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Ulver - Drone Activity CD (album) cover

DRONE ACTIVITY

Ulver

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.54 | 8 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
3 stars My first thought on hearing this album was "Wait. This is the same band that did The Assassination of Julius Caesar in 2017?" I guess the title and the very apt artwork should've hinted that this would be a bit different.

As well-executed as Drone Activity is, I'd probably be more impressed if I wasn't already familiar with early Tangerine Dream or with Klaus Schulze's 1970s output. Certainly the twenty-two-minute centerpiece "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" is Schulzian, and while the rest of the album doesn't sound precisely like 1970s ambient Krautrock, it resembles it in spirit. For example, compared to "Twenty Thousand," "Blood, Fire, Woods, Diamonds" is more obviously constructed using virtual instruments on a DAW, but nonetheless, it's a seemingly endless loop with minor variations.

Similarly, although swaths of the opening and closing works ("True North" and "Exodus") are more atmospheric and more amorphous than the middle tracks, it all fits. And it's pretty spacey. Listening to Drone Activity, I get the feeling once in a while that an Ozrics tune or a Barrett-era Pink Floyd number is right around the corner - - although much more frequently, I get the sense that whatever loop I'm currently experiencing is truly endless, and I begin to wonder whether I'm imagining tiny deviations or actually hearing them.

Like Ulver's last full-length album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Drone Activity is unspectacular but good. But that's about the only point of similarity. The Assassination of Julius Caesar was popular music: verses and choruses, melodies and rhythms, lyrics and hooks - - that sort of thing. Drone Activity is art music. Rarely does it allude to any sort of traditional western form, and then only vaguely (e.g., parts of the middle and end of "Exodus"). And whereas The Assassination of Julius Caesar was quite evidently a group effort, much of Drone Activity is so focused as to suggest a single vision. And its resemblance to a studio-assembled work further strengthens the sense I get of Drone Activity is the product of a single artist.*

Anyway, this is a good album. The most obvious downside is its length; although I'm not aware of a vinyl LP release, the four songs here are each roughly an LP side long; this is, in effect a double album. And like so many double albums, it might've been better as a single album - - in particular, I can imagine the interior tracks ("Twenty Thousand" and "Blood, Fire") constituting a unified, thirty- or forty-minute work.

Although Ulver is listed as a post-rock group, I'd recommend Drone Activity to anyone interested in a modern take on the spacey side of 1970s Krautrock.

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*According to Ulver's bandcamp page, my sense is wrong; via intentionally imprecise language, Drone Activity is presented as a live album performed by a group.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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