MK Ultra

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
MK Ultra , 5/10
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack , 4/10
The Dream Is Over , 5/10
John Vanderslice: Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (2000) , 5.5/10
John Vanderslice: Time Travel Is Lonely (Barsuk) , 6/10
John Vanderslice: Life and Death Of An American Fourtracker (2002) , 6/10
John Vanderslice: Cellar Door (Barsuk, 2004) , 6.5/10
John Vanderslice: Pixel Revolt (Barsuk, 2005) , 6.5/10
John Vanderslice: Suddenly It All Went Dark (2006) , 5/10
John Vanderslice: Emerald City (Barsuk, 2007) , 5/10
John Vanderslice: Romanian Names (Dead Oceans, 2009) , 5/10

MK Ultra, a San Francisco quartet led by singer and guitarist John Vanderslice, played ultra-catchy Brit-pop bouncing with Who-grade energy. MK Ultra (Artichoke, 1994) and Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Artichoke, 1995) are generic collections of tuneful tunes that do not stick for longer than three minutes.

Complex arrangements of piano, cello and violin highlight The Dream Is Over (Artichoke, 1999), a reunion of sort after the original line-up dissolved. Red Cross and I Miss The War are representative of their adult pop.

In Britain they would have been stars.

MK Ultra's John Vanderslice released many solo albums of idiosyncratic lo-fi pop: Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (2000), Time Travel Is Lonely (Barsuk) (2001), Life and Death Of An American Fourtracker (2002), Cellar Door (Barsuk, 2004), probably the best one, Pixel Revolt (Barsuk, 2005), a close second, Suddenly It All Went Dark (2006), Emerald City (Barsuk, 2007), Romanian Names (Dead Oceans, 2009), with progressively more refined and layered arrangements culminating with White Wilderness (2011), a collaboration with Minna Choi's San Francisco-based Magik Magik Orchestra (strings, woodwinds, piano, drums, pedal steel guitar). Then came White Wilderness (2011), Diamond Dogs (2013) and Dagger Beach (2013). He also played on Death Cab For Cutie's The Photo Album (2002), Mates Of State's Team Boo(2003), Okkervil River's Down The River Of Golden Dreams (2003), etc.

After a six-years hiatus, he returned with The Cedars (2019) and Dollar Hits (2020).

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