Sunday 19 May 2024

Daylight Saving

Seventy four minutes of Ultramarine aka Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond.

I think the first music I heard of theirs would have been the single Kingdom featuring Robert Wyatt, released in the summer of 1993. It was like nothing else I'd heard: an adaptation of a 19th century song, sung by the man I'd first encountered on Top Of The Pops, performing Shipbuilding, backed by music that was contemporary electronica yet pastoral and folky. I was hooked.

Ian and Paul have been making music together for over four decades now, initially as part of 5-piece A Primary Industry, who released a trio of singles and a sole album in 1986 titled, you guessed it, Ultramarine. Their debut album Folk emerged in 1990, they had a 13-year 'break' between 1998 and 2011, and their most recent release was a remix EP of $10 Heel (featuring Anna Domino) in 2022. 
In between, there have been multiple albums, EPs, remixes and collaborations. Far too many to reliably cover in a 12-song selection, but here's my attempt to capture the sunshine.
Robert Wyatt collaborated on several songs on 1993 album United Kingdoms. Happy Land featured here in April 2021 and was also released as a single, remixed by Aswad founder member Drummie Zeb as a glorious vocal and dub reggae sunsplash anthem.

Chris Coco remixed Ultramarine on the Nightfall In Sweetleaf EP way back in 1992. Nearly quarter of a century later, Ultramarine repaid the favour with a remix from his album How To Disappear Completely.

Japanese artists (and/or their labels) have a particular fascination with electronic artists reworking their back catalogue: Yellow Magic Orchestra, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Soft Ballet have all got in on the act. Tokyo-based female pop group Nav Katze released two volumes of Never Mind The Distortion in the 1990s, both worth looking up. Ultramarine opened the first of these in 1994 with an excellent remix of Nobody Home.
Black Hearted Brother are a super group of sorts, a 4-piece formed around the core of Mark Van Hoen (Locust) and Neil Halstead (Slowdive). There was a sole album - Stars Are Our Home - in 2013 and Got Your Love received the remix treatment from Ultramarine the following year.

Iain Ballamy is a noted composer and saxophonist. In 1996, the compilation Music With No Name Volume One (also highly recommended) included Ultramarine's remix of All Men Amen, the title track of Iain's 1994 album.

I discovered Tranquility Bass aka Michael Kandel via an Astralwerks sampler CD. We All Want To Be Free was remixed from the 1997 album Let The Freak Flag Fly and is the longest track on this selection, nine minutes of blissed out beats and circular vocals. Sadly, Michael passed on 17th May 2015. You can find some of the final Tranquility Bass releases on Bandcamp.

Woo are brothers Clive and Mark Ives who have been making music even longer than Ultramarine. However, their worlds finally converged in 2020, Ultramarine providing a remix of Arc II to close Woo's album Arcturian Corridor.
The selection began with a prog legend and so it ends in the same way, with fellow Soft Machine alumni Kevin Ayers, er, covering one of his own songs.

Hymn originally appeared on Kevin's 1973 album Bananamour and Ultramarine recorded their own version, until legal bullshit nearly put paid to the single's release, full stop. Happily, Hymn finally saw the light of day in 1996 with two CD singles packed full of songs and remixes. The 'lead' version and several reworks feature the gorgeous vocals of David McAlmont. However, it could only ever be Kevin's version to bring this selection to a fitting close.

If you like what you hear, you can find many of the more recent Ultramarine releases via the Real Soon label on Bandcamp.
1) Happy Land (Remixed By Drummie Zeb): Ultramarine ft. Robert Wyatt (1994)
2) It An Tells Ya (Ultramarine Remix): Chris Coco (2016)
3) Nobody Home (Ultramarine Mix): Nav Katze (1994)
4) Hooter (Album Version): Ultramarine (1993)
5) Got Your Love (Ultramarine Remix): Black Hearted Brother (2014) 
6) British Summertime (Album Version): Ultramarine (1991)
7) All Men Amen (Ultramarine Remix): Iain Ballamy (1996)
8) Citizen: Ultramarine ft. Pooka (1995)
9) $10 Heel: Ultramarine ft. Anna Domino (2019)
10) We All Want To Be Free (Ultramarine Remix): Tranquility Bass (1997)
11) Arc II (Ultramarine Remix): Woo (2020)
12) Hymn (Ultramarine - Kevin Ayers Version): Ultramarine (1996) 
1991: Every Man And Woman Is A Star: 6
1993: United Kingdoms: 4
1994: Barefoot EP: 1
1994: Never Mind The Distortion: 3 
1995: Bel Air: 8 
1996: Hymn EP: 12
1996: Music With No Name Volume One: 7 
1997: We All Want To Be Free EP: 10
2014: Got Your Love EP: 5
2016: It An Tells Ya EP: 2 
2019: Signals Into Space: 9
2020: Arcturian Corridor: 11
Daylight Saving (1:14:09) (KF) (Mega)


  1. Wonderful! I never knew about that Black Hearted Brother remix, excited to hear that. And somehow I never put the pieces together that A Primary Industry was the precursor to Ultramarine. It all makes sense now.

    1. I'll confess, I only heard Black Hearted Brother for the first time when putting together an Ultramarine playlist, which led to this selection. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it was Mark Van Hoen and Neil Halstead (well, 50% at least!)

      I've known about Ultramarine's origins in A Primary Industry for a longer time, possibly from reading an interview in Jockey Slut or Mixmag in the 1990s. API vocalist Jemma Mellerio featured on Ultramarine's debut album too.

  2. ultramarine, whooaa! Every Man and Woman is a Star came out of nowhere about me in 1991. I had never heard of them before and bought their album based on glowing album descriptions. EMAWIAS was incredible and totally got me. Soft acid beats, gentle guitars, kind of pop, but in the best possible way, nice samples and a completely relaxed mood that permeates the whole album. Since then, everything with ultramarine on it has always been very interesting. important to this day and still always surprising. hit. thx for posting Khayem! Greetings , Alex/ EAR

    1. Thanks Alex, you were way ahead of me there, although I did go back to Every Man and Woman Is A Star (and Folk) after hearing United Kingdoms. I really enjoyed their last album, Signals Into Space, not least for the tracks with Anna Domino.

  3. Ah yes, wonderful stuff. Love Ever Man and Woman- Stella is a brilliant record.

    1. Thanks, Adam. Yes, Stella is great, which begs the question why I missed it off the selection as I have multiple versions and remixes! Maybe a volume 2 is in order...

  4. Many thanks for this, but it has opened a new bottomless rabbit hole to dive far with zero success. Any ideas would be more than welcome...

    1. I think I've been down the rabbit hole since I started this blog over three years ago, one leading to another... It's a seemingly endless source of inspiration for posts, though!