Album Appreciation: Ponderous Fug by Thee UFO

In a recent interview with RTE in his native Ireland, guitarist and songwriter of Thee UFO, Darragh Hansard, admitted to listening to Can at least once a day. It strikes me that this is an important and worthy regimen for a musician… one which I imagine allows you to keep things fresh… something that stops you from going down musically alleys and, more to the point, staying anywhere for too long.

This is perhaps born out when you listen to a certain selection of tracks on this debut album by the Dublin duo – Darragh and his partner, Beth Doyle, on who appears on vocals, keyboards and tambourine – which could come straight out of the Oh Sees playbook… lots of fuzz and power… but, like John Dwyer, there’s more to Thee UFO that just that. Now I’m sure that Darragh and Beth would be the first to say that they are nowhere near the frankly superhuman levels of consistent quality and quantity that the likes of Dwyer puts out, but my point is that I get to hear a lots of one or two dimensional bands who can play that fuzz/ psych/ jangle perfectly competently but don’t really take you any farther than that… Thee UFO do… and here’s why.

From that same interview with RTE, Hansard quoted some of his other influences as: Silver Apples, United States of America, Goat, Beak, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Black Sabbath… and when you add these to the Can pot you get quite a heady mix. I have been coincidentally listening to quite a bit of John McLaughlin myself, for the first time in years actually, recently and so maybe this has softened me up for this album, but as I set off with ‘Fraud On The Courts’ For the third or fourth time I’m beginning to spot more than the normal 1/2 dimensions I mentioned above… there’s a real depth and breadth to this music… even with tracks that I initially thought were the less experimental on the album… there’s a definite punk aesthetic for me here too.

After that ‘Operator’ is also super exciting… both tracks coming in at under two minutes… now I like a super-extended freak out or drone, but these two punches in the face at the start are lean and hungry, and a great way to start the set.

Things start to get to be a bit more elongated with ‘Impish Delight’ which adds some dreamy vocals to the tight riff… so while the first two tracks were the sonic equivalent of having a bucket of water thrown over you… now you are awake enough to appreciate the organ backing up that riff which is short and punchy… this one really drags you in… and ‘Satellite Reverser’ keeps you there… there is a really nice chug to this one… and again I am struck but the added angles that this track provides and, as I hear it more often, there’s a flow to it, but there are all sorts of things going on within that which elevates it…

So far this is a certain type of album… it is punchy and it definitely located in that fuzz/ psych area… with ‘Structure Collapse’, however, we start to see other sides of Hansard’s mind… this one is spacey, with bird song and a definite move towards something this is almost the very antithesis of what has gone before… in many ways it stops you in your tracks… but in others it piques the senses and allows for reflection… and interesting and genuinely welcome departure.

After that, probably the point where you turn over the vinyl, ‘Anamorphosis’ is another quick blast of lo-fi before the much longer ‘Transparent Seed’ gets into gear… this is another track that for me starts off sounding like one thing… something that is almost dreampop, certainly at the start, before opening out into a real journey into a sort of genre-less mix of complimentary styles that I am sure will only gradually fully reveal themselves with further listens… at the moment though there is a sort of narrow panorama to this, like when the credits came on at the end of old Western films of TV when the square screen went wide… you find yourself with a new perspective… a different way of looking a things.

This is followed by the final title track, which again takes you well off the range… to continue the previous analogy. There is a real looseness here that is absent elsewhere (apart from ‘Structure Collapse’… both have their place) and you find yourself being lulled into the ‘Ponderous Fug’ being created… something that may in someways be seen as a bad thing, but here… sitting listening… it feels very right as you gradually get enveloped by the music… cosseted… and certainly appropriate with the cold mist currently hanging around outside my window…

This, then is an album that you initially start listening to thinking it’s one thing, while gradually being dragged into its world… which is that first thing, but other things too… in other words it is a multi-dimensional work which, for me, sets itself above a lot of the bands who putatively might compare themselves to Thee UFO… it’s a proper trip… and I encourage you to buy the ticket.

The vinyl release of ‘Ponderous Fug’ is out now on Fuzzed Up and Astromoon Records here.

You can also get the d/l, CD and/ or cassette on the band’s own Gelaninous Records here.



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