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Ulver - ATGCLVLSSCAP CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

4.03 | 45 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Ulver, of course, is a band that has no specific style, other than art rock, only because that is the closest anyone can come to giving their style of music a name. Never a band to stick with any one single style, the only genre they could fit under is progressive rock. Always unpredictable, yet almost always producing and creating the best music possible. They are probably the most diverse band out there. Yet, not many people know who they are, even with an impressive discography as they have.

The album 'ATGCLVLSSCAP' is no exception. The title is derived from the first letter of the signs of the zodiac. The music on this album is considered 'free form'. All of the music is improvised and recorded live during one of their recent tours. The improvisations are all based on previous songs released by Ulver from various albums. The band collected the best of their free form experiments for the album and in the process, created new songs out of old songs.

The first track is 'England's Hidden' which is very drone like and atmospheric. It is based off of the track 'England' from 'The War of the Roses'. Vocal samples are used and manipulated to create the drone-like feel of the track. 'Glammer Hammer' is more upbeat and more traditional than the last track. It is an improvisation from 'Glamor Box' from 'Messe I.X ' VI.X'. This recording is excellent and dramatic full of strength and extremely dynamic. I have never heard a 'newly realized' song to sound so good, especially improvised. Amazing. 'Moody Stix' is based off of samples of 'Doom Sticks' from 'A Quick Fix of Melancholy'. This is another dramatic and cinematic track. The percussion drives the track which is excellent and so is the overall mood of the piece.

'Cromagnosis' takes it's sweet time to establish itself with atmospheric and psychedelic sounds, but it all culminates eventually in a rhythmic and melodic track eventually. When it does, it feels like coming out of a forest into daylight. It is very krautrock sounding when it settles into it's spacey groove. There is a sudden change at the 6 minute mark, a more frantic beat and bass line take over, almost reminding one of early 'Hawkwind' instrumentals. Everything speeds up during the last minute and then stops like everyone has fallen to the floor exhausted.

'The Spirits That Lend Strength Are Invisible' is a shorter, experimental track. The sounds at the foreground are harsh and metallic, but in the background you can hear a melody playing, but it is mostly drowned out by the noises in the foreground. This one is a spooky sounding track, but is homage to the talent and imagination of the band. 'Om Hanumate Namah' utilizes soundscapes that can remind one of being in the cold arctic, standing at the top of the world listening to the sounds reflecting off of the surface of the Earth and echoing back to you. After 2 minutes, percussion kicks in and there are distant whispered vocals (whispering the title of the track) along with a nice guitar that has a very distinctive mid-Eastern flair. Again, the hints of krautrock become apparent. It grows in intensity as it continues. It might seem repetitive, but that is only if you listen to it on it's surface. Deep down in the mix, there is a lot of activity going on. Only those paying attention will notice.

'Desert Dawn' builds slowly on soft sounds that could actually be sounds of the dawn approaching on the desert. As the volume increases, you start to pick up new sounds and textures. This track is very hypnotic. You could easily get lost in this sound. All of the sounds eventually get lost in the sound of sustained notes from an organ. After it fades some, it comes back very orchestral and majestic. Beautiful! 'D-Day Drone' is a soft drone, possibly created by syths I believe, is layered under a mysterious sounding instrument, something like a processed sitar and guitar feedback, but staying ambient and sparse-like. I swear I can hear voices or singing way down deep inside the drone. Eventually, you will hear voices being transmitted just keep listening closely. 'Gold Beach' is a 5 minute, ambient electronic piece, very pensive and quiet.

'Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen)' is a rearrangement of 'Nowhere/Catastrophe' from the album 'Perdition City'. It is quite a surprise as it is the first track on the album to have lyrics. The vocals are probably the most perfected vocals that Kristoffer Rygg has ever recorded. They are sung at full voice, no whispers or subdued vocals. This is probably the closest thing to a radio friendly track on the album. It even has the majestic flair of some of the best Pink Floyd songs. 'Ecclesiastes (A Vernal Catnip)' is a reimagining of parts of 'Tomorrow Never Comes' also from 'Perdition City'. There are spoken vocals in another language. It is driven by a beautiful piano loop and swirling ambient sounds. Later, Kristoffer sings in English, the lyrics are the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I think that the melody might be improvised, but it is melodic enough that it is hard to tell and could easily be composed, not improvised. The vocals are surprisingly emotional. 'Solaris' is a short 2 minute epilogue to the album. It is a atmospheric piece, with processed effects and sounds. Very peaceful and calming.

This album reveals new things everytime you listen to it. Every new realization and improvisation completely re-writes the source material that it comes from. If there is such a thing as Progressive Remixes, this is it. Everything about this album is new, even if it came from older sources. You can call this hypnotic, psychedelic, art rock, avant-prog, ambient, or whatever and you are right in all cases. The final result of this experment results in a dynamic, ever changing landscape of music that is exciting and new everytime you listen to it. I would go so far as to say this is one of the best Ulver albums in my opinion, and with the range of their discography, that says a lot. There is so much variety here among the tracks, and a surprise at every turn. And there is plenty of variety so that there is something here for everyone. This is an experiement that can be considered a huge success. Ulver continues to surprise and excel at almost everything they do. Their output has not always been perfect, but it has always been intriguing if nothing else, but this one is close enough to perfect to be 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |


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