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Ulver - Silence Teaches You How to Sing CD (album) cover

SILENCE TEACHES YOU HOW TO SING

Ulver

Post Rock/Math rock


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Trickster F.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Experimental Electronic teaches Garm how to sing.

Fans are often anxious to see their favourite group develop, releasing albums that sound nothing like each other. However, at times their loved ones go to far in their experiment and this is when the opinions start to differ dramatically. Controversy surrounding the release of Silence Teaches You How to Sing was the reason for choosing this album to review.

The album consists of only one track clocking at over 24 minutes and this is, technically speaking, the longest track in Ulver's career, as A Song of Liberty from Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which was over 26 minutes in length but most of which was pure silence. Be warned though, as this isn't exactly your average Progrock epic - minimalistic, bizarre and unconventional - those are some of the words to describe this monster. Like I have mentioned before, this album shows the artist's disdain towards normal, usual song structure and also Ulver's departure from their earlier efforts. By the time of their respective release, Themes... and Perdition City showed the group at its most experimental sound. However, this EP puts all those previous efforts to shame when it comes to experimentation.

Ulver's official website classifies this album as "Glitch/improv." I am not exactly what one would call an Electronic music guru, so I made a little research to find out what Glitch music is all about. Strangely, the description fits my entire notion of modern Electronic music: influenced by Ambient and Industrial, including scratching and usage of damaged CDs. If the last sentence scares you, then I am afraid this is not for you - the composition of the CD is eccentric and chaotic. The track is mostly based on disturbing sounds and effects, used sparingly in order to create a dark atmosphere. The songwriting doesn't hurry anywhere and the whole composition moves slowly. Fortunately for us all, about 6-7 parts including instruments at sometimes even Garm's voice are thrown into the track. There are parts with dark, melancholic piano, followed by an uplifting part with flutes, parts with Garm singing either creating an eerie vibe or, on the countrary, making an amusing vocal performance which is his queerest in career, as well as few parts that sound like a logical continuation to Perdition City. The parts themselves repeat a few times before the theme is changed and the track continues its eccentric musical journey taking the listener with it. The transition between the parts is not achieved well and I suspect that this was exactly the point. The songwriting, supposedly improvised, lacks complexity and is more minimalistic than anything. If there hadn't been any of the more accessible parts, I'm afraid the album would have seemed completely unmusical and pointless even to the most open-minded listener.

This is, in my opinion, Ulver's second best EP after A Quick Fix of Melancholy and easily the most exciting of the two Silence EPs. I would not suggest anyone starting his introduction with this release as it is as unaccessible as music gets and does not represent the grouo well enough(having read this sentence, Ulver's biggest fans will probably ask me: "and what does?" I know, I know...). However, those of you who are already keen on this group's music, do not make a mistake by ignoring this record! Unfortunately, this album has been sold out a long time ago and now it is easier to find it in the shape of the Teachings in Silence compilation, which also includes the fellow EP Silencing the Singing. All the music from both EPs are featured on the compilation in their entirety, so do not worry: by buying the compilation you are not missing out on a single second of music!

Report this review (#76282)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars An epic of small proportions.

Ulver's escapades into minimalism went all out in their 2 EP's, notably so on this one. It is an entirely experimental experiment, with heavy emphasis on experiment. Sounds are not melodic (with the exception of the piano) and the piece is entirely unconventional, with little to no connection between any of the parts. Combined with this is an eerie mood from sounds that should well never be heard on a musical record, scratches and electronic "mistakes" turned into song.

Contrary to what might appear, there is some singing here and there, but it is so few and far between and contains little to no purpose. The record is almost intentionally designed to be off putting by the extreme nature of experimentation to it. The minimalism prevents any kind of song development, and will be extremely off putting to many. I certainly would not suggest you listen to this while driving, as it's likely to confuse you. Overall this is yet another chapter in the book of Ulver, one filled with artistic expression as its center. I prefer the other Silence EP over this one, although this one is much more experimental.

Report this review (#98391)
Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Moving from black and folk metal to instrumental and moody soundtracks, at this point Ulver had finally come out into an electronic style. When they released their acclaimed and excellent 'Perdition City', everyone was interested in where they would go next. However, during the sessions for that album, Kristoffer Rygg was experimenting around with taking things to a subtle and ambient place, and during that time, recorded music that was not intended for that album, but was to be released separately, mainly because of the ambient and experimental nature of the music. This music filled up two EPs and it was decided to release them in limited editions. Since that time, the demand to make them more readily available, the two EPs were combined onto one disc (called 'Teachings in Silence', again in a limited edition, which was later released more widely a few years later. However, the two separate EPs have since been made available for download in 2013 and are now easily available on Bandcamp.

'Silence Teaches You How to Sing' is one of these two EPs. On this one, there is only one long track with the same name as the EP. This track, however, is obviously made up of shorter sections that pass along through time like a lesson in how to make a combination of music and atmosphere come together in new and interesting ways. The first 5 minutes is quite atmospheric and less structured, but all the while, it is interesting and meaningful while being moody and colorful. After a while, keys tend to pick up a repeating melody with less of a free form feel, but glitchy noise and interesting sounds keep it sounding like it is moving forward. More textural changes continue, but each change is built upon some type of structure, sometimes more noticeable than others. Even broken pieces of vocal sounds are added in and for a short time, tend to lead the passage of time as it continues on, but then a smoothly phrased wordless vocal loop is produced while glitches and short musical phrases play. As usual with this EP though, change is inevitable.

Both EPs use both repetition and unpredictability together very effectively. However, while 'Silence the Singing' relies more on longer repetitions and has a slightly more structured feel to it, 'Silence Teaches You How to Sing' tends to have more variation in its single track that lasts just over 24 minutes. However, there is much less dynamic inflection in this EP, but that doesn't mean it isn't just as interesting. On this EP, you can expect more change in texture and style as it can happen more often, where on the companion EP, the three songs are distinct and more focused. Either way, the ambience/noise is effective and brilliant, and just like the other EP, this is better experienced through headphones. If it is still possible to get the combined EPs on one album (which, by the way, is called 'Teachings in Silence'), then that is the best way to get them, as they tend to work better together. But, if not, then definitely download the two EPs and put them together into one experience.

Report this review (#2310014)
Posted Monday, January 27, 2020 | Review Permalink

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