The French duo signed to InFiné release their second album full of hybrid tracks to pull your attention in all directions.

In form, UTO is a singer/producer duo that mutates into a wild guitarist/dancer duo on stage. At heart, UTO’ s synthpop moves out of its comfort zone and mutates into new wave, punk, trip hop, industrial, electronica or chanson, making the French band a hybrid product very much of its time.

Perhaps that’s why this project, launched in 2016, didn’t take off right away. With two first EPs released on Pain Surprises, Jacques and Miel de Montagne’s label, the group flew under the radar for a while, before finding a wider audience in 2022 with Touch the Lock, their debut album that is situated somewhere between pop and electronica recorded in a Loiret château and highlighted by a favourable review from indie music oracle Pitchfork.

Now signed to InFiné, the label headed by Alexandre Cazac that made Rone and Deena Abdelwahed so successful, Neysa May Barnett and Emile Larroche seem more sure of their strengths, of their place in the maelstrom of an electronic scene whose sounds have increasingly become hallmarks of pop music in the 2020s. This second album gets off to a flying start with a UK garage beat, one of the first electronic genres to make the leap into the mainstream, of which UTO offers an epileptic version on “Art&Life”, followed by the tortured electronic blues “Plumbing”, which we can already imagine sounding rough and raw live.

UTO 2024
UTO © Marco Dos Santos

In nine tracks, Neysa and Emile demonstrate their ability to compose choruses and atmospheres that immediately grab your attention, whether on “Unshape”, a stadium anthem à la M83, or on “Zombie”, the hard-hitting single with a bass so tweaked its schizo. And when they’re less inspired, there’s still the energy of their sultry productions, and Neysa’s mutinous voice, capable of holding the track on its own, as on “Lyrics”.

And as if all that weren’t enough, UTO manage to cultivate a little edge, as evidenced by the lengthy title When All You Want to Do Is Be the Fire Part of Fire (to ponder) and a cover they entrusted to an artificial intelligence: “This image doesn’t represent our faces, but it looks like us. It’s us in a better way. Like fire surpassing fire.”