sight of the Guardian Angels amongst the different classes together for at least one journey. A sense of resentment and anger steams through it as he contrasts how they "fucked and unfucked your mind...the up" with voices converging on "human waste boulevard".

Bisi's main focus might be on New York but he switches to Berlin for 'No Sun In Berlin Tempelhof' where over nuanced jazz movements and discordant synth it tells of a traveller locked up in a flat in Templehof, in area of abandoned airport runways and fields where there ain't no sun. As he dreams of being in the vibrant district of Friedrichshain it moves into urgent passages of pumping electronics powered by effective drumming, before he decides to up and leave from Berlin. It's just one of Bisi's scenarios and situations created to posit his thoughts about the future of cities, providing space for you to think and question these developments. The title track anchored around loose bass tones and taut drums riddled with humming and pumping synths, allows Bisi to sound off about land activism and an imaginary neighbourhood in space. "They're rezoning space" he continually warns amidst cascading vocals lamenting the demise of bookstores, record shops to be replaced by the nightmare scenario of planned living. It's a cautionary tale about replicating the worst aspects of urban gentrification into cosmic realms. It's clearly a vision of utopia that doesn't sit well with Bisi; "this is not my fantasy" he rasps in exasperated tones.

Reduced to electronics and drums 'Transit Hub Extraordinaire' has an urgency and sound not too far removed from Map 71 but where they have cut-up poetics Bisi replaces this with a multitude of voices, some sung, some effected and some robotic. There's a manic energy here propelled by complex rhythms as they slow down, accelerate and drop out to complement the varied vocal elements panning and veering between sung, spoken and chanted. It's like nothing I've heard from Martin Bisi before. The whole things is about the frenzy and uniformity ("all as one") found in that rush hour push for escalators and trains, and further on to that futuristic vision of a 15 minute architected city designed to conform to all your living requirements.

The final track, 'Master Plan For Retaking Williamsburg', culled from a live recording features many of the players but removes the songs leaving only the improvisations between songs resulting in an abstract concoction of wordless vocal wails, clattering drums and percussion and loose bass tones and disembodied guitar chords working around synth wavers and viola scrapes. It's a free form squall, a sonic drift offering alternative possibilities recycling impromptu moments between songs which contrasts nicely to the preplanned vision of the future covered elsewhere on the EP.

Bisi's previous album Feral Myths wrestled with the impact of gentrification, rent rises and the rezoning of urban spaces on his home city of New York - most notably on 'A Storm Called Ida' about the devastating impact of the storm on the Gowanus area where his BC Studio is situated. Those topics remain on Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy. Bisi has such a questioning mind though, he pushes them into future scenarios and a utopian visions of cities whilst forging new sonic forms from its avant New York sound keeping at its heart a concern for community, inclusion and autonomy. New York may be its hub, but the themes are universal. Your Ultimate Urban Fantasy is available digitally and as limited CD from Martin Bisi bandcamp