Ultra Vivid Scene is Kurt Ralske like Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. Although Ralske's atmospheric art pop could not sound less like Reznor's thudding industrial disco, the two are not that far apart in terms of aesthetics; Ralske's lyrical obsessions with such gothy standbys as sex, religion, and death make the band's three albums naturals for the mopey black-clad teenager in us all.
Ralske was born and raised in New York; something of a musical prodigy, he was accepted into the Berklee School of Music in Boston at the age of 16. Though Ralske was an accomplished keyboard player, he found new inspiration in the determined amateurism of the late-'70s New York no wave scene, which took the "anyone can do it" ethos of punk rock to its logical extreme. Thus inspired, Ralske quit music school and moved to London in 1986, picking up the guitar and observing the city's new dream pop scene (Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc.). Ralske formed a short-lived group called Crash, named after the J.G. Ballard novel, before returning to New York in 1988 and signing to 4AD Records under the band name Ultra Vivid Scene. Despite the band name, the first two UVS records, 1988's Ultra Vivid Scene and 1990s Joy: 1967-1990, were basically solo albums. 1992's Rev found Ralske playing with other musicians for the first time, but shortly after the release of that album, Ralske retired the band name and spent several years working as producer and studio musician for the likes of Ivy, Lloyd Cole, and Richard Davies. In the late '90s, Kurt Ralske returned under the band name Cathars, releasing the ambient electronica work Amorphous in 1999. ~ Stewart Mason