By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Ultra remains all about dance music, but as the festival has expanded, so has its definition of the genre. As always, some of the biggest names on the bill are the best club spinners in the world. But this year's edition will showcase a number of acts that cross genres and play live. Here's a closer look at a few of them. For full Ultra preview coverage, visit our music blog CrossFade, and check out more must-see acts here.
The Sydney, Australia-based duo the Presets has been variously dubbed industrial, psychedelic, techno, and dance-punk, among other styles. There is some truth to all of those, though none is 100 percent accurate. Imagine if Trent Reznor produced New Order's latest album, and you've got the first inklings of it, but even that misses out on the Presets' distinct, frequent sense of joy.
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"On the one hand, the music has darker elements, but these are juxtaposed by some lighter, more 'pop' moments," says keyboard player/drummer Kim Moyes. "As an album, and as a live show, you want to have some bangers as well as some delicate moments. Even when we go 'dark,' we like to have a bit of romance about it. We like putting odd things together and seeing what comes out of it."
Moyes and vocalist/keyboarder Julian Hamilton have come a long way from perhaps the humblest beginning one could envision. The two met when Julian was a busboy in an Italian restaurant and Kim was little more than a street urchin living off scraps of anchovies discarded in the back alley. They formed a somewhat unlikely friendship over a shared love of music and eventually evolved into the Presets, from an initial five-piece post-rock outfit called Prop.
"Time came to do a remix album," Moyes recalls, "and Jules and I remixed a Prop song as 'the Presets.' We loved playing the more electronic stuff — it was heaps of fun, kind of instinctual — and that was the beginning."
What an instinct it was. The unshakeable groove of their debut album, 2005's Beams, set them on a worldwide bonanza. (The 2006 Winter Music Conference saw four or five performances by the group in the span of a couple of days.) Then, last year, came the followup, Apocalypso, which netted the Presets six ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards.
"We are both a bit blown away by how far it has taken us," Moyes says, "this crazy life of touring the world. But make no mistake — on the road is where they belong, and fans at this year's Ultra will be pleased with what the duo brings to the lineup.
"I guess for me personally, playing stuff live is when it really comes alive," Moyes says. "Everything is just a bit more extreme — the highs and lows. Everything's just a bit more dramatic." CHRISTOPHER LOPEZ
The Ting Tings
Since their inception two years ago, the Ting Tings have enjoyed unbridled success, laying siege to charts and hearts in both the UK and the States. So much so, that even a reporter could become nervous when speaking for the first time to one-half of the British outfit, drummer/vocalist/producer Jules De Martino. So the interview got off to a rocky start:
New Times: So, Stacey —
Jules: Um, that's not my name.
That's not my name.
Eventually, though, we got back on track. Jules and vocalist/guitarist Katie White first met while playing with different bands in London. They eventually ran into each other again in Manchester, while hanging around Islington Mill, a derelict cotton mill turned artist commune. They formed the Ting Tings, naming the band for a Chinese former co-worker, and set out to play what they dubbed "DIY pop."
Varied influences found their way into the mix, ranging from the Talking Heads to The Velvet Underground, Björk to the Beatles, and even Gorillaz to Joni Mitchell. "It's the crossover of influences and the acceptance of each of us in this band that has given us this scope," Jules says. "I would listen to K's loves and hates, and she would listen to mine. That opened the floodgates."
But despite the band's bona fide commercial success, the two remain committed to their scrappy beginnings. "We've kept ourselves into our band ethic," Jules says, "how big are the small things, remembering who we are, where we came from — our house parties from the beginning with our drunk friends."
It'll be a far cry from a house party when they play Ultra this Friday, though. The drunk kids will still be in attendance en masse, but their house parties didn't boast these numbers. Still, the show promises to be an exciting one — and an honest one.
"Two people, playing pop songs hard, and meaning every word of it," Jules says. "Only being two of us onstage, we have nowhere to hide, so it's pretty full-on. Swapping instruments and making ourselves feel good and fulfilled. And making the audience want to dance, of course!" CHRISTOPHER LOPEZ
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