Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Ulver – ATGCLVLSSCAP (2016, House of Mythology)

The basis for ATGCLVLSSCAP – which the band has been working with under the moniker ‘12’ – arrives from recordings made at twelve different live shows that Ulver performed in February 2014, in which band the band vaulted into the deep end of an improvisatory approach to their performance. As Kristoffer Rygg, the prime mover of the band since its inception puts it wryly, “The tour was to be an experiment, kind of loose and scary for a band as ‘set in their ways’ as us.”

The Norwegian collective of Ulver, a mythic group that once was at the forefront of the Norwegian black metal scene with its masterpieces of simple yet primal black metal of Nattens Madrigal and Bergtatt quickly drifted away from the genre to make post-rock, experimental, and call it what you want musical explorations with their subsequent works.

On ATGCLVLSSCAP, the twelve songs are live improvisations, never released before tracks of complete reveries and evolutive jams. Many fans of the first era of the band have let the sponge down for good. I’ve been an avid follower of their evolution and I was particularly pleased with their collabortation with cult band Sunn O))); Terrestrials.

© Christian Tunge 2015
At first sight, ATGCLVLSSCAP was looking at me like a record that bands stuff with live performances, un-released songs, alternate versions, etc. Well, when I got to listen to the thing I knew it was not categorized right as live performances but it is a complete triptych that leader Kristoffer Rygg took and wrapped as one of the most fufilling records from the band.

The percussion work and the ambiant element of the album is at its peak in ‘’Glammer Hammer’’ and the twist in ‘’Cromagnosis’’ is looking like it was taken from a TV show of the 1970’s. While keeping a feet into their darker side, Ulver are constantly reinventing themselves with crooner vocals, fast tempos, subtle notes, and a great sense of music.
This is an album that could be described in textures and in feelings. Just as some records are colours or sounds, Ulver makes music that connects with our minds. It might sound snob or elitic but their sound is for a select group of people that wants to enter the territory of those musicians.

However, of the twelve songs offered on ATGCLVLSSCAP, there’s some kind of a let down with the use of vocals in a song where it was probably an improvisation and it feels like an improv more than a proper song. On ‘’Gold Beach’’, the dark ambiant reminds of the not so great Celestite album by Wolves in the Throne Room, a companion piece to their near-masterpiece Celestial Lineage. Dark ambiant is difficult to handle and often can sound like bad New Age music. In the case of Ulver, it is not bad but one of the weakest songs on the record.

As fulfilling and interesting this new album might be for Ulver, it is a bit disjointed in parts and despite the great talent at composition that it is demonstrated, I think that a more concise piece would have been better for itself. This is the problem with improvisations, it is the extend of something that sometimes creates an experience in the experiment. Just as our score below, the album is 85% great and the rest mostly is filling or could have been edited for a stronger result.


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