Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Ultras - Rocky and Bullwinkledotdotdotdot
artworkThis is a noncommercial CD-R compiling highlights from Ultras performances in the Pit at KFJC. While not available, this band remains so unique in the surf genre, and still so influential, that I felt the need to remind you all through this tantalizing tease.

Eric Lenchner (Readymades) - guitar, a.k.a. Ricky Sludge and Vanilla Sludge, is backed by "String" Bing Nathan - upright bass, and Trey "Cool" Sabotelli - drums. I'm always glad to play these tracks on Surf's Up, so don't hesitate to ask.
Picks: Rocky and Bullwinkle, Green Onions, Steel Twist, Moovin' and Groovin', The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Telstar, Wohilo, Trick or Treat #1, Ultra Factor, Nice Face, Magic Wand, Death Tube, Trick or Treat #2

Track by Track Review


Rocky and Bullwinkle dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an amazing adventure into the world of cartoon themes masquerading as surf music. The Ultras didn't play this tune in their live sets, nor did it go over the air. Eric Lenchner was just goofing around, and "String" Bing Nathan (bass) and Trey "Cool" Sabotelli (drums) joined in. It wasn't even a whole rendition, it came in several short bursts. I always run tape during soundcheck, and Uncle Al was able to edit together the fragments to create a cohesive and complete performance. The result is a stunning and delightful excursion into free flights of fancy with reverb. Exquisite.

Green Onions dotdotdotdot
Surf (Vocal)

The Ultras took this leftover delicacy and made this into a main course with Eric's lyrics as a fine wine sauce. Hilarious!

Steel Twist dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A sultry bass line opens this vibrato bottleneck adventure in an unknown land. Boss twang and reverby delayed guitar deliver a liquid progression and playful melody line. The guitar almost laughs in spots, and delivers swampy excitement in every note.

Moovin' and Groovin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ultras breathe new surf life into this Al Casey classic made a hit by Duane Eddy. It has the groove, the smooth, the twang, and the funk required to make this shine. Pure ecstasy in full round tone.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Enio Morricone's famous spaghetti western theme "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" is played with reverence and surf soul. The slow surf chunk rhythm is very cool, as is Eric's "hey ho" and "wah wah wah" choruses, and even more delightful is his "you buy the Ultras tape" chant. very cool. Just too much fun.

Telstar dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Monster effects, threatening globes overhead, and spinning guitar tones combine to completely change Joe Meek's intent. Lot's of bite and howling tone.

Wohilo dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

One of the great bands of the late eighties-early nineties surf scene was the Ultras. Eric Lenchner had a long and colorful music history in Bay Area bands, including the power pop marvels the Readymades, where as Ricky Sludge, he wowed 'em at The Mab. He also sat in on trumpet with Richard Berry, Jack Ely, and the Lady Bo Trio when they played live at KFJC's infamous Maximum Louie Louie. Eric's surf-spy-twango-exotica show band the Ultras were spectacular. Highly visual on stage, they sported Eric's sly sense of humor, which is also evident in much of his writing. This slow, sensual, shimmering song has never been recorded in the studio, and was captured here live at KFJC direct to VHS Hi-Fi. It is a twisted and hauntingly beautiful track, with ringing chords, pleasant changes, and a break that features a wickedly demented break distorted with speed-choked notes. Very cool.

Trick or Treat #1 dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ultras provide one of the very few Halloween surf instros ever, with it's "Boss" (Rumblers) / "Garbage Man" (Cramps) based rhythm section and the knocks on the door "Trick Or Treat" ramblings and screams, plus an oh-so touching "Got a message here for... Phil Dirt!" This is one wailing feedback note torturing special delivery for... you!

Ultra Factor dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A slowly shimming intro gives way to a vigorous glissando and throbbing melody riffs over punched up drums and suave bass. This oozes loungie charm and humor. It's a band anthem with narrated descriptors as if they were a laundry detergent. Amazing!

Nice Face dotdotdotdot
Ominous Surf Monster (Instrumental)

Evil dark surf sludge twang. This depends on string bending, and that ominous low-E drive. It is occasionally punctuated with "nice face" comments, which bring out the Vegas runway aspects of this very tribal and primal tune. It's hard not to like this, with it's power and major twang. The middle part is completely different, with a lighter, more delicate melody, and an almost playful lilt, just before it breaks into a heavy low-E twistorama of intense energy. This is an unusual and bitchin' track.

Magic Wand dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This was written for Dick Dale, when he was trying to record his Tribal Thunder album, and was still out of new ideas. Word on the street was that songs might get picked up if the writing jam wasn't cleared. Well, Dick never heard it, but then he also didn't write anything new. This is a double picked monster, with lots of flair and Sludgomatic flourishes, and halting drama. Powerful and filigree laden. Cool.

Death Tube dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

From the beginning rising notes that climb to a fever pitch of double picked power, this is a monster. Sludgoramic hugeness is everywhere. This is dangerous, evil, and like Link Wray on a 9'6 McCoy with his Fender after too much coffee. Very strong track! You're completely spent when it finally settles into it's dribbling break. You better rest fast, 'cause the mayhem hinted at by the dementia as the break ends is unavoidable when the song comes to a crashing end, or is it? Nope, there's manic reverb crashing yet to come, and another verse of the power melody. Finally, it settles to a swoosh of whitewater at the edge of the sand. Whew!

Trick or Treat #2 dotdotdotdot
Halloween Surf (Instrumental)

Another fine performance of one of the few Halloween surf epics, funkier and chunkier than the first, and with more haunting graveyard effects. Major spooky fun.