Dope Stars Inc take their cyberpunk sound even further into hyper-modernity with the #thepirateday launch of new album Ultrawired – Pirate Ketaware for the TLC Generation. Available via torrent, direct download and streaming via soundcloud the release is Lars Ulrichs worst nightmare. Ultrawired challenges traditional systems of distribution and as the band has also joked, is environmentally friendly. Ultrawired is themed around the postmodern world of the net, the standalone-complex of anonymous and ‘doing it for the lulz!’ The album itself and the pirate day initiative behind its release are an utterly unique undertaking, even in an age where our everyday lives are more inexorably connected to digital networks than ever.
Ultrawired treats the pirated product like a drug, a drug the band refers to as Ketaware for the TLC Generation. The release comes packed with promotional images, booklet pages, lyrics, quotes, links and an official manifesto. Clearly this is more than just a flippant decision to give away a free album but a strong ideological statement from the band .
To quote the manifesto directly;
“So let’s say one key thing first. The new album will be available for FREE download to everybody in any format (mp3, wav, ISO) and we will spread it over every network (our website, social networks, youtube, torrent, rapdishare). The album will NOT be available in any local store in the beginning. This doesn’t mean the album will never be available in stores but we don’t consider it as a priority anymore. We will eventually release it in record stores when and if it will make sense. However Ultrawired will be available online directly from us, on digital stores or through the network of Ketapushers. This will be our main system”.
This system of release frees the band from the pressures of the industry, allows them to release a product they think is ready and with no oppressive outside controls, but the band are quick to stress that this doesn’t mean people should always expect a free ride.
“Naturally to produce an album require a budget and any album is not only about music but the result of a massive work of many people inside and outside the band. That’s why we want you all to understand that to produce albums, shoot videoclips, make photosessions, work on artworks, design and keep websites updated, take care of all the activities of a band means alot of work. So if you want us to provide more material for free you should think about supporting us in some way. At least till money will be extinct and dinosaurs will come back living on earth”.
It would be insulting to condense the context of Ultrawired any further but rest assured that the metaphor is as strong as the motive in this album. The band has endeavored to keep costs as low as possible with avenues for profit on 3 levels before a general commercial release. Tier one is based on donations; flattr, bitcoins, pay with a tweet, share, promote, youtip. Tier 2 is based on purchasing cds and merchandise directly from the band online including a low cost ed. called D.I.Y. edition with full artwork but the cd inside is empty, inviting the fan to download the album and burn it, still keeping the original packaging and cd graphics. Reducing these costs mean the cd is sold at 4€ + shipping. The third tier is what the band calls the Ketaware problem, actively getting the fans involved in the retailing of the album for loyalty rewards. Fans can buy stocks of cds to redistribute them and by doing so they get a fair share (from 1.5€ up to 4.7€) & earn special points that they can cash in against free backstage passes and customised merchandise. For more information email the band directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
So whats the music itself like?
Better Not To Joke is distorted guitars that strut and march with conviction and a distinct sound. The lyrics rail against industry views on file sharing and piracy in full on web vernacular. Save The Clock Tower is a delightfully brutal bit-poppy ode to Back To The Future with inspired snippets like “experimental trip,paradox flip,we end to fall in bed with our mother”. Cracking The Power is a charging call to arms lauding the power of the free web and easily a stand out track. The intense rolling drums of Banksters thrash and crash as vocalist rails against bankers, politicians and everyone responsible for the economic crash, Lies Irie is an utterly unexpected lo-fi break down of the orchestral piece synonymous with downfall, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), that soars into charging electro rock heights and screaming for the same sake of net neutralitc and anti-establishment rage that runs through the heart of Ultrawired. “Wake up, you’ve already slept too long. Stand up. fighting for the news we own. Speak up. everybody has the right to know.”
Blackout has a vaguely Sigue Sigue Sputnik vibe from the get go, rolling on and on, building strength until it punches
far above its weight. Get Young couldn’t be more bit-tuney if it tried with its kitsch keys effectively punctuating the almost tidal rhythm of groans from singer Victor Love. No Life Belongs To You laments, casting warfare against the backdrop of its casual place in home console gaming with its emotive guitars.
Two Dimensional World looks at the relative ease life goes by with in the world of digital entertainment, digital farming and social networking. The false sense of achievement and significance it gives your actions making it one of the more solemn songs on the album as it strives to drive home the message it’s “Just a VR World”.
Run Mother Fucker Run is self explanatory with the Ultrawired’s aggression reaching a peak on one of the albums hardest driving songs on the album leading effectively into Pwning The Network. Pwning The Network is all jagged breaks and heavy guitars thats as much about trolling as it is about trolling “what a day, pwning the network, i can tell i’m gonna get some lulz today”. On a much more serious note We Are The New Ones has a hollow airy sound making it sound full of struggle and strife as it lauds the dawning a new order, effectively slicing in a snippet of Mario Savio’s famous speech on The Operation Of The Machine midway. Riding UFO’s is equally as broken and touching with its tales of misplaced faith that seems eerily close to Scientology and ‘LULZ’ that were to be had by anonymous some time back. Continuing the same low, swaying sentiment Thru The Never neatly wraps up Ultrawired with its introspective pleas and long crying riffs balanced against some emotive keys.
Ultrawired has some big ideas and its not afraid to share them, pushing the genre boundaries with some amazing results. Ultrawired is undoubtedly a concept album and though these concepts can seem so diverse and complex, they work in not only a balanced manner throughout the album but make every track stay fresh and potent, listen after list. What else is astounding about Ultrawired is that there is no dead space on the album; no filler, no weaker tracks. It is all full strength Dope Stars inc beginning to end and I can honestly say that Ultrawired is an essential listen.