Review Summary: Ulver and Ylwizaker-chords.
Teachings In Silence is very much worth your time. Why? Being a compilation of two EPs from 2001, Silence Teaches You How To Sing and Silencing The Singing, it is probably skipped by many listeners. Yet it contains some of the most important moments in the band’s recording history.
Of course, Ulver’s story has been told time and time again. By the time these two EPs were released, Ulver had been famously shape shifting for some years. They had moved from their folk inspired black metal early days of Bergtatt, through Norwegian neo-folk on Kveldssanger and the rough black metal on Nattens Madrigal. After that, they made a pretentious, heavily experimental album, Themes To William Blake’s The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell, to end up on a trip-hop tinged night walk around Perdition City.
One band member in particular is pivotal in this now-famous shift from guitar oriented music towards electronic styles. This member is Tore Ylwizaker, who is still responsible for most of the programming, the loops, and the piano, keys and synths on Ulver’s output today. He came into contact with Ulver around 1996, shortly after Nattens Madrigal was written in 1995 and Kveldssanger was released in 1996. Garm and him connected through their love for loop-based programmed rhythms of bands like Portishead (who had just released Dummy a few years earlier) and DJ Shadow. Tore was able to bring these electronic influences to the band, which surfaced first on the Metamorphosis EP, and were further implemented on Themes and Perdition City. His love for a particular type of chord progression has led the band to adopt the nickname ‘Ylwizaker-chords’. The band feels that these chords, which are, needless to say, named after Tore Ylwizaker himself, are particularly ‘Ulverish’ in sound. And they’re all over the Silence-sessions.
Of these two EPs, one track in particular is worth mentioning in this regard. This is the final track of the lot, Not Saved. It by itself makes this collection worth your time, for the band have called it the most ‘Ulverish’ track that they have ever written, since they feel the Ylwizaker-chords are at their most pronounced and explicit here, next to their prominent place on Perdition City. Throughout their recording career, band members often cry out ‘That is “Not Saved”’ when they feel something is Ulverish in sound.
Tore’s influence is also paramount on the rest of the Silence EPs. These records are a collection of sound collages by a curious and non-compromising band at the height of their creative peak, flexing their muscles and just pushing the record button to see where they end up going. Home-made recordings of TV-static, Oslo street life, the aforementioned drum loops, and piano and synth chords are accompanied by Garm’s occasional singing and free form, electronic ambient washes. All taken together this set of EPs forms a more than worthy companion to one of the bands greatest LPs, and an essential part of their discography. For those who are interested in what makes Ulver sound like Ulver, look no further.