Review Summary: Without doubt, one of the weirdest albums I’m ever likely to hear.
If I mention the band “Ulver” to you, you’d probably be in one of three categories; “Ulver are Black Metal”, “Ulver are Electronic”, or “who the Hell are Ulver?” Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter- as upon your first hearing, you’d probably have appreciated Ulver more if you hadn’t pressed the ‘play’ button.
Firstly, a little background. It would be fair to say that of Ulver’s vast discography, this is one of their lesser known albums, and rightly so. It’s an album comprised of various artists, (all of which I haven’t heard of), who have ‘remixed’ Ulver songs and riffs.
Often, when one mentions ‘remix’ to the average Joe, there’s the immediate image of thumping beats accompanied by a crowd of drunken skinheads, bobbing up and down in unison. If you’re one of those people, get that image out of your head: this album will surprise you.
The first track “Crack Bug” is quite a good pointer for how the rest of the album develops: quite literally, there’s a bit of weird synth, some soft strings, then a wall of sound with an aggressive drumbeat that blows your ears off. The sheer nonconformist attitude of this album may take some by surprise, and even the biggest Ulver fans may be unable to recognise some of the original samples.
Some of the slower tracks such as “Der Alte” are an odd surprise, essentially containing softly spoken German, with a ‘cello and drum machine complement. Other tracks can be fairly ‘in your face’, “The Descent of Men” being a prime example, opting only to blast the loudest beat with as much treble as possible; whilst songs like “Bog’s Basil & Curry Powder Pot” sounds like something that was rejected for an Atari game soundtrack. Yes, it really is that bad.
There’s quite a lot of static on most songs, which may make one suspect that they simply sampled the feedback contained in the “Nattens Madrigal” album; and with a few of the tracks being barely listenable, I’d be entitled to agree. A good chunk of the last track, “Vow Me Ibrzu”, sounds exactly like that. If you’re not a fan of listening to noise, or people scraping their fingertips on a blackboard, then please be wary.
However, there are still elements that keep a relaxing form of familiarity to the hardened Ulver fanatics. “I Love You, But I Prefer Trond” is your run-of-the-mill ambient Ulver track, and my personal favourite of them all: “A Little Wiser Than The Monkey, Much Wiser Than Seven Men”. Beginning as a screeching, trebly, unnerving track for the first minute, a subtle melodic line begins in the background, eventually manifesting into a very Black Metal-esque chord progression. Fantastic.
The trouble with this album isn’t individual songs, as there are some real gems hidden in here: the trouble is consistency, and perhaps that’s unsurprising considering its nature. This album is comprised solely of other people’s work- individuals, mainly- and then thrown onto a CD. There’s no real logic behind the album as a whole, no flowing passages, no themes or concepts that recur throughout. It’s not steady enough to be considered “ambient”; it’s certainly not heavy enough to be considered “metal”; but it’s certainly weird enough to be considered “Ulver”.
If you want an album that defines Ulver, then for God’s sake, steer clear of this. Nonetheless, if you’re a big fan, I recommend giving this a fair and open-minded listen.
“A Little Wiser Than The Monkey”
“Track Slow Snow”
This being your first Ulver experience
Judging this album too quickly