Ulver returns triumphantly with another masterpiece, at least that’s my modest opinion after listening to ATGCLVLSSCAP. Though it has been two years since the release of its predecessor, the album has been in the works since 2014 in a unique way, like you know the eclectic Norwegians to do so well.
ATGCLVLSSCAP, which is a reference to the first letters of each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, was recorded during 12 ‘free rock’ shows in 2014. Following the initial recordings, the material was edited and enhanced in the studio by Daniel O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has been with the band since 2011’s Wars Of The Roses. The multi-instrumentalist sculpted the sound into its rough version, after which the rest of the band took over. Thus the intriguing process of recording.
To the music then , because that’s what it is all about after all. On this record it seems like Ulver is editing Ulver. It’s a strangely introspective experience of a band toying with themselves to create dreamscapes in audio-form, to weave works with recycled music of themselves. The concept is strange, but also weirdly alluring. When you hear the bells chime on opener England’s Hidden, soundscapes are joined by sound samples and melt together into a mellow, warm cloud that takes you away. Never does the band stray far away enough from the initial tones to lose their listener. When the pace in a song picks up it stays on its light path, misty and warm.
Electronics and percussion melt into repetitive patterns that slowly rise and fall, carrying the tones of keys and guitars ever gently forward. The band departs from traditional structure and creates form and matter, on their own terms. Rapid drums and cascading guitars take their own time to unfold and transcend, it’s amazing. Various songs on the record actually reinterpret older work of the band, making the album become a collage of Ulver’s past and future, in one recording. The fairy tale like trickling rhythm section on Moody Stix, as well as the warm piano and husky spoken word on Ecclesiastes (A Vernal Catnap) are part of that.
The strength of this record is the way the band turns their ambient-like music into a dream the listener wants to dwell in, to travel through and be swept up by. The downside? This is not a casual listen and if this would be playing on your headphones while on a bus or train to work, you would never make it. You’d stay rooted to your seat indulging in further discoveries through the eerie sound of space on Om Hanumate Namah, which merge with eastern hypnotic grooves. Slow down and ride the drone on D-Day Drone with its weird, haunting pieces in the distance.
The sound of Ulver is a million miles removed from the origins in which they produced black metal masterpieces, now leaning towards modern classical, krautrock, shoegaze, triphop and ambient, with a fresh outlook that allows them to create unique forms of beauty. The gloomy way of telling stories and drawing landscapes is still there though, blossoming in the freedom the band embraces while reinventing music. Glory to Ulver, I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
Scribed by: Guido Segers