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"Aftternoon Delights On A Hot Summer Night: REVIEW"

Ultra Magnus - You can't sit and listen to Ultra Magnus. How can you do such a thing? "I'm drunk." Then, dance while you're drunk! Ultra Magnus are a mega-power band with horns, percussion, guitar, bass and cool vibes! Magnus started off with an amazing intro that I was surprised to see most people not moving to. They were the warm-up band for the warm-up band and I thought they did a fantastic job drilling some soul into the sound.

posted by Garry in Music, Sept. 19th, 2006
(extrapolated from a review of Henri Faberage and the Adoarables CD release)

http://blogto.com/music/2006/09/aftternoon_delights_on_a_hot_summer_night_review/ - blogto.com

"Exclaim CD Review: ULTRA MAGNUS Chemical One, Chemical Two"

Ultra Magnus have been kicking it up Afrobeat etudes in Toronto for about four years. What started as a means to study the musical and culrtural origins of Afrobeat has turned into a unique sound. Chemical One, Chemical Two is the story of that transition. The whole collection was produced by Al-P (MSTRKRFT) and named after two sessions at Chemical Sound in Toronto, a great natural-sounding studio environment. The initial tracks show a band that's equal parts entusiasm and precision, with a touch of no wave/outright chaos in the sparingly syncopated guitar and unrestrained grooves. The minor keys in a few songs and aggressive horn arrangements serve notice that this is not a derivative band out to ride an easy-gigging afrobeat trend through summertime festivals. For one thing, Fela never sang about videogame imagery with such conviction as "Superdogeball". These initial tracks start you moving but by mid-disc turn into fully realised ruminations on the possibilities for arranging music for an eight-to ten-member line-up. "CCC" kicks in with an onimous acid bass synth and more spacious rhythm arrangement. "Papa Yah" is even more distinctive with Ellington-ian chords and many layers of 6/8 rhythms. Throughout, one never doubts that they can pull it off live, even with care taken in the studio. Given the progress documented on this first disc, better is yet to come.

David Dacks
Exclaim Magazine September 2006 - Exclaim Magazine


Afro what?
The short version of the Afrobeat story is that Nigerian musician Fela Kuti was inspired during a trip to America by the emerging sounds of funk to create his own African take on the rhythm-heavy jams of James Brown.

Much as Jamaican musicians mutated American R&B into ska and reggae, Afrobeat flipped funk around into a completely new sound, one that has heavily influenced underground dance music over the past 30 years.

So what can we say about the growing trend of white North American bands reinterpreting Afrobeat's quirky off-centre rhythms? Local big band Ultra Magnus have been making waves lately, in particular for their collaborations with hiphop MC Masia One, but also for their own songs and high-energy performances.

Friday night at Gypsy Co-op they touched down for two sets of sweaty Afro-Canadian funk, part of the club's ongoing weekly series of live showcases. They look more like a hippy jam band, and there wasn't much of an African presence in the audience, but if you closed your eyes they were pretty convincing.

The question is whether bands like Ultra Magnus should play traditional Afrobeat or let their own roots show through.

It would be harder to accuse them of appropriation if they didn't sound so reverential. Then again, some might accuse them of not getting it right and being disrespectful of the genre if they played with the formula too much.

It is possible to take Afrobeat influences and mesh them with other sounds, as Shawn Hewitt , Mr. Something Something and Afrodizz have shown, but it's also an easy thing to do badly, as countless worldbeat fusion bands have proven.

by Benjamin Boles
Now Magazine July 21-July 27, 2005

- Now Magazine


While funk and soul music sonically defined the Civil
Rights Movement in the United States, Afrobeat was
doing the exact same thing in Nigeria. Fela Kuti,
Nigeria’s musical Martin Luther King, revolutionized a
new–found attitude brewing in and around the city of
Lagos, criticizing the foreign governing patriarchy in an
effort to liberate native Nigerians politically, socially and
culturally. By combining traditional jazz (from his
schooling in the UK), indigenous High Life music and
American rock, funk and soul, Kuti created Afrobeat. It’s
a musical output that lambasted the corruption plaguing
society whilst enrapturing each panegyric jab in
rhythmically rich swaths of horns, chunky bass lines and
choral vocal accompaniments. Through his two
collectives, Afrika 70 and Egypt 80, centred in his
compound in Lagos and his nightclub The Shrine, Kuti
revolutionized Nigerian politics and consequently,
informed the world outside of the former capitol about
Nigeria’s internal plight through the music that came with
Kuti’s creativity was punished, as his political
haranguing resulted in many visits by the authorities to
his compound. His mother was killed by the Nigerian
police and his compound was constantly ransacked by
military officials. He was imprisoned and received death
threats. Yet, his music carried on. Despite only half of his
songs ever being recorded, Kuti has dozens of albums,
live recordings and outtakes and many of his
accompanying musicians (there were hundreds), still
perform. Regardless, now revolutionary, Afrobeat
collectives are commonplace throughout the global
music market, and some, including Fela’s son Femi and
New York’s Antibalas have achieved mainstream
success. Every city in North America has been blessed
by Kuti’s message. As for Toronto, Hamilton and
surrounding areas, one of the collectives responsible,
Toronto’s Ultra Magnus will be in town on Saturday.
Despite sharing their moniker with the leader of Autobot
City in Transformers, Ultra Magnus’ commitment to
Afrobeat is not futuristic. Instead, the collective, led by
songwriter Chad Paulso (guitar) and Meligrove Band’s
Andrew Scott (bassist) prefer to disseminate highly
traditional, rhythmic, politically potent Afrobeat. Built
around an open door philosophy, musicians filter in and
out of Ultra Magnus, minus the full–time commitment of
Paulson and Scott. Anywhere from seven to 14
musicians can show up at a given gig, which mirrors
Kuti’s ideology towards accompaniment. Kuti’s back–up
band ranged from ten to over 40 musicians, depending
on where and what they played. “We formed this band
with the intent of having members fluctuate,” explains
Paulson. “The songs are written so that a missing band
member will not affect the performance of the band,
because all the members in the band are busy with other
projects as well.”
Ultra Magnus was borne out of a curiosity to discover
Afrobeat, sparked by an African drumming course
Paulson took while studying jazz at York university.
“Andrew and I became roommates in 2002. Both of us
grew up in Mississauga and were both performing in
bands in and around Mississauga and Toronto. As
roommates, we began delving into one another’s record
collections and together discovered Afrobeat,” he says.
“We both knew that this was a music that we had to learn
how to play, and so we called together friends of ours
that were also interested, formed our orchestra and
began studying the genre of Afrobeat.
“Ultra Magnus spent over a year studying the genre
from both a musical standpoint and an historical one,”
furthers Paulson. “It’s pointless to try and emulate the
music if you don’t understand why it exists in the first
place. This music was Nigeria’s answer to the Civil
Rights movement occurring in the US during the 1960s.
The intent of Afrobeat was to give a voice to the African
people affected by social tyranny during that time period
in Nigeria. It was also about identity and pride in the
traditional African way of life.”
Their committed educational perspective shines through
in Ultra Magnus, as their intense study of the craft has
translated into the collective being one of the best acts in
the region at emulating it. By combining deep, pouncing
rhythms with steady melodic structures, bouncy horn
interplay and climactic improvisation, Ultra Magnus’ take
on Afrobeat is a stunning tribute to Kuti and his
message. Paulson and Scott’s songwriting is laced with
jazz, rock, High Life, Juju and soul, effectively crafting an
eclectic, brooding advancement of the original style. This
is highly danceable, contagious Afrobeat, no doubt
about that.
In addition, the band is readying their self–titled debut,
set to be released independently at shows and online
this week. Recorded live-off–the–floor with different
musicians, Ultra Magnus is an - VIEW Magazine



No -- but this Magnus is no less strange: an eight- to 11-piece (depending on the day) Afrobeat juggernaut that's awakened Toronto's indie hordes to the charms of the Black President, Fela Kuti, and his polyrhythmic fusion of jazz, rock and tribal music. Led by formidable guitar-slingin' conductor Chad Paulson (whose actual first name is Magnus), the all-white combo plays their eight- and nine-minute groove epics with the force of a punk-rock band; get too close to their buoyant stage show, and you're liable to get spritzed with a drop or two of Afrosweat. This week, you have two chances to see them showcase their repertoire of finely tuned Fela covers, along with a few original tunes that prove Africa is really just a state of mind (and booty).


Sure can, if they're this kind of ambitious music folk. Most Magnus members play in other bands, including The Meligrove Band, Lee Van Cleef and Little Clever.

"Something we all have in common is that we're dying to learn new music," says Paulson. The band rehearsed extensively before playing their first show, to tune into the almost spiritual approach of Afrobeat, which melds the repetition and drone of Krautrock, jazz and funk elements and a revolutionary spirit.

"It's so culturally and socially related to what was happening at the time when it was popular, that for us to just kind of jump into it with our listeners' impression of it wasn't enough," Paulson says. "We had to learn to be like that."

"It wasn't so much that the music was hard to learn," says bassist Andrew Scott. "It was more being in a band of that size, and being OK with only playing a two-bar line for 15 minutes -- but really locking it in, knowing your role and sticking to it."


"Oddly enough, we've never played a hippie crowd," says Paulson, "which is what a lot of people think we're about." The band shuns novelty status and pretense, preferring to let their personalities shape the dynamic of the band into something unique and honest.

"Someone said that we should dress up," Paulson says. "But I think it's odd enough that 10 white guys are playing this kind of music. For us to get up there in dashikis.... One person suggested I get dreadlocks. No fuckin' way."

"Obviously we're not pretending to be exactly like [Fela] -- that's not the point," says Scott. "But there's not that many people doing it, and I think it's a music that should be heard by more people. Yes, we play things in the style of Afrobeat, but it's invariably based on who's playing it, so it's gonna sound a little bit like us. Which I don't think is bad."


Eye Magazine, June 17th, 2004
- Eye Magazine

"Wavelength 200"

"Yes, they're an Afrobeat orchestra that consists of a bunch of white guys and the bandleader looks like he should be in Skynard, but goddammit, their grooves are Fela-tastic."

excerpt from Wavlelength 200th issue

Wavelength, Febuary 2004 - Wavelength Magazine

"ULTRA MAGNUS- Self Titled"


Afrobeat. It’s a style of music as firmly rooted in west african rythyms and early 70s James Brown era funk as it is in the fight for human rights and the struggle against political oppression. It’s the ferocity and passion of these battles combined with the rythym and sexual energy of the music that’s what is taking hold over a growing number of listeners and shifting the focus and popularity of dance music from DJs back to live bands. Toronto via Mississauga’s Ultramagnus are at the forefront of this movement. Brilliantly displaying their incredible musicianship on their self-titled debut E.P., this 10 piece afrobeat orchestra are quickly making a name for themselves as the force to be reckoned with when it comes to popular Toronto afrobeat. Ultramagnus craft their hypnotic grooves with skill and intensity, utilizing a full horn section, multiple guitars, inescapable basslines and a percussion section that includes bongo drums, marakas and other rythmic treats to compliment rock solid beats. If you’re a fan of loosing yourself in layred rythyms, let Ultramagnus be your guide through the groove.



Ultra Magnus: Chemical 1, Chemical 2 Full Length CD (2005)
Queen Aritzia: Compilation 2004
Ultra Magnus: self tiltled 3 song Ep (2003)



Ultra Magnus is a 10 member Afrobeat band that revisits the glory days of Afrobeat with their own breed and blend of infectious grooves, blazing horns, furious performances and social consciousness.

Ultra Magnus began more as a research endeavor than a musical venture. In the late nights of winter 2002, roommates Chad Paulson and Andrew Scott (The Meligrove Band/Bicycles/Femme Fatale) spent their evenings trying to unravel the intricate rhythmic layers of Fever by Afrobeat songwriter Jingo. Chad and Andrew came to the fortuitous decision to assemble a group of musicians who, like them, would revel in the challenges of studying Afrobeat. From their shared pursuit of this legendary genre, Ultra Magnus evolved. The group eventually acquired their name because of a nickname Chad had been given in elementary school, on account of his actual first name being Magnus.

The members of Ultra Magnus spent over a year learning the quality and nuances of Afrobeat, devotedly studying, not only the music, but also the historical context from which it was born and the people and artists who popularized it throughout the 1970's and 1980's in Africa. Ultra Magnus amassed an extensive repertoire of Afrobeat standards long before the writing process of their original works began. They firmly believed that creating a spurious imitation was an utter disrespect of true Afrobeat. After all, in 1970s Nigeria, people went to jail for playing this stuff.

By summer 2003 Ultra Magnus had a formidable collection of their own originals and were assailing audiences in Toronto and beyond with their fierce vocals and gratifying grooves. Releasing their first demo in 2003 they have now completed a full length release for March of 2006 entitled Chemical 1 + Chemical 2. The album was recorded in two separate sessions at Chemical Sound Studios by venerable recording engineers Al P(Death From Abover 1979, Mstrkrft) and Rudy Rempel.

Ultra Magnus' main inspiration remains with Afrobeat originator, Fela Kuti. Like Kuti, Ultra Magnus uses "music as weapon"; creating socially conscious songs that make you want to move. Ultra Magnus boasts a highly diverse audience and have enjoyed a longstanding collaboration with hip hop MC Masia One whom they have backed up both at live concerts and on several CBC recordings.