On Deck: Ultraflex – Farao and Special-K tell us about the records that influenced their collaborative album

This Friday sees the release of Visions of Ultraflex, the debut collaborative album from Norwegian artist Farao and Icelandic musician Special-K, who have teamed up as Ultraflex. If you’ve been keeping up with their string of excellent singles and videos, you’ll know that the new project is a place where the two can let loose all of their 80s synth proclivities and carefree fantasies. By letting these frivolities fly, Ultraflex have put together a set of energetic and tongue-in-cheek dance-pop work outs that possess no shortage of cheekiness and seduction.

The result is utterly irresistible, so of course we wanted to know which albums the duo pinpoint as their touchstones for the creation of Visions of Ultraflex – and the answers are quite surprising.

You can find that out below, but ahead of that enjoy album highlight and “Full Of Lust”, with its excellent video directed by fellow Scandinavian Okay Kaya.

Special-K’s choices:

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Éthiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song

[Buda Musique; 2006]

Emahoy’s piano music is a unique blend of virtuoso and feeling, which makes a lot of sense when you learn about her story. She was born into a wealthy and intellectual family in Addis Ababa in 1923, and she and her sister were the first Ethiopian girls to be sent abroad for education to a boarding school in Switzerland, where she studied classical violin.

Some years after her return to Addis Ababa, Moussolini tried to colonise Ethiopia and Emahoy and her parents were sent to prisoner camps outside of Italy. Three members of her family were killed. After the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, she returned to Addis Ababa where she had a car and raced a horse and trap around the city. She was a feminist: the first woman to work for the Ethiopian civil service, the first to sing in an Ethiopian Orthodox church, the first to work as a translator for the Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem. She travelled to Cairo to study with esteemed Polish violinist Alexander Kontorowicz nine hours a day, but returned some years later due to health reasons.

At the age of 23 she received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but was denied permission to go by the Emperor. This had an enormous effect on her. She stopped playing and stopped eating and had to be taken to the hospital where she had a spiritual awakening. She moved to a monastery on a hill where she slept on a mud bed and was barefoot for the 10 years that she lived there. When the patriarch of the monastery died, she moved back in with her mother in the city. Slowly she started playing piano again, mostly in the night. Emahoy is still composing and still fighting for equality today, at the age of 97. She has given all her copyrights to an organisation in her name, providing children with financial need access to music education. 

Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love

[Sacred Bones; 2019]

Even though The Practice of Love by Jenny Hval doesn’t include the songs I’ve listened to the most by her (“Conceptual Romance”, “Spells” and “Mephisto in the Water”), it is my favourite album of hers as a whole. Perhaps because I can’t listen to Blood Bitch without repeating “Conceptual Romance” endlessly and therefore never get through the whole thing. The more I consume of Jenny Hval (music, lyrics, interviews, etc), the deeper she drills into my brain and heart. On The Practice of Love the topic of childlessness is prominent, something I find very intriguing. The album has many layers of voices and lyrics, often overlapping. It dips between melodies and monotone in a beautiful way, the instrumentations are hypnotic, rhythmic and light. Trance-dance music for listening to in bed.

Farao’s choices:

Uku Kuut – Vision of Estonia 

[Peoples Potential Unlimited; 2012]

This album is actually why we named our album Visions of Ultraflex. Uku Kuut was an Estonian funk producer, recording and releasing music from LA, Sweden and Soviet Union in the 80s. It’s an unusual and funky mix of American and Eastern European flavours. This album was written and recorded at Uku’s home studios in Los Angeles and Stockholm where he had a vast collection of domestic and soviet electronic gear. It’s a mix of his raw cassette demos, forgotten masters and unreleased magic.

The RAH Band – Mystery

[RCA; 1985]

Undoubtedly the best full length from English producer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Anthony Hewson (RAH). The funky, expansive Mystery presents jam after immaculately orchestrated jam, laden with sweeping synths, samples, strings, horns, and the sultry-innocent vocals of Hewson’s wife Liz. The opener and their biggest hit “Clouds Across the Moon” is a really sweet and charming disco track with an especially pleasurable synergy between the beat and the bass line. Also, the music video is fucking awesome.

Salt-N-Pepa – Very Necessary

[Next Plateau; 1993]

I remember borrowing Very Necessary on CD from a friend of my brother when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I never gave it back. I was “rapping” this album back to front, despite the fact that I didn’t understand the language nor the topics they were talking about. I remember sitting in my room, pre-internet, trying to write down the lyrics but most of it was just gibberish. My favourite 90s female rap album, venturing into R&B at times. I played the CD so much that one day it physically broke in two pieces in the CD player.

Ultraflex’s debut album Visions of Ultraflex comes out this Friday, October 30, via Street Pulse. You can find the project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can find Farao on Facebook here, on Instagram here, and on Twitter here.

Special-K is on Facebook here, on Instagram here, and on Twitter here.