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Review: Ultramagnetic MC's @ Bristol Beacon

On their 40th year of activity, the MC's Ultra have not tired in their mission to bring exclusively funky beats to the masses.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

It's not rare that musical legends come to Bristol. New ones, old ones and artists that are somewhere in between can be found most weeks across the concert halls of the city. Something about Ultramagnetic MC's felt unique however, breaking this pattern with a tireless attitude which can only stem from such an attentive and devoted following that has stuck by despite the long years.

A breakaway from my usual crowd for gigs in Bristol, few members of the audience were of traditional student age as I cautiously filtered through the older audience, into the Beacon's more intimate Lantern Hall. One of many stages in the venue, it was somewhat of a privilege to stand so close to the hip-hop pioneers who would be later taking the room by storm.

Two openers began proceedings: the Eurovision nominated MoYah who kicked things off, before an unexpected DJ set from a friend of the group- unnamed on the event's advertising- but referred to amicably as Liz by the group later. Another change from my usual Bristolian DJ experiences, her offering of remixed rap verses over some unconventional beats from Jimi Hendrix to Charlie Brown was an amusing start to the evening.

Ultramagnetic MC's @ Bristol Beacon | Benji Chapman

Shout-outs to all the hip-hop classics (Mobb Deep, MF DOOM, Jay Z) were also a feature of set, who's instrumentals were spun with incredibly precise cutting and scratching from the masked DJ dressed in a convict's outfit. If the unconventional start was anything to go by, I was set to be blown away by the next act.

Before the MC's took stage, a showcase of some more incredible DJ skills featured as the group's jockey spun and cut breakbeats to their heart's content with an effortless breeziness: removing and adjusting headphones amid a flurry of reloaded vinyl that would be rewound and cut at a hypnotically fast rate.

Ultramagnetic MC's @ Bristol Beacon | Benji Chapman

The jittery mixing ended in a victory lap as the two MC's took centre stage, fronted by none other than Kool Keith. Roars filled the room as the 60 year-old MC strode onto the stage, arms raised whilst cheers continued. The MC has credits from his many ecclectic projects: Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom to name a few, both respective works which demonstrate his unusually grimy and unusual typicalities for the earlier side of the genre.

The abstract side of Keith's sound was reeled in however, for a classic celebration of old school hip-hop which the Ultramagnetics fronted. The group's influence has now reached astronomical levels as one of the first acts to lift the genre from its foundation of rapping on top of a break into something far more instrumentally fleshed out, thanks to early sampling technology and artistic innovaiton.

Ultramagnetic MC's @ Bristol Beacon | Ifan Davies

Though only two members were on stage they were channelling some 40 years of activity which came before. The boasts from both members were more than justified. "We've been rocking for a long, long time", claimed the group as they took stock of the crowd midway through the set, hazy in the hall's mist and echoing James Brown grooves.

Hot off the 35th Anniversary of the groups' breakout album Critical Breakdown in October 2023, the act cleared up the night with a triumphantly powerful celebration of their efforts in rap music. The night had a timeless magic to it, one which only the aged pioneers of a certain sound can recall. Looking back onto their work and refusing to stop rocking, the MC's proved that they wouldn't be put down despite the passing of time.

Featured Image: Ifan Davies

Did you relisten to Critical Beatdown last October?