Though Ulan Bator is most certainly a distinct group that existed before Michael Gira crossed their path, so much of the Young God magistrate’s musical personality can be heard in Ego: Echo, it’s hard to separate the two. If you’ve been following Gira’s career from Swans to Angels Of Light, you likely have a sense of the man’s taste for the dark, the grandiose, and the artfully minded. The release of this disc on his label, then, makes perfect sense, and is probably as essential as anything in the Gira repertoire for understanding what makes the man tick.
Ego: Echo steadily flows through so many moods, there’s always a sense of discovery about what’s waiting around the next corner. The candlelight dinner opening (suggesting Angels Of Light) gives way to a sweeping Godspeed You Black Emperor! arrangement. By the second track, we’re in pulsing post-punk NYC circa 1984, but just briefly. Halfway through, the bottom drops out, and we are smack in the middle of a nod to Lard Free — an equally fascinating and adventurous band of fellow Frenchmen from the ’70s that Ulan Bator probably grew up listening to.
And so it goes, bobbing and weaving through textures and tones for over 60 minutes. There’s a strong sense of the unknown and unheard in Ego: Echo that’s refreshing, and it’s easy to see why Gira digs the band so much. They have a fearless desire to plunge into deep waters, with a faith that through music very real and important fragments of understanding can be gleaned. The record as a whole plays out like an unfolding journey that is by turns sparse, enchanting, stirring, and rich. Next to Angels Of Light’s New Mother, it’s the best new record YGR has released thus far.