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I initially was completely won over by Perdition City. While I considered myself openminded, I associated electronica with 2 things: rave music and ambient. I liked ambient, but thought of it as rather repetitive, i.e. there was no point in listening to the whole album because all the songs sounded alike. I hated rave music, and still do, so I was prepared for boring ambient music, since I figured Ulver wouldn't make something I hate (yeah, I love Ulver that much.)
(As a disclaimer, this review is in a roughly song-by-song format. I usually don't do song by song formats, because as the rules say, they're usually very amateurish, but since Perdition City is an album where every song is markedly different and possesses an identity of its own, it's appropriate).
Well, this completely blew me away at first. I LOVED Hallways of Allways, and one of my ghetto-fabulous friends from central Richmond even recorded a rap over it, which, even though I hate rap, I loved. The melodies were original yet relatable, and the beat was relaxed yet driving, it seemed. Lost in Moments and Porn Piece were great nocturnal songs, being atmospheric but never repetitive. They were low key, yet greatly emotional and evocational at their best. The Future Sound Of Music was an epic that evoked great moods in me, and went well with psychedelics when I was in my psychedelic phase, especially with the intro. Tommorrow Never Knows was a subtle noir piece that was great for driving around at night, smooth and very dark. We Are the Dead was a chilling piece that made my neck shiver when I listened to it, consisting of various radio static noises and a chilling choir, with Garm whispering over it. Dead City Centres reminded me of those drug trips where everything disintegrated into a chaotic mess as you approached the end, and when you woke up on monday you weren't sure of what happened, and your memory recalled only nonsense and insanity. Catalept was a short breather in between the insanity of Dead City Centres, and the masterpiece that was Nowhere/Catastrophe. Now, Nowhere/Catastrophe, though by far the most "normal" song, almost pop-like, won my heart instantly. The singing, the music... it was all orgasmic. While more normal, it still possessed the nocturnal, laid back feeling the rest of the album had.
Now that I have had some chance to listen to more music and get more familiar with what Perdition City was trying to do, it's not quite as stellar. Mind you, it's still good, and I still listen to it with no problem whatsoever. But a few things changed: Lost in Moments became too start-stop for me, and didn't really get good until the end. Ditto went for Porn Piece, which, although both are still good songs, are a bit too all over the place for me. Hallways of Allways I still love with a great intensity, and find nothing wrong with the song. A similar pattern emerged with the next few songs, where they are still good songs to listen to, and Perdition City is still an awesome CD, they aren't FUKKEN AWESOME anymore. Just good, no more. One thing that I don't particularly like anymore is Dead City Centres. Maybe it's because I got clean, or maybe it's because while it still reminds me of those weekends that seem to evade my memory except in parts most bizarre. Frankly, one of the reasons I got clean was BECAUSE of those weekends, and to tell you the truth, going to excess that much and living such insanity is not a pleasant experience, and listening to Dead City Centres is not that pleasant of an experience either. As well, Catalept is pretty much filler, and doesn't help Perdition City in any way.
If it weren't for Dead City Centres or Catalept, after a couple years of owning Perdition City, I would've given it a 95 or therabouts. It's not perfect, but with the exception of those two songs it's a very rewarding listen and conjures up many different moods and many different atmospheres. It lost its perfectness after several listens, but it's still a great collection of songs. But DCC and Catalept just screw up the atmosphere like you wouldn't believe. And that prevents Perdition City from achieving a lot of its potential.
It was hard not to be stylistically infatuated with this release when I was first exposed to it, as I was in a permanent film-noir state of mind, and the quality of the slowed-breakbeat-style-drum-loops + plus melancholic-yet-energetic voice/keys/samples formula is quite catchy and alluring. Having listened to this album rather obsessively for over five years now, my view has changed and settled somewhat, and I appreciate the songs involved in a different way.
These songs have a wonderful texture and atmosphere, although they do sometimes border on the self-indulgent. Where the previous EP Metamorphosis, thought to be a companion to Perdition City, announced (if the title didn't already suggest) that Ulver was revamping their sound, Ulver seizes and expands on the efforts of Metamorphosis, stretching and reworking the ideas of two of those songs across Perdition City. You can see the emphasis of "Gnosis" from the EP in four of the tracks on Perdition City; Lost in Moments, Porn Pieces, Hallways of Allways and The Future Sound of Music. All feature driving drum loops, the gradual dynamic build of a single texture coupled with sharp dynamic contrast, and sharp synths and piano riffs slowly building on the original texture. Meanwhile Limbo Central (subtitled The Theme from Perdition City) is reincarnated in Catalept, which pairs what seems to be a sample from Bernard Herrmann's music for Psycho with a stumbling, drunk drum loop. Where there is melody and musical organization on Perdition City, it is tense and unresolved but not particularly challenging. When Ulver scraps tonality and goes sheerly for atmosphere/synth texture combined with occasional vocal elements, the album becomes almost unbearably tense. We Are the Dead and Dead City Centres are the two pieces of this nature, and are extremely effective, with Garm alternating low mumbling vocals and a sleazy noir narration style. Tomorrow Never Knows seems to foreshadow the ambient jams of the Silence EPs, working with a brooding instrumental texture. And Nowhere/Catastrophe is the only piece on the album in concise song-form, maybe a first for Ulver. It offers a catchy, vocorder-layered chorus with Garm utilizing his somewhat-croony, neo-soul voice from earlier pieces in the album on the verses, an early-jazz inflected piano solo and a fairly concise length. The style is something of a rarity in Ulver's work.
I find that the formula approach heard in tracks 1-3 and 5 is rather unfortunate, since although Ulver explores a full range of textural possibilities with that form, it definitely feels as though it gets old fast, and certain moments amongst those tracks are definitively better than others. (See the hyper-speed V-drums on The Future Sound of Music, and the return of the loud, close-miked breakbeat in Lost in Moments especially after that thickly sentimental soprano-sax solo, which is a good idea frustratingly misapplied.)
Also, the fact that the thick layer of reverb on much of the vocal and instrumental textures is somewhat oppressive, although thankfully not present throughout the entire album. Certain tracks, through a combination of the low volume, high mixed piano and the general production, get a very intimate, chamber feel, an astonishing job of production for an album with as many electronic elements as this does. But in many cases, the reverb feels overdone and the atmospheric ambition of the album is somewhat broken.
I was forced to reconsider Perdition City after hearing Shadows of the Sun, which uses the same levels of reverb and acoustic piano to achieve a different atmospheric affect. In many ways, Shadows of the Sun is a low-energy opposite to Perdition City's sometimes-repressed, nervous energy, although I've definitely found that Ulver's gotten better compositional grasp of their electro-acoustic craft over the years of soundtracks and EPs, Perdition City seems very well polished, though the downside is, perhaps at the expense of some of the diversity of texture and form they continue to achieve.
Perdition City.. Seen by some as a confusing slab of electronica, others as a masterpiece, others as a pretentious attempt to be moody and creepy. Hearing these very varied comments left me eagerly awaiting what I assumed would be something crazy and generally whacked out, maybe a (more) electronic version of Blood Inside. Unfortunately, this record is a lot tamer then I expected, but it's still got a nice atmosphere and is a somewhat enjoyable slab of noir-ish electronica, with a bit of variety here and there.
The whole 'trapped in a city' vibe has been commented on by a few reviewers, and that's definitely here, no doubt. I definitely feel that this would be a great soundtrack for Sin City or something like that. There's plenty of spookay strings and brass here and there, and in some songs, like Dead City Centres, all attempts at being subtle are thrown out the window and there's a big movie style voice over going on about 'The Underworld' while a brass section squeals away underneath. However, don't start thinking that it's all a one track, one atmosphere sort of album. Porn Piece starts of all solemn and minor key, before Garm comes in with some quite soulful singing. It's probably the best song on here, very atmospheric, but balancing the atmosphere with enough sound and melody to keep you interested. You've then got tracks like The Future Sound of Music, which start of all ambient and relaxing, before exploding into a pretty huge, industrial-infused climax.
Yeah, there's lots of variety here and for the most part it's really well executed. There's a few problems here, though. Actually, there's only one problem, but it's a very big, very annoying problem. Put simply- the samples are REALLY FREAKING BAD. I don't think I've ever heard drums sound this bad. They sound like they were played on a ancient casio keyboard.Just because you're using a drum machine doesn't mean that you don't have to use decent samples! Unfortunately, the poor samples extend to other areas of the music too, whether it's the poor, thin piano, the synthetic, weak strings, and just most areas of the music in general.
Still. despite the somewhat poor sampling here there's a lot going for it. While most later Ulver efforts seem to suffer from an apparent lack of songwriting here and there, this album is quite focused. Unlike some of their EPs, Ulver don't wander off half way into a song. That's not to say that this is structured like a pop song- I don't think there's any verse/chorus kind of stuff here. Nonetheless, the songs move onward with a purpose and direction that definitely lacks in some of Ulver's later period stuff
This isn't quite the strange, mind-bending bit of music I'd hoped for. Nonetheless, it's a solid, inspired piece of electronica which is surprisingly atmospheric and bleak. If you want amazing electronica then I'm afraid this isn't it, but it's a good album nonetheless.
Ulver are a band who are known for drastically changing their music nowadays. However, i was blissfully unaware of this change until i came across this record, 'Perdition City'. I had only heard two of Ulver's full-lengths, those being 'Nattens Madrigal' and 'Bergtatt' before i came across this one. Before i discovered Black Metal by sheer chance a couple of years ago, i was an avid fan of electronica and all things industrial, so when i finally heard 'Perdition City' so it wasn't exactly like i had come into new and unfound musical territory.
It could be argued that Ulver have been somewhat unsuccessful since the days, which by now are long gone, when the band produced an innovative and influential style of Black Metal. However, it could also be argued that 'Perdition City' was unlike its followers due to the fact that it achieved mild success. By the time of this release, Ulver had been well established in folklore and were continuously striving to maintain, or beat what they had already set in the past. Its fair to say many fans of the band were somewhat disheartened by the road Ulver seemed to be struggling down. However, with an expanding fanbase Ulver pressed on to new adventures and new musical genres.
As previously stated, i am not new to the genre which 'Perdition City' had decided to follow. At the time which i found this full-length, i was currently in the search of an innovative and relaxing ambient piece, and that is certainly what i found here. Ulver's members showcase their talents at full view on this full-length. Each song is its own. Very stylish and highly unique from the next. None have merged together to form some sort of inaccessible chorus of misshapen noise. This is probably the first time i realised what a talent Garm was on vocals. I always knew the potential was there, but he has finally let loose his caged talents. His voice is soft, heart warming and easy to listen to. 'Perdition City' is the perfect solution to a stress filled day, or a night time of conceptual thinking.
Melodic, ambient and at sometimes dark, there is a lot packed into this album. When bands tag their music as 'Experimental' i'm often left wandering why i specifically search out experimental bands if they all come under the same tag. Most aren't experimental at all. However, Ulver are. This album showed many artists the way in terms of creating music which was truly experimental. No repetitive cheese or substandard beats, instead we have a cutting edge piece of music. Steady, controlled and relaxing for the most part.
Ulver fuses several different genres into one album. From Jazz to Techno. From sweeping Electronica to a tidal wave of Industrial music. With the introduction of the piano, trumpets and synths Ulver manage to lift the life and soul out of the listeners body and transport their minds to a dimension unknown where one can relax and enjoy life without having to worry about tomorrow.
Essential for anyone who wants to hear, as Ulver put it, 'The Future Sound of Music'.
It wouldn't make much sense, really. But regardless of that, Ulver's a band/project that has gone through what you may call "monumental" changes in their music over the 15+ years it has been active. What started as a black/folk metal project seemingly morphed into a nighttime folk ensemble, and transformed into a raw and primitive black metal creature over the course of 2 years. The changes continued with the highly experimental and very well thought-out Themes, which managed to fuse elements of metal with electronica exceptionally well, and weave 27 plates worth of theology into two discs.
Now we come to this, something more suited to an independent film, or maybe something more akin to a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals at a coffee shop, debating on who has the bigger brain instead of another body part. But even though this album gives out the air of faux-superiority, there is no way in hell this album can be denied. This album is brilliance. Pure and utter brilliance. Gone are the traces of metal, and in are drum samples, piano lines, trumpets, strange synth sounds, and even a jazz breakdown of awesome proportions. To say that nothing like this has ever been done by a metal band would be stating the obvious. No metal band DID something like this before, and thanks to this album, legions of bands have come to experiment with many different styles of music like never before.
But leaving the amount of influence this album has had on the metal scene, it's just a beautiful album. Each track sounds like it was specifically made for scenes in a movie. But this isn't your normal type of movie-music, drowned in the background while you watch some retard actor/actress cry or something. This is the type of modern music you would expect to listen to in many parts of the world, yet the subtleties and strangeness weaved throughout the album makes these nine songs stand out like that brainy left handed kid in your 3rd grade class with the glasses. Garm and co. did a hell of a job thinking this through, placing every instrument at just the correct spot, giving each song an atmosphere of its own. None of the songs feel the same, giving the album a sort of 'what to expect next' feel, like a great novel. This isn't just a music record. This album is what Virgil's Aeneid is to literature scholars, it is a testament to what 3 brilliant minds can do. And I know many metal fans may not like this album, but that is just fine. This album isn't for the average metal fan. This album is for anyone who can appreciate very well done music.
This band is so strange. They went from folk metal to folk to black metal to experimental as hell metal to this. And they would just keep evolving after this. And prior to the release of Blood Inside, they hadn't made a single bad release (that review coming at a later date).
It's difficult to describe this music...it's kinda ambient electronic jazz bluesy techno. You know it's interesting when it takes that much do describe it, and you also know it completely sucks or completely rocks. Fortunately, the latter is true here. This is some great stuff for any situation, great laid back driving music, good walking music (atmosphere on an average day), great light listening, amazing heavy listening, this has it all.
The album goes through three distinct phases, which I find curious but it's irrelevant. The first is a kinda melancholic, jazzy, bluesy feel, very much laid back. The opener "Lost in Moments" shows this perfectly. The highlight is the sax solo throughout, which adds an amazing amount of flair to the music, especially since it isn't cheesy. It has a fairly simple beat, but the music is layered tremendously which makes it fun to listen to. The next piece "Porn Piece..." continues the trend with a very laid-back feel that focuses more on grooving than anything else. It has some nice melancholic piano and some great singing by Garm. If I were to introduce anyone to the band (non-metalhead), this would be the piece to do it with. It's very catchy and very fun to listen to. I coulda done without the silent section between the beginning part and where the singing comes in, but it's fairly short.
Now starts the transition to the next phase. Hallway of Always retains some of that meloncholic laid-back bluesy feel is the prior to pieces, but this time goes in a more techno direction with the song. I find this to be good, an album that's too same-y is not a good album (says the man who likes Bonded in Blood). The highlight of this song is the drifting piano behind the heavy beat which adds so much to the song with simple melodies. I would never have though techno and somber moody piano could have worked so well together. I mean, for christ's sake, this could be the backing beat to a rap song just as easily, but in the hands of a good band, wonders are worked.
After this transition piece is Tomorrow Never Knows, which is probably the most techno piece on the album. It's got a very dark feel to it. It's all one tempo, and some may find it repetitive (I did say it was the most techno piece on here...zing!). However, Ulver changes up the layering, the beats and the sounds more than enough to provide for fun listening. Trust me, I know. I've listened to this song quite a bit. Only complaint is that the song ends with two minutes of soft ambient noise...well, it's notes, but it's so minimalistic and inefficient as a fadeout. It's a waste of time.
The Future Sound of Music does indeed sound like futuristic techno, with a meloncholic feel all throughout. The soft piano part goes on a bit too long, but it's not bad. It's a very ear-pleasing song...at least until the beat comes in, and then it's chaos, that barely sounds contained. It works, but not as well as the rest of the album.
We Are The Dead marks the third stage of the album (semi-creepy, noisy, not too musical), and is the first skip-button worthy track. It's a semi-creepy effects-fest with Garm whispering some creepy stuff in your ears. It's kinda cool the first time through, and I'm sure in the right mood (under drugs?) it would be really really cool. Not to me. Dead City Centres starts with four minutes of noise, followed by a pseudo-jazz beat with what sounds like an advertisement for a rollercoaster in the background. Kinda trippy. The only redeeming part of this song is the piano/jazz section at the end. Skip-worthy.
Catalept. Let's take the most sampled thing in hip-hop, ever, the theme from Psycho, put a vapid, unfulfilling beat behind it and repeat for two minutes. Boring. Suck. Filler.
Last song is Nowhere/Catastrophe. I think I actually heard some normal instruments in this one, but that's a moot point. Now, Garm doesn't have very good pitch, as is painfully obvious during this song at some parts of this song (yes, I can talk, I have perfect pitch), but as always, his vocals work. Garm always did sound a bit under to me...anyway, this is a great song, and a fitting close. It actually has guitars and bass in it too. Amazing.
So, the first and second stage of this album are amazing, while the third stage as barely above horrid. I would say I hope Ulver becomes a little more consistent, in the future, but...well, they don't. Still, this album is awesome enough to merit the 80 score. And it's possibly my favorite Ulver album.
This is probably the best electronic based album I've heard. No cheesy steady beats and barely-changing extremely repetitive tones present in so much techno/trance stuff today. But if you're reading this chances are you aren't one who's into that. While this certainly isn't Ulver's most experimental, (That goes to "Themes from William Blake's...") it remains their most solid work to date. This is much different from "Themes" Very melodic and calm songs, but not too calm to be labeled ambient like some of their other releases. Even though some parts are ambient. There is a lot of electonic rhythms but they are never repetitive.
The CD kicks off with "Lost in Moments" a nice beat which suddenly turns into a soft piano and saxophone harmony and keeps switching and mixing back and forth. When you hear the word Saxophone you might think it is incredibly cheesy, but Ulver know how to make it anything except that. This song also has some vocals, most of them near the end. They aren't very common, probably half the songs have vocals.
Most songs have piano, a lot of electronic beats and a significant amount of real drumming, and a lot of melodic and not-so-melodic electronic sounds that drift in and out and in between the songs. Sometimes real guitars are used too. Some parts are just so groovy you cant help but tap your fingers... especially the last minute or so of "Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses." Songs change a lot and keep flowing brilliantly and most songs have an awesome climax somewhere.
Some songs are a bit different. "We are the Dead" is a very eerie and slow with Garm whispering into your ear overlapping the subtle distorted radio frequencies. Following that is "Dead City Centres," the first part is the most ambiant on the CD with high frequency beeps and distant sounds. The second half is a freaky narration of some sort with crazy saxophones... kind of hard to explain, then fades out into a beautiful uplifting piano melody for a few seconds. The last song, "Nowhere/Catastrophe" is where the most vocals are found.
While listening to this I always picture walking around in a big city with lots of neon lights at night. I should actually try to do that sometime, but I'd probably look like a moron and start taking steps in synch with the rhythm. I think of going into subways, glass buildings, all sorts of things. The photos inside kind of help that imagery along.
This album probably makes the best introduction to Ulver's electronic works. It is experimental in its own way but not compared to a lot of their other stuff, and shouldnt be that hard if you have an open mind...
For my conclusion I will quote the back of the cd case. "This is music for the stations before and after sleep. Headphones and darkness recommended." This is very true, if you listen to it with these two conditions it is more worthwhile.