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Ulla & Ultrafog - It Means A Lot


A transcontinental collaboration founded on friendship.

By JB Johnson


It Means A Lot is the debut collaboration between two major forces in contemporary ambient music: the Kanagawa, Japan-based Ultrafog and the Berlin-based American artist Ulla. It’s a gentle, masterful work, weaving elements of space rock and glitch into a pan-generational ambient stew. More than anything, though, it is a collaboration forged through friendship across geographic barriers. We sent some questions to the two artists, who speak collectively unless where noted. 

  • 1dumb rain
  • 2room core
  • 3sad bowl
  • 4lame mart
  • 5pm filter
  • 6double carmen
  • 7kind zo
  • 8jesses car

How did you two meet?

2018 in NYC, we had a show together. We had met online previously, of course.

At what point did you realize you wanted to work on music together?

We always felt it would be great to work together. But after our tour in 2022 it became very clear that we should start to make something.


What was your collaborative process like on It Means A Lot?

Last summer we recorded sessions in Ulla’s room. Afterwards we reworked the material over the internet until it was finished. During the production process, we didn't discuss any specific directions. Throughout the session, our conversations were brief, often limited to expressions like "it's nice" or "cool." We just focused on discovering nice sounds. 

Were there any major musical inspirations guiding this record?

The inspirations come from exploring music, see where it goes. We have a similar musical past, so there is a dialogue there for sure. But it’s unspoken while working. We just have fun and find the special sounds our collaboration creates.

How about non-musical inspirations?

The world around us, mundane things we find important or meaningful. Jesse’s car is a big inspiration. However, the most powerful inspiration is each other. This album wouldn’t have been possible without our friendship. Because these are tracks made by two friends, our connection is what created them. And touring has been one of our major sources of inspiration. We've traveled to various places together, and it's where we found our groove.

Also, we basically talk in English but also try Japanese conversation sometimes. We both have different mother tongues, so our speaking is sometimes broken or vague, it is like a session with words. It might be one of the keys to our collaboration.

There’s something a little elusive about the structures and the textures on It Means A Lot. Were there specific feelings that you were trying to transmit when working on this music?

As mentioned earlier, we didn't particularly try to convey anything specific.

Ultrafog: Personally, I rarely strive to convey specific emotions in my tracks anymore. While I used to attempt it in the past, I now find it uncomfortable because the outcome often diverges from my original intent, or sometimes I lack a clear vision of the goal altogether. I'm not particularly drawn to the functional aspects of music. Therefore, assigning it a specific emotion or purpose can feel unnatural to me. I find something in between actively striving to create something and letting inspiration flow naturally to be ideal. Sometimes, our instincts guide us better than our conscious efforts. Music evokes complex feelings that defy simple words or meanings. In terms of that, this album succeeded in containing something which we cannot explain and I'm very happy with it.

Ulla: I agree with Kouhei, I like to stay open to surprises and not focus on specific ideas. Even though they are happenstance, they reflect us. For me, the tracks become clearer reflections after they are finished.

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