Norwegian experimental group Ulver have long since shed their early black metal leanings, and since become purveyors of the electronic, ambient, and whatever else they feel like. On their twelfth record, they’ve pushed past the boundaries and taken a misstep.
New album ATGCLVLSSCAP (House of Mythology)– an amalgamation of the first letter from each of the Zodiacs – is a mammoth 80-minute mish-mash of live improve, studio tricks and samples taken from the band’s own back catalogue. While definitely moody and atmospheric, it often feels more like a series of disjointed soundscapes than coherent album; a soundtrack to a film you’ve never seen.
England’s Hidden’ is seven and a half minutes of largely ambient horns, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. ‘Glammer Hammer’ is a nice, mellow piece that builds towards something quite epic towards the end. ‘Moody Stix’ has a haunting swampiness about it, while the electro-synth ‘Desert/Dawn’ has an aura of a retro sci-fi soundtrack to it. Some are more than decent – though largely uninteresting – but many are nothing but unforgettable. Where ‘D-D Drone’ is nine minutes you could have spent sat in silence and not noticed the difference, ‘Crogmagnosis’ settles into a moreish groove.
Though largely an instrumental album, the appearance of vocals on two of the last three tracks come as something of a surprise, and changes the tone of the record. ‘Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen)’ is a downbeat crooner bristling with melancholy, while ‘Ecclesiastes (A Vernal Catnap)’ is a piano-led number full of sorrow. Depending on how you feel about the record up to this point, they’re either a welcome respite or an unwelcome distraction.
Ultimately, ATGCLVLSSCAP is about as satisfying as it is easy to spell. It’s not unlistenable, and good for background noise. But if you want thrills, excitement, or anything that generally registers above the hum of your fridge, look elsewhere.
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