Norway - Full Moon 204 - 04/25/13
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 47
Center Of The Universe: Levitating Disk
(2010 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0047.CD)
Ulver: Wars Of The Roses
(2011 Jester Records TRICK-047)
Welcome to round 47 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records!
Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going
through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other.
Humorously counting goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
Levitating Disk is is presented in a double fold-out digipack with a poster and insert.
The Ulver comes in a jewel case and includes a booklet with art and info.
Mr. Sissyfus is back with another C.O.U. offering, an album with songs "recorded between year 99 and year 9".
Clearly time is on his side! This being his tenth album or so in ten years, besides his involvement wiht
most other Metronomicon releases, is nothing but impressive. The experience he has gained in the studio
through the years makes the songs on this album flow effortlessly, and it would also be fair to say that
his singing has improved since the early Metronomicon days. The collection of songs on Levitating Disk
are mostly of the upbeat kind, even the reflective melancholy in some lyrics seems to be portrayed more colourful than grey.
The arrangements are all ear-friendly, making this album even more enjoyable than 2009's fine Apokryfa. A lot of
small sounds of synthetic or organic origin either popping out in front of the listener or floating around in the background,
but it's still mostly a mellow and relaxed album, even when things go rapid, it feels light.
To sum it up: I would say this is the best C.O.U. album so far. Good songs, and there's a friendly vibe throughout.
Somewhat surprising, or perhaps not, Ulver signed to UK progressive rock label Kscope/Snapper Music for the release of their 2011 album Wars Of The Roses.
After years of more or less obscure releases that mostly dedicated fans bought, it is understandable that they decided to
try for a wider audience. The time for that was certainly ripe. This of course also meant streamlining their music in some ways, and to a certain degree,
at least compared to their most experimental releases. So welcome to the most accessible Ulver album this far.
Quite a few musicians have also joined to help out: Trond Mjøen (Euro Boys, Haraball, Mirror Lakes - guitar, bass), Steve Noble (Rip Rig and Panic & lots
of others - drums), Stian Westerhus (Bladed, Jaga Jazzist, Lasse Marhaug - guitar), Alex J Ward (clarinet), Daniel Quill (violin), Attila Csihar (Mayhem++, vocals),
Siri Stranger (vocals), Emil Huemer (guitar), Anders Møller (Euro Boys, Gluecifer, Kåre & The Cavemen, Kitchie Kitchie Ki Me O, My Midnight Creeps - percussion),
Stephen Thrower (clarinet), Tomas Pettersen (drums), and Ole Alexander Halstensgård (electronics).
The album kicks off with "February MMX", a mid-tempo melancholy rocker with a steady beat, rather slick and light, leaning towards melodic progpop.
"Norwegian Gothic" is more atmospheric, hinting towards the dark ambience of Shadows of the Sun,
but the somewhat steady drumming makes it more accessible. "Providence" is a mellow piano ballad, slow and cinematic, the clarinet solo
and wide orchestral soundscape creates a feeling of a large scene production, very adult entertainment-like. "September IV"
goes deep into melancholy soft progressive rock ballad territory, but we get a backwards guitar solo instead an expected spheric one,
turning the song into a faster synth-based spacerock theme before fading into echoing guitar feedback, slick though.
"England" fills the room with mid-tempo heavy drumming alongside calm piano tones and a monk-like choir, while
the more reflective "Island" sets the scene for the album's grand finale, the 15 minute long "Stone Angels",
which goes slowly forward with church organs, other sound bites floating in and out, along with spoken word vocals. Like listening to a poem
recitated over reverberant and lightly experimental jazz-ambience. Well, you can't call this going commercial. I must admit that I had hoped for
an album with more traces of the music found on their William Blake album, more rock when I heard this being released on Kscope.
But it's slightly disappointing that the album feels somewhat lackluster and ultimately a bit boring.
To sum it up: A rather unremarkable album, and a little disappointing step into the realm of atmospheric neo-progressive, which this album is being billed as,
but it's still Ulver's most accessible and listener-friendly album so far.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 4 () - Jester Records 3 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Cyrano Armageddon release Club Soda 2012 from Metronomicon Audio which is up against
the When release Misshimmisshimmisshim... from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2013 Knut Tore Breivik