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Is it beautiful.. Like Music? - 75%

caspian, September 27th, 2007

Ulver's strange, twisting career has become so damn strange and twisted that the unexpected has become expected and vice versa. After the super layered, cacophonous prog-rock of Blood Inside, it was expected that Ulver would do something mellow and low-key. Of course, because that was expected, it was therefore logical that Ulver would do something even more chaotic then Blood Inside. So, Ulver did the unexpected thing and did a mellow album. Or something.

..But anyway, yes, this is another change in Ulver's career. Perhaps they've been listening to a lot of Sigur Ros's () , as this album seems to be a homage to it, but with a few trumpets added. Regardless, this album is pretty good, although like most post-nattens Ulver there's a lack of coherency and focus in some areas, and the album suffers as a result.

However, when these guys manage to, well, write a song, it's really sweet stuff. Eos is very reminiscent of Sigur Ros, a super slow organ line shimmering in the background, with some strings slowly coming in while Garm's deep man-vocals float around in the mix. Solitude has some pretty cheesy lyrics but it's a great cover, sounding like a really depressing lounge music song. The piano noodlings on Like Music are also really good, with Garm again shining in this song. Those hoping for operatic vocals in this album are going to be extremely disappointed- Garm sings in baritone for basically the entire time. Still, these vocals fit the low key and personal nature of the songs, and they sound excellent with all of the slow burning strings and piano figures.

Unfortunately, despite all the good vocals and slow motion prettiness, there's problems in this album. Ulver simply don't seem content to write a song and leave it at that, instead we get a heap of somewhat pointless instrumentation, irritating changes in mood, and some songs just don't really sound complete. All for Love has a terrific start, with a choir of Garms singing all angelically, and the faster bit sounds good first up, but then they drop in a heap of ill-fitting piano that just completely spoils the mood. Vigil goes from a lovely, soft piano driven tune into a psychedelic drone thing. Now, I love my psychedelic drone, and it sounds good on it's own, but it's abrupt and really spoils the mood. The title track never really settles into anything concrete, wandering around aimlessly for 4 and a half minutes and then ending. Another problem is that every song is really slow, and there's not a lot here to keep the listener all that interested- there's not really any upbeat moments at all. That's fine for things like drone doom, but it's hard to take 9 songs of soft spoken balladry in a row. Good for night listening and relaxing, but that's about it.

Don't get me wrong though, this is a pretty solid album. When Ulver execute their songs properly it sounds amazing, and even when they misstep it's not that offensive. Basically, they took a good idea and for the most part executed it well. Some great songs and some frustrating songs. You should buy it- just keep the skip button handy.