Ulver is probably best known for the 1997 black metal opus Nattens Madrigal, a release so over-the-top that even the Black Metal Hordes were left scratching their heads (while banging them, of course). With the exception of one very brief acoustic interlude, Nattens Madrigal is a textbook example of extreme metal gone extremely wrong. Scorched vocals collide with frenetic buzzsaw guitar attacks, savagely stitched together by terrorist blast beats. Part of the mythos surrounding Nattens Madrigal is that the production was intentionally flawed, a migraine-inducing mess of low-fi devastation, a burst of pure evil so raw that to this day fans perpetuate the myth that it was recorded in a forest.
Few could have guessed that after releasing three highly acclaimed “black metal” albums, Ulver would permanently disappear from the metal scene and refocus all of their energies to electronica. Teachings In Silence is a collection of two out of print EPs, Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing, both released in limited editions in 2001. Teachings In Silence is headphone music for the paranoid and delusional. Beautiful ritual soundscapes are delicately layered over a bed of static and distorted, almost grunge-like, guitar licks. An occasional piano melody punctuates a diseased thought. One literally falls into a trance of sorts, gets lost in a tone or hidden rhythm, and the album is over.
I cannot recommend this album enough for fans of ambient music. What strikes me as remarkable is that one cannot tell which aspects of the music are electronic and which aren’t, and ultimately the listener could care less. What is clear is that unlike so many electronic artists, Ulver has an acute understanding of composition and is more than qualified to lead the listener on a musical journey. Every crackle and hiss, the sound of a skipping record, feedback, every sound element feels like it was created for a purpose. Teachings In Silence is, quite simply, a remarkable release.
This review was originally written for MusicWerks Magazine Issue #3, published in August of 2004.
For a full list of reviews written by Erik Tomren and published in Musicwerks Magazine, please see the following:
- Suicide Commando: [Cause Of Death: Suicide] [One Nation Under God]. Issue #3.
- Ulver: Teachings in Silence (review). Issue #3.
- Ulver: A Quick Fix of Melancholy (review). Issue #3.
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