House of Mythology proudly presents the new Ulver gatefold double album vinyl (also available on CD), with over 80 minutes worth of material. This album consists of multitracked and studio-enhanced live, mostly improvisational, rock and electronic soundscapes, 2/3 of which has never been heard before.
In Newton’s basic laws of motion – those which lie at the heart of modern physics – the paradox stands that constant velocity is essentially as natural as being at rest. True to form, in the now twenty-two-year-old life of Ulver, only one constant has remained, that being a forward-driving spirit that has moved this mercurial Norwegian-based collective forever through challenges and adventure anew, irrespective of reductive genre pigeonholing. Moreover, their latest voyage into the unknown is no different, marking another new chapter for an outfit characterised by wild and inspiring unpredictability, along with a fresh triumph for one of modern music’s most iconoclastic forces.
The basis for ATGCLVLSSCAP – which the band has been working with under the moniker ‘12’ – arrives from recordings made at twelve different live shows that Ulver performed in February 2014, in which band the band vaulted into the deep end of an improvisatory approach to their performance. As Kristoffer Rygg, the prime mover of the band since its inception puts it wryly, “The tour was to be an experiment, kind of loose and scary for a band as ‘set in their ways’ as us.”
Although the line-up for these shows remained similar to that on 2012’s psychedelic covers album Childhood’s End, and the band had taken succour from the sounds and headspace they explored on that record, this was another break into new territory, using their live energy and spontaneity as the fuel for aural explorations that would surprise even the band themselves. “At the end of any album process, I can’t wait to do something else,” comments Rygg. ”So yeah, it is partly borne out of that feeling, being a bit bored with the circumstances. It was quite liberating to do something more in the moment. One night a jam could be five minutes, and the next it could be fifteen. We couldn’t have captured these songs in a studio environment.”
Once the tour was over, it was down to his bandmate Daniel O’Sullivan to take charge of these multitrack recordings, sculpting and editing hours of material in his North London enclave, formerly owned by charismatic artist and Coil associate, the sadly departed Ian Johnstone – as O’Sullivan noted, “The hungry ghosts of the now empty house appear to be burrowing into this record.” Anders Møller, Kristoffer Rygg and Tore Ylwizaker got involved a bit later, honing things from their end in Subsonic Society and Oak Hill Studios, Oslo, before the vinyl cutting process took place at THD Vinyl Mastering, also in Oslo, in which the band was fully involved in the crucial initial cut of the 14” lacquer. What resulted is the widescreen sweep and atmospheric splendour of ATGCLVLSSCAP, ultimately a piece of work that exists above and beyond any conventional live recording, rather a hallucinatory travelogue as potent an experience to bear witness to as it was to construct.
As always in the world of Ulver, influences are disparate and diverse, yet as Rygg notes, “It’s quite tributary in a way, there are clear nods to sounds from the past.” Many of these dwell in progressive, electronic and krautrock realms, heralding a lifelong love within the band for the music of the 70s – the fiery mantras of ‘Om Hanumate Namah’ and the motorik drive of ‘Cromagnosis’ draw an astral trajectory between the propulsion of Kraftwerk/Neu! and the ritualistic intensity of prime Amon Düül II, whilst the spirits of both Klaus Schulze and John Carpenter are audible in the electronic soundscapes of ‘Desert/Dawn’, not to mention the Bernard Herrmann touch in the closing ‘Solaris’. Even when the band revisits an earlier gem from 2000’s Perdition City album, as on ‘Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen)’, its reinvigorated by their expansive and emotionally charged approach.
“We always feel like, independently of what kind of instrumentation we use, we’re still playing the same nocturnal stuff,” laughs Rygg. “There are a few motifs that keep recurring all the time in what we do, and if it’s in a rock form or an electronic form, it’s always there.” Yet as true as this may be, by shaking up their creative process, the band have summoned up a unique testimony to the creative power of a mighty force who remain blissfully free of genre or convention, ATGCLVLSSCAP is progressive in the truest sense of the word, a record that may be this capricious band’s pièce-de-resistance.
Our dear friend, composer Martin Romberg, has been keeping himself engaged, just having released his new CD of choir and a cappella music entitled Witch Mass, he is still working hard to transcribe older Norwegian gothic over at Raven Music Editions.
Hot off the press now: Second Ulver album to be put to paper, Kveldssanger, as well as another one some of you might be familiar with, and also from old friends of ours: Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse.
In Martin's own words:
"Ulver’s Kveldssanger from 1996 is the second album in Ulver's early 'trilogy' The Trilogie – Three Journeyes Through the Norwegian Netherworlde. It is a surprisingly calm, almost entirely acoustical voyage through the darker part of Norwegian rural fiction, featuring folk music played on classical guitars and vocal choirs that draw their inspiration from 15th century dissonant polyphony. One feels like being in distant northern forests during cold autumn nights, where only the shimmering of the bonfire keeps evil at a relative distance.
Despite its darkness and melancholy, the album’s innocent and positively naïve character created a school of its own among guitarists and singers. Its simplicity makes it perfectly suitable for performance at concerts and events."
Ulver, Oslo, December 7 2015
IN MEMORIAM IAN JOHNSTONE (1967—2015)
It is with heavy hearts we bring you news of the passing of Ian Johnstone: artist, agro-farmer, beekeeper, Coil affiliate and one-time Ulver collaborator.
Dearest Ian, we will always remember and hold you in the highest regard. We are thankful for the moments we had. May you sail with the honeybees for ever.
Our hearts go out to all of the bereaved, with deep sympathies to Daniel and Mikel and Serena, who are going through terrible times now. We mourn with you.
Ulver, Oslo, July 10 2015.
ONLY THEATRE OF PAIN
Belated new year's greetings (we know, we know). We have been in a bit of an exile, taking care of matters of heart, soul, family and friends, reading, writing (even thinking) and working with things not intrinsically related to our band. Making ends meet, finding new inspiration, as it happens. But we are back on the horse, laying down the finishing touches on a(nother) live document – which we have in fact been working with sporadically since last summer – Messe in concert at the distinguished Teatro Regio, Parma, Italy, November 16 2013, with talented Mg_Inc Orchestra and also featuring first lady of the ether, Pamelia Kurstin. Now we know we've been on a bit of a "live trip" lately, but we have to say this was a special night in our lives and we are super proud of how it has now been preserved for posterity. The session also features some 15 minutes of new music written and performed specifically for the scene and topped up with full orchestra versions of "Little Blue Bird" and "Eos". It should be available as deluxe double vinyl and other formats late autumn, incl. photos, poster, notes and sentiments by Italian music writer Antonello Cresti, author of Solchi sperimentali. Una guida alle musiche altre.
Perdition City (2000) has, after much ado, finally been given Orgone Studios' hi-end analogue treatment specifically aimed at the vinyl experience (going through similar processing as Ampullae's Silence [...] re-issue). 180 gram 2XLP edition including the hors d'oeuvre EP Metamorphosis from 1999 on side D. We will be back with a specific release date, pre-order etc., soon. Really sorry about the massive delay on this one folks, but those first test pressings did simply not hold the magic.
There's also another eye-popping mutant in the mix: last year Daniel took a few harddrives with multitracks from our "free rock" gigs with him back to Londinium; and although the material has been lying dormant in a year of heavy fur-grumbling, the man is now well into the business of pataphysical cut-ups and shall be assembling a new Frankenstein with way more hair – while we wrap things up in the North. Ulver can be like the dynamism of a fucking well-oiled machine sometimes. Demons, the music from the Norwegian National Theatre will have to wait for now. We need to get these beasts off our back to initiate our next full-bodied offering: The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Texts and themes are, as you can imagine, in the works.
More as it unravels. Wolves wish you a killer summer.
Ulver, Palazzo Apostolico, June 3 2015.
NOTHING BUT THE GALLOWS
Artist Nicolas Alberti has drawn up a medieval styled ink drawing, inspired by Messe, shirts with the motif are available from Neuropa now. A3 prints for connoisseurs here.
Now and then over the years we have been asked for notations to our music, and especially Shadows of the sun. None of us are schooled musicians and so we have passed on. We always made our music by way of intuition.
In 2012 we began working with musicologist and composer Martin Romberg, who arranged our commission Messe I.X–VI.X for orchestra – the opportunity presented itself. Martin told us he had been thinking about establishing a sheet music publishing imprint and that he wanted to score albums and groups that would typically fall off the classic song book racks.
We are honoured that this album – perhaps our most hymnal – is the first to be put to paper. Thank you, Martin. We welcome the raven.
Ulver, Oslo, December 12 2014.
RETROSPECTIVE BOX SETS VIA CENTURY MEDIA
The early black metal years of ULVER now completely remastered and compiled in a brazen 5CD box set and limited edition vinyl box. It contains the first three studio albums (Bergtatt, Kveldssanger and Nattens Madrigal), the Vargnatt demo plus a previously unreleased 4-track rehearsal from the Nattens Madrigal era. The latter is included as a separate cassette in the vinyl box set.
The box set comes with a 104-page booklet (32 page booklet with same content accompanies the vinyl box) filled to the brim with unpublished photos, comments by the band, liner notes by Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen (Head Not Found Records and Slayer Mag), Michael Moynihan (author of Lords Of Chaos) and Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor) as well as the original Norwegian lyrics and their English translations.
For further details, see the press release from Century Media below.
CENTURY MEDIA PRESS RELEASE
Trolsk Sortmetall 1993–1997 will be released in the following two formats:
Format 1: 5CD box
Format 2: 4LP + tape box set
CONTENTS OF THE CD BOX:
Hardcover 5CD box with 16-page booklet
CD 1: Vargnatt
CD 2: Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler
CD 3: Kveldssanger
CD 4: Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden
CD 5: Nattens Madrigal – 4 track rehearsal, summer 1995
Hardcover book with 104 pages of unpublished photos and paraphernalia, original Norwegian lyrics, presentations and their English translations, comments by the band as well as liner notes by Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen (founder of Head Not Found Records and the man behind Slayer Mag), Chris Bruni (Profound Lore Records), Michael Moynihan (author of Lords of Chaos) and Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor Press).
The 5CD box will be limited to 3000 copies worldwide.
CONTENTS OF THE LP BOX:
LP I: Vargnatt
LP II: Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler
LP III: Kveldssanger
LP IV: Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden
MC: 4 track rehearsal, summer 1995
Poster (size 60 x 30 cm)
32-page booklet in LP size (carrying same content as the CD box booklets)
The LP box is limited to 2000 copies worldwide and the pressings will be broken down as follows:
– 1500 copies on black vinyl
– 400 copies on silver vinyl
– 100 copies on clear vinyl including art print (SOLD OUT)
NOTE: We deeply apologize for mentioning the wrong pre-order date for the box in the previous news which has led to some confusion and anger. When the pre-sale went online, the clear vinyl version was sold out within a few minutes, although we limited it to one copy per order and didn't even officially start the pre-sale. But the (almost equally attractive) versions on silver or black vinyl can still be ordered. Be quick with the silver vinyl, though! And keep in mind: It's all about the music!
For those who have managed getting their hands on one of the clear vinyl LP box sets, you might want to watch this video which was done by Valnoir, who is also responsible for the entire artwork and layout of the box (if you missed to get the clear vinyl box, don't watch it):
September 4, Oslo Psych Fest, Childhood's End/psyche/kosmische set. We will also play the day before in Trondheim, at Blæst.
POOR MURDERED WOMAN
Ulver have recorded a song in support of Burning Bridges & Fifth Column Film's project "The Ballad of Shirley Collins".
Mats Engen: electric bass guitar & backing voice
Ole-Henrik Moe: violin
Tomas Pettersen: drums & percussion
Kristoffer Rygg: lead voice
Daniel O'Sullivan: acoustic & electric guitars
Tore Ylwizaker: synthesizer & technical
Recorded at Oak Hill, Oslo, June 22–25, 2014
Mixed by Tomas Pettersen & Kristoffer Rygg
Mastered by Jaime Gomez at Orgone, London, July 10, 2014
More information about the film (and book et cetera) project here.
LET THERE BE LIGHT – A REFLECTION
A reflection on the sounds of "Let There Be Light" from the album Terrestrials by Sunn O))) & Ulver.
A film by Adam B. Daniels.
The Queen: Anna Zehentbauer
The Priestess: Rebecca Horrox
Costume: Cesca Dvorak
Hair and makeup: Karolina Kluzniak
Produced with Ali Selim Agalar.
SUNN O))) & ULVER TERRESTRIALS UK PRESS EXCERPTS
"It floats on through Philip Glass-esque madrigals, squalls of feedback and unearthly cabaret piano-tinkling before preparing for anding with a mournful, synth-led denouement. It's long, languorous and wonderful in its invention, with Ulver lending emotional heft to Sunn O)))'s wall of tone." THE GUARDIAN – 4/5 review (January 30)
"Gestating slowly, like worlds formed by the cooling of the cosmos, the three long pieces that make up Terrestrials draw heavily on the expansive intergalactic explorations of early Tangerine Dream, classical music's monumental swells and the magma-moving power of excessive amplification. Opener 'Let There Be Light' recreates the magnificent intensity of the very first dawn, while 'Western Horn' and 'Eternal Return' use glacial strings, low-end tones and monolithic invocations to give fresh sonic substance to those primordial forces that once shaped the universe." MOJO – 4 star review (March issue)
"This 35-minute suite is hypnotically cinematic, skillfully orchestrated (horns, violins, electronics). 'Let There Be Light' approaches contemporary classical and jazz, while 'Eternal Return' features a deep, sonorous vocal from Ulver's Kristoffer Rygg that takes things toward Station To Station-period Bowie." Q – 4 star review (May issue)
"Infinite loops and surging crescendos constitute a psychedelic session more about melancholic beauty than foreboding, with trumpet, viola and violin setting 'Let There Be Light' in particular on a cosmic jazz tip." UNCUT – 8/10 review (February issue)
"'Eternal Return' notably, locks down an atmosphere that's like the Twin Peaks soundtrack stretched to breaking point, and is also kinda beautiful." NME – 8/10 review (January 27)
"Like a grim continuation of Earth's towering opus Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, this is long-form, cryptic Americana at its most well-crafted and realized." FACT – tracks of the week (February 8)
"The two forces at work are able to blend the pastorally beautiful with the haunting discordant in a way that transcends the achievements of both outfits to date. Absolutely outstanding." BIG CHEESE – 10/10 review (February issue)
"Beautiful in parts, threatening in others, and languidly unhurried throughout." RECORD COLLECTOR – 3 star review (March issue)
"What's lost in volume is gained in atmosphere." FINANCIAL TIMES – 4/5 review (January 31)
"To say there's something alchemical going on here would be to understate the case – this is a truly transcendent work of art, perfect in tone and substance." ROCK A ROLLA – boxed album review (February/March issue)
"A tremendous addition to the canon of both bands." METAL HAMMER – 9/10 lead album review (March issue)
"Holy, reverential and mysterious." WIRE – review (February issue)
NOTICE OF CANCELLATION
We regret to inform you that for the second time in our live-career we are obliged to cancel our most imminent shows. This includes the announced concert in Moscow (with orchestra) in April as well as the Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore in May. We are truly sorry for the inconvenience and/or disappointment this may be for some, but the time is simply not right for us.
We just got home from a shorter tour of Europe and have been advised by the doctors to take it easy, for the time being, due to unexpected health concerns. We feel that it would be irresponsible to proceed with these big shows now that visas and flights etc. are about to go through and high costs are about to be incurred on promoter's end – as we are simultaneously undergoing medicals, waiting for verdicts etc. – not quite knowing if things will be better or worse by the time these concerts would have taken place.
Instead of a potential last minute pullout we have decided to withdraw now – before any real damage is done – and focus on getting out of the woods. We apologize to both of the promoters and the people who were looking forward to these concerts. Cross our fingers and hope to return at a later stage.
Ulver, Oslo, March 4 2014.
For our recent tour we had a very special set of 9 postcards, prepared by +wolframgrafik, alluding to the words of wolves and history of art.
Also available now are picture disc versions of Blood inside and Shadows of the sun. Both 500 ltd. ed. 180 gram LP, designed by Trine + Kim.
We will be doing a few concerts next year.
To those of you wondering what to expect we can reveal that the February dates will consist of partly new and improv-based material, likely to revolve around motifs already familiar to our familiars. We had a good experience doing just that (improv) in Oslo in August, so a more free-ranging form is what we are aiming for this time.
We are looking forward to get out there, and hope for some interesting music to be born those evenings and nights. We also aim to document some of it for those of you who cannot come.
Ulver, Oslo, December 18 2013.
SUNN O))) & ULVER: THE STORY OF THEIR COLLABORATION REVEALED; FIRST AUDIO SAMPLE UNVEILED
With words from the creators themselves, the story of how the impending collaborative Terrestrials LP from SUNN O))) and ULVER was conceptualized and created has been dispatched to the public, in addition to the first auditory indication of the material the album presents.
Oslo, Norway, August 10th, 2008. Following their 200th gig, playing before 2000 people at the Øya festival, SUNN O))) teamed up with Norwegian legends ULVER at their Oslo studio, Crystal Canyon. They recorded three "live in improvisation" pieces, starting that evening and ending at dawn, as Northern sunlight seeped in through the windows.
"We were sitting in the console room, early in the morning, listening to the takes. Someone said, 'ah, sunrise over Crystal Canyon,' as if the night had been a dark one. We all laughed and Greg proposed it as a title. In that setting it sounded perfect. The boys had mentioned wanting the music to orient towards the light, like some lost pilgrim stretching before the sun. We kept that mental picture for the processing." – Kristoffer Rygg
That take became the album's opening piece, "Let There Be Light," which builds up from silence and darkness and proceeds – ceremoniously, coruscating – O'Malley and O'Sullivan creating the backdrop for Rygg's Basso Profondo chants. The music unfolds over eight minutes before reaching a crescendo of bass and brass, introducing both Anderson and ULVER as we know them. The Sunn has risen.
"Western Horn" accelerates on a single and austere note of sustained bass and low end, evolving gradually into a haunted soundscape. Crying violins, clusters of Fender Rhodes, guitar pickups, and metal plate drones are gradually layered beneath Anderson's augmented bass feedback.
"Eternal Return" introduces Rygg singing a lyric evoking ancient Greece, Egypt and the Biblical lands. The song is palindromic, echoing the lyric, beginning and ending with the same bass line and musical pattern, though the guitars are ultimately reversed as the song implodes upon itself.
After the session, ULVER spent a fortnight enhancing the dynamics of the original recordings, adding their own distinctive sheen to the mix, while never losing sight of the SUNN O))) gestaltqualität and remaining careful not to become caught up in studio stratagems.
O'Malley would join ULVER once in a blue moon to develop and sculpt the production more closely with Rygg — overseeing additional recordings of trumpet, viola and violin and attempting to illuminate, and preserve, the unique atmosphere of the collaboration. Over the course of several of these short visits, now some years since the original recording session took place, things slowly and steadily grew to become Terrestrials.
"I remember the vibe in the room back then was more raga than it was rock. And despite the fact that the walls were literally shaking from volume, it was actually quite a blissed out, psychedelic session. I wanted to preserve that vibe in the final mix." – Stephen O'Malley
And while Pandit Shankar (may he rest in peace) was not physically present, his spirit loomed large, perhaps together with a few nameless Persian ghosts attracted by the boys' mutual appreciation for composers like Conrad, Riley, Glass, Alice Coltrane and Shivkumar Sharma.
"You know that opening sequence of Koyaanisqatsi, where the desolate desert landscapes, waves and cloud formations roll over the screen accompanied by deep male chanting and organ ostinatos. That's where we were." – Daniel O'Sullivan
So: serene, vociferous, and visually charged stuff. Supreme sounds of synergy from two seminal forces – and friends. Remember to play loud.
In advance of Terrestrials' street date, now confirmed as February 4th, 2014 in North America, an excerpt of Terrestrials' immense third composition, "Eternal Return," is now playing AT THIS LOCATION.
Terrestrials Track Listing:
1. Let There Be Light 2. Western Horn 3. Eternal Return
Additional information and samples from the Terrestrials experiment will be available in the coming weeks prior to the album's release.
SUNN O))) & ULVER TERRESTRIALS PRESS RELEASE
SUNN O))) & ULVER join forces in a new collaborative work entitled Terrestrials, due for release on Southern Lord in February 2014.
SUNN O)))'s most recent studio album, 2009's Monoliths and Dimensions, and ULVER's 2013 album, Messe I.X–VI.X, found both evolving and longstanding groups venturing into the world of acoustic arrangement and contemporary orchestration. Besides arriving at this seeming parallel in vision, the pair's long standing camaraderie was initiated during SUNN O)))'s 2003's White1 sessions with the track "CutWOODED" which was produced by ULVER, in tribute to the deceased film director Ed Wood.
ULVER's decision to emerge from the shadows into live performance, in 2009, unveiled a new facet of showmanship, presentation and the grandiose which took their audiences to an unforeseen level. SUNN O)))'s presence has always been felt, whether in the prospect of their hundreds of legendary live concerts, the reissue of out of print albums in devotion to their loyal fanbase, or the recent unveiling of their new website – and the anticipation of something new was heightened beyond belief recently when the label posted online the words, "SUNN O))) & ULVER 2014".
Yes. At long last they have come together for a more developed collaborative work.
Today it comes with great pleasure to confirm that these words, SUNN O))) and ULVER, together, represent an astonishing yet somehow totally tenable matrimony of these two earthshakingly powerful forces, coming together like tectonic plates.
The result of this union is a three-track recording entitled Terrestrials; three movements which are fluid like the flow of magma beneath the Earth's crust, sonically uninhibited, unpredictably cosmic, haunting and stirring yet simultaneously ceremonious and beautiful.
Southern Lord shall release Terrestrials in February 2014.
Over the course of the next month we shall be revealing the story of how this alliance and recording came to be, revealing the insight of the musicians involved, attempting to answer some of the burning questions which we have, for now, left hanging in the air.
There has been a lot of interest in the Glamour Box Book Edition, much more than we expected. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm.
We should point out, though, that the boxes are as good as gone and the odds of getting one at this point is minimal. Message from Big Dipper this morning:
"We now have over 100 emails from people wanting the boxset in our mailbox. Please be patient and we will try to satisfy as many as we can. Only 100 boxsets are made and many are already sold, so some people will be disappointed no doubt."
We (Ulver) will hold on to some, to bring to those who have contacted us, in Parma etc. Thanks again for you continued support and patience. It is much appreciated.
ULVER, Oslo, November 4 2013.
GLAMOUR BOX BOOK EDITION
After the popularity of the Lent Edition we've decided to up the ante. In a collaboration with old-school bookbinder Thomas Støyva of TS Bokbinderi, Oslo, we have conceived some highly luxurious editions of Messe I.X–VI.X.
This edition is limited to one hundred numbered and signed copies and comes with CD, vinyl and download code.
Due to the heavy weight and initial cost price of these boxes we realize that many will not be interested and/or able to buy them. Especially with the added P&P. We will bring these with us to concerts (let us know, via Facebook, if we should bring a few to Parma in November) and otherwise deal from hand, between friends and such. An allotted 30–40 will be made available to buy, for collectors. Please contact our friends at Big Dipper Records to make arrangements for international shipping, if interested:
Price from Big Dipper: NOK 1700 + P&P
Price at Ulver concerts: NOK 1300
Please take into account that each box has taken hours to produce and is a unique piece of handcraftsmanship.
ULVER, Oslo, November 3 2013.
Dear parish, as CDs are airborne – and leakage is imminent – we have decided to accelerate the digital release on our own platforms. We have held back as long as we can. Messe I.X–VI.X is now available from our webshop and Bandcamp. Just like that.
Again: we urge all conscientious music lovers to purchase digital from our platforms. WAV and all other formats at Bandcamp, 320 kbps MP3 via our webshop. Spotify and iTunes will follow in September, along with the release of Kscope's standard editions.
Please share and spread the word. We hope you enjoy the somber sound of the wolves' mass.
ULVER MESSE I.X–VI.X – ANNO 20 – STUDIO ALBUM 10 – RIGHTEOUS DIY PRODUCT – PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD
OUT ON JESTER VIA NEUROPA AUGUST 1 2013 – PRE-ORDERS ARE TAKEN NOW
FIRST ORDERS COME WITH THE ABOVE POSTCARD INDIVIDUALLY SIGNED BY ALL MEMBERS
100 COPIES LIMITED LEATHERBOUND LENT EDITON
After recent Facebook bickering and allegations that we more or less deserve black-market infringements – rude yet halfway right – since we have no old-school metal designs officially licensed or available anymore, we've decided to act on advice. We contacted savvy Parisian friend Valnoir, who swiftly came up with the following nostalgic fabrications, inspired by the '90s "kvlt" culture of Xeroxed fanzines and demo-tapes:
Design by Valnoir | Metastazis 2013 | Click image to enlarge
These shirts are 100% official and can be ordered now, from Neuropa. A couple more designs to follow shortly.
ULVER GOES WOODSTOCK
Our Live at Roadburn – Eulogy for the Late Sixties concert capture from last year is now at hand via Roadburn Records.
This was our pre-release party for the commemorative album Childhood’s End, which we had just sewn up when
we received the invitation from Roadburn. A one-shot psychedelic blowout or perhaps some sort of karaoke for
our vestigial veterans; felt quite invigorating after the doom and gloom of the last few years. We gathered the guys
who were involved in the album sessions and rehearsed the songs a couple of days before travelling to Tilburg.
Not in total control, but that’s the spirit. Haywire lycanthropy.
The vinyl comes in a limited run of 1000 double-LPs available in three colours:
Gold (100 copies)
Black (600 copies)
Black with white splatter (300 copies)
There are options to buy all three colours at a discount, as well as bundle deals, including t-shirt, CD version etc. Get it here.
Thank you for your continued support. Much appreciated.
Ulver, Oslo, April 12 2013.
2013. Take that, Cassandra. May all your troubles last as long as your new year's resolutions.
The new boutique is doing well. We are glad to see there are so many of you who have taken our whining to heart and stored up with old and new titles. We know digital is ethereal. But you trading directly with us makes all the difference.
Kscope have generously allowed us to put up our most recent albums without any take. Thanks so much guys, you rule. Wars of the roses and Childhood's end are now available for download via our shop, for 6 Euros each. Due to unforeseen bandwidth overages, we have unfortunately had to raise the prices 1 Euro per item. Sorry about that, but it solves the problem. High quality files are heavy.
On that note: to meet the demands of those who have called for FLAC, AAC and other waveforms, we have opened a Bandcamp account. To cover Bandcamp's percentages, prices are 1 Euro more than our own shop. But still a better deal than Apple.
We understand that those of you who have already purchased MP3s from our shop and would like to have other formats as well, will have to pay another round at Bandcamp. We are truly sorry for this, and believe us, it was not our plan to dupe you. We are green to this digital world.
Sincere thanks to those who have bought the app and/or made donations. We have now posted a list of benefactors. The app will become a busier place as new things take shape. The wolf is at the door.
Thank you, all of you again, for the understanding and support you have shown us in these trying times. And may your social conscience be forever free.
Ulver, Oslo, January 2013.
THE ART OF DYING
Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. (James 5:4)
Wolves are withdrawing, once again, in order to evolve. The record industry is in trouble, and the panic in the business has resulted in severe depression for musicians worldwide. We have new offerings, both music and a medium, but first:
Much has been said, on topics like crowd funding, file sharing, the death of the physical format as we know it. Answers are ambiguous, but one thing is for sure: musicians are required to consider the direct financial implications of their activities far more closely today.
The top-heavy machinery, with their CEOs and managers and sales and marketing departments, is obviously a pricey one. When their expenses have been covered most of the money is gone, leaving the artists in the lurch. It seems a gross injustice, especially in a time where their manner of operation has become such an anachronism.
We can no longer carry the weight of this museum, so we have once again (first time was when we established our own imprint, Jester) decided to take the matter into our own hands, in a way more autonomous than before. We've been prudent enough to make sure we own our own material – since Nattens Madrigal that is – which is not at all a given in this shady business, and which in itself has given us disadvantages when it comes to advances, percentages and PR in the past.
The last five years the insidious disease that is the music business has really reared its ugly head. If you want to have your album manufactured, distributed and possibly promoted today it almost goes without saying that the label/licensee/distributor should have an unheard of allowance. But even more morose: a similar (disproportionate) cut off your digital sales and streaming income is expected. That's after the bite of the Apple.
It's a sin. They don't do any actual work for this money. Certain suits have started to demand cuts from the live earnings of their bands/artists as a premise for signing them. Our hearts sincerely go out to the younger generation of recording artists, as we've seen literal slave-contracts signed by the "up and coming".
It's tragic really. Killed in infancy.
If only the Richard Bransons out there would take their humanitarian initiatives to their own artists first, is a thought. The promise of good promotion does not bring bread on the table.
And while we're having a stab at the system: fuck iTunes, and Spotify et al., which is the same old story over again – oversized monsters, getting rich and mighty, while it takes years and lots of legwork for something, if anything, to come back to those who made the music i.e. their product in the first place.
In selling out, ULVER has always opted for the lesser evils, and we've been in the groove with decent folks, VME and Kscope in particular. But given the context, it has to be acknowledged: we've made quite a few external people and/or companies a lot of money over the years.
A look behind the scenes:
We played for a full house at the Norwegian National Opera, and since it was a big set-up, tickets were expensive. The opera folks made a killing, our managers at the time made a solid chunk of dough and the ensuing DVD/Blu-ray did very well.
ULVER? Same old song. In the red.
Our surplus that night went to pay the film crew, since the budget advance we'd got to make the film didn't cover it. Besides, management had gross percentage paws in that purse too. Oh, the irony. To top it off, and after we were finally done, we thought, we got hit with a DVD authoring/mastering charge close to 5K (GBP), which seems to have put royalties on permanent hold.
Now, for being the ones who were actually on stage, had rehearsed and prepared for the gig, with all that entails, spent months afterwards making said DVD, editing, mixing, composing liner notes etc., we find it pertinent to question our negative honorarium as the typical token. We are very proud of the concert and following product. But much to our dismay, pride doesn't seem to bring bread on the table either.
Neither does patience – virtue notwithstanding.
We hold heart over gold, truly, but we have dedicated our entire adult lives – 20 years now – to this band. We are getting older and more responsible and we also need to know that we can pay some bills and feed our kids at the end of the day. No one has worked more or harder for ULVER than ... well, ULVER.
The harsh reality is that too many prey on us – in a hostile environment – we have no other choice than to rise up.
We have no beef with "curious cats" who tune in on unauthorized channels, download torrents etc. Such undertakings serve a similar purpose to that of labels and distributors – from which we see such a minuscule yield anyway. Forget about it.
But it is naturally a problem when even genuine fans no longer bother to pay for the work of their favorite artists.
Hear what Neil Hamburger, via Mark Eitzel, has to say on the matter:
We encourage all conscientious music fans to buy their music direct from artists whenever that is possible, in the future. It will help more than you know.
Some might argue that we are not big enough, and thus have no right to life ... and while we are clearly not Radiohead or Björk, that would be off the mark. Allow us to swag a little: ULVER sell respectable quantities, and is in digital numbers, according to current Last.fm statistics, # 4 out of Norway, superseded only by A-ha, Dimmu Borgir and Röyksopp.
If we'd gotten a cent a stream. We can dream.
Point is, we know there are resources – that things can be amended – so long as we can establish a modus operandi where we, the artisans, get more of the total take. We invest a lot in our productions, both in the studio and live, to make every next step better, bigger, more interesting. Tirelessly digging our own grave.
But there surely has to be a way to ensure both quality of life and the arts at the same time?
Which brings us up to speed: we can now, via new technology, sell our music directly to you.
ULVER with TROMSØ CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: Messe I.X–VI.X
This one will be released by us, here – in the ether – next year, putting it up for download only via our new app and related online channels.
That's right, dear friends of ULVER: since many people carry smartphones these days we have, with generous help from Effektor aka Rune Michaelsen, developed an iPhone/iPad and Android app which we are offering for the price of $ 1.99, a sum we hope you can live with. This is firstly to cover development costs and hosting, but is also an experiment of sorts. If you download it will reinforce our faith and also give us a bit of revenue for further development.
More info on Messe I.X–VI.X – formats and pre-ordering etc. – will follow shortly. In the meantime, have a look at some of the material from the concert in Tromsø, which forms the basis of the album:
Live at Roadburn is also around the corner. Roadburn Records will release a limited edition vinyl in one thousand copies next year, while we will release it digitally from our new webstore – store.jester-records.com – linked directly to from the app and our webpages. Currently it is (of course) not allowed to sell music directly from within the application, but laws are being twisted so that hopefully soon artists can sell direct, and not be cutpursed by iTunes, Amazon, and other Digimons.
Certain of our albums will – depending on how much good or ill will there is – still be caught up in exclusivity clauses and contracts, but we hope to make most of our history of music available within the next year, as well as all future endeavors, and exclusive material.
"Another brick in the wall (part 1)", cover from Mojo presents: The Wall Re-Built! (Mojo magazine cover CD 2009).
"Be drunk", from Die Künstlichen Paradiese – Charles Baudelaire (Hörbuch Hamburg/Radio Bremen 2011).
"In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed are kings", cover from The lotus eaters – tribute to Dead Can Dance (Black Lotus Records 2004).
"Strange ways", cover from Gods of thunder – a Norwegian tribute to Kiss (Voices Music Publishing 2005).
"The night before", discarded Lee Hazlewood cover (rough 2002).
"Thieves in the temple", cover from Shockadelica – 50th anniversary tribute to the artist known as Prince (C+C Records 2008).
"Uno", "Avhør", "Brødre", "Brødre rev.", "Flukt", "Gravferd" and "David til ulvene", from Uno – original motion picture soundtrack (Bonnier Amigo Music Group 2004).
These songs are included for free in the app, along with videos and images etc. All in one place. We hope and think the app will be a convenient thing, making stuff better both for us and for you from now on. It will be possible for us to communicate and share our creations more efficiently and directly with you. God forbid, living in each other's pockets.
Imagine, we could send you a push notification once a song is done.
There are so many of you over the years who have written to us – more than we've had the capacity to answer – telling us, in all manner of ways, what our work has meant. We sincerely thank you, all, and hope that you will stick around and follow us into the age of the quick response code.
We will of course keep manufacturing limited vinyl and miscellaneous beauty products for those of you who enjoy the tactile experience, and which can be ordered and shipped directly from us, or our close and/or equitable partners.
To avoid any possible misunderstandings: we might well release across-the-board CD editions with third parties, in order to suit our aims. But this will be in retrospect, after having first shared the music in a way and form attending to our needs.
To drive the point home: we'd probably improve our production greatly if it was not for these constant goddamn monetary problems. That is why we have also, albeit reluctantly, put up a general donations account on our website. If you believe ULVER is creditable. Names of benefactors will be publicised, with due respect, unless otherwise desired.
However, we will not pay our respect to the vultures. For they are our past.
Our coming concert commisioned by and composed for Tromsø Kulturhus and the 21 piece Tromsø Chamber Orchestra will take place Friday September 21 2012, twice. The mass is new electronic/symphonic music specifically written for the evening, and it is grave. Again we go to the job with great humility and a dash of horror. The performance will be recorded and form the basis of Ulver's next full-flegded album. Title TBA.
Those expecting rock opera... Think again.
Now available from the NEUROPA store: zipped hoodies and shirts with designs previously only available in concert.
Childhood's end – lost & found from the age of Aquarius was released by Kscope May 28 2012. Have a look at the promotional video for our version of The Beau Brummels' "Magic Hollow", directed by Justin Oakey, below. Proceed to the Kscope album site for ordering and interviews etc.
"This is more than hip-covers fun. [...] Ulver darken the apocalypse in acid-Sixties relics by bands such as the Byrds, the Pretty Things, Bonniwell's Music Machine and [...] the Troggs' hotline to lust, '66- 5-4-3-2-1.' It now sounds like there's real trouble on the other end." David Fricke, Rolling Stone Magazine (4 stars), August 23 2012
"It's all first-stage psychedelic rock. [... T]hese cover versions reward the ambition of the original songs, draping them with stateliness." The New York Times, June 5 2012
Plates 22–24 precede Plates 21–22, side 4. Pedantic as we are, this is very embarrassing and we can not quite comprehend how it happened. Anyway, since we can not blame anyone else we will have to live with it, even if it hurts. We hope you can do the same. We simply can not afford to burn and repress. But we promise if there is a second edition we will make damn sure the tracks follow Blake's plates, as stated on the cover and the original CD release.
We would also like to thank the many who voted us for Best Norwegian Live Act 2011. We share the trophy with you.
Ulver, in the doghouse, March 12 2012.
IN MEMORIAM STIG SÆTERBAKKEN (1966–2012)
Stig Sæterbakken is dead. Our hearts go out to all of the bereaved. Thank you, Stig, for everything that you have given us. Your books and your trust and friendship. With enduring love,
Ulver, Oslo, January 25 2012.
"WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH"
We write 2012 and 1984 is a fond memory. It is dark and disorienting. The spotlight came with a dimmer effect and we find ourselves turning down good offerings. Now is the time for introspection.
Rites of Spring 2011, from Albion to Finlandia, Stonehenge and vodka. We like to mix it up. Elemental for an educated bunch. Queen Anne is dead.
And then came Autumn. Damnation had us sweating. We have said it before, and we say it again: festivals are hazardous, people and place being out of control. So, sorry about the grim faces, we will never be The Bee Gees. We learned afterwards that it sounded alright front of house, thank God – Chris Fullard obviously – and salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae.
Back on the horse. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece – the here and now of the declining West. Massive props to Kostas and the people at Didi Music once again, for upgrading us to Athen's finest club, Fuzz, during revolts and recession. Also pretty special was performing deep under the Cidade da Cultura in Santiago de Compostela. What a place! And speaking of heavenly places, Teatro Regio, Parma, surpassing all:
Photo by Seth Beaudreault | Click to enlarge
Blessed be our devoted road warriors Chris and Alesh, for their extraordinary sufferance, and Seth the barefoot inuit lover McCandless.
We are truly sorry about the cancellation of our gig in Chile. It was the first concert booked outside Europe and synchronously the first we have cancelled. The United States of America: paramount paranoia, parsimonious promoters and outright impossible interest rates. European in theory, but very exclusive in practice. Sorry, but we think there might be something wrong with the politico-financial system you've got going there guys. Come down in the world.
Have you heard about Gandhi?
He ate simple vegetarian food and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest. Things to think about in the age of the wolf. Childhood's End is near. Sixteen Sixties songs. Its arrival will end all war, help form a world government and turn the planet into a near-utopia. Doublethink. Every man and woman is a star.
There's one concert this year: Roadburn, Tilburg, Holland. Since it may be the last one, for the foreseeable future, we plan to make it a frenzy – of the psychedelic kind.
Click image to proceed to the Roadburn site
For those who did not get to see us live: The Opera Blu-ray/DVD should be in the shop these days, long overdue. We apologise for the delay, it was out of our hands, in the hands of the factory. And while we think it could have looked great in Christmas wrapping, Kscope decided to pause further to run free of The Mormon Tabernacle Choirs of December. Read our and Mr Stig Sæterbakken's summaries below, and check out Kscope's minisite for further information, video preview and ordering.
Also, we have just released a deluxe double LP edition of golden oldie Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, via Neuropa.
Click images to proceed to the Neuropa site
And finally, if you feel we deserve it, please vote Ulver for Best Norwegian Live Act 2011 here. Our gratitude to Natt&Dag for the nomination.
LINER NOTES FROM ULVER LIVE AT THE NATIONAL NORWEGIAN OPERA BLUE-RAY/DVD
On the last day of May 2009 Ulver decided to stumble on stage for the first time since our one (and till then only) concert back in 1993. We had been animals in hiding, uncomfortable with the world. It took us 15 years to muster the will and want to "interact with society", that is, perform live. It was about survival in culture – that's a given – but also a cultured survival.
For those who do not play along, there exists the danger of considering themselves better than others and misusing their critique of society as an ideology for their own private interest. (Theodor Adorno)
We had been thinking about getting out there for a while. Norwegian author and artistic director of The Norwegian Festival of Literature, Stig Sæterbakken, had been on our case for a few years already, having had great success bringing Antony and the Johnsons to the festival two years before. It is in large part thanks to his persuasive arguments that we are writing this. Part of the story is also that Stig had resigned his position due to the controversy aroused following the decision by the board of the festival to renege his invitation to the historian and Holocaust denier David Irving to lecture at the festival. The theme, or slogan, of the festival that year was Truth. And while we think not even God can change truth, it is not simple.
The invitation and the witch-hunt that followed was a challenge to us all, and we accepted by putting on display the grandiose spectacle of the Third Reich and the horror, the horror behind the scenes. We were a bit apprehensive about how that would fare, but the audience seemed to understand and appreciate. We believe, and hope, the applause was for us, and not some of the things we forced them to witness. In the end, it all comes down to instinct. The lioness hunting and taking down the youngest of the zebras on the savannah. The boy child looking them in the eye, with allegation.
We took it to heart and made a handful more appearances that year, and in some stunning settings too, such as Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and Gagarin 205 in Athens. Our second concert was, believe it or not, in front of close to ten thousand people at Brutal Assault, an open-air metal-music festival in The Czech Republic. Even though our foundation is in metal we felt out of our element (and definitely out of synch). Nonetheless we seemed to get some attention if not for anything other than being a contrast to the make-up misanthropy which is pop in satanic circles. We know.
Experience is the name every one gives their mistakes. (Oscar Wilde)
And without further ado, come February 2010, we embarked on a monthlong journey throughout Europe, meandering in and out of stages, from the art noveau of La Cigale in Paris to the monolithic Volksbühne in Berlin. We owe the world to our agent Mark Lewis. The last leg of the tour we brought along our beloved little theremin-faerie Pamelia Kurstin, fading out in Helsinki, two nights in execution.
A few months later, Saturday July 31, we were back in black. A grand renaissance at The Norwegian National Opera had been initiated by our late management, Ramble On. Tomas got out his 26" kick drum and Tore his menagerie of vintage synths and keys. We had two Steinways, tam-tam, timpani, the works. Even Chris, our sound-sasquatch, got to pick the PA system of his dreams. Ouch!
Unfortunately Pamelia could not make it to Norway this time due to the imminent birth of Aulver (yes, you read the name right), so we flew in another favourite from Vienna, Christian Fennesz, to share the stage with us. We are lucky to have gifted people in our lives. Singular artist Ian Johnstone left his Asturian goats and beehives behind to make two of his rare performances: welcoming everyone as Mr. Ark Todd in a static dance under a levitating moon, and parting with a pillar, on the skeleton legs of a horse, pale and naked as nature intended. Good with a pinch of salt, the two pieces were accompanied by piano prepared by Daniel and the sound of a sleeping beast from Kris' pad.*
This concert is the culmination and completion of our first year as a live incarnation. That's how we see it. We had just written the song "England" and premiered it here, hinting at what was to come. Wars of the roses was recorded the following fall and released this spring, coinciding with another European tour playing only the new stuff. We had to break free from the past, as always, and the self-imposed prison that is time and projection. Counting down. Wolves evolve.
It should be admitted that we did this a few more times post-opera. Flow Festival in Helsinki, Kampnagel Live Arts Festival in Hamburg, Palladium in Warsaw – again with Christian Fennesz, as both support and guest in our set. Last, but not least, the modern milestone Casa da Música in Porto together with Throbbing Gristle a mere week before Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson passed away. Ian, who was bound to Sleazy by having loved and lost the enigma known to most as Jhonn Balance five years earlier, was meant to be there with us. But it conflicted with the opening of his beautiful exhibition, The 23 stab wounds of Julius Caesar, Horse Hospital, London. Lord, how the good must suffer.
In the void of Coil, we end with an idiom attributed to them: What kind of animal are you? Think about it. It may be written in water, but life goes on. And when it one day – as they say – flashes before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.
With that in mind: This documents Ulver's first foray on stage, in optimum. Filmed by six HD cameras and recently mixed on SSL in our own Crystal Canyon Studios, Oslo. We are not sure if there were ghosts in the machine, or what, but due to the original multi-tracking being not so ... well, multi, we were forced to take tracks from the Casa da Música gig. But fuck it – everything is illusion. All the world's a stage sayeth Shakespeare. But who would have thought we would turn up there, at the main stage of the Oslo Opera House?
If pride is a sin, we are guilty. Forgive us.
Ulver, Oslo, July 2011.
* From Chris Watson's Outside the Circle of Fire, "Waiting": the purr of a cheetah close up against a baobab tree, via Kaoss Pad. Published by Touch Music (MCPS).
Photo by Lars K. Lande 2010 | Click image to see concert footage
THE ART OF BETRAYAL
All silver shirt and shaky legs as I walked on stage in Maihaugsalen, Lillehammer, on the 31st of May 2009, to introduce Ulver at what was, strictly speaking, their second concert, though it felt like their first, all things considered. But however much I wanted to say "for the first time", I had to comply with the required level of precision by resorting to a dull "for the first time in fifteen years" instead. It didn't really matter, though, since the experience was still that of a maiden voyage. And backstage was a bunch of guys whose legs were even shakier than mine. Yes, this was truly a night for intense emotion and frayed nerves.
A one-hour set that blew our brains out, nothing more, nothing less. Eventually, Kris had to grab the microphone and apologise: "I'm sorry, that was all." Adding to the uniqueness of the performance was the fact that out of all the possible venues in the world of pop and rock music, it took place at a literature festival in a small idyllic city in the middle of No(r)w(ay)here, widely unknown save for two historic events over the past decades, the Winter Olympics in 1994 and the Mossad liquidation of Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchikhi (mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh, chief of operations for the Palestinian terrorist group Black September) in 1973. In other words, it was perfect.
It took some time and effort to make it happen. And what a magnificent metamorphosis the band had gone through during that aeon-like period between their first and second live incarnation. The two words projected on the screen as people entered Maihaugsalen – Forgive us – were in this respect as appropriate to the moment as they were true to the past. Jean Genet wrote: "Anyone who hasn't experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing of ecstasy at all." And the boldness of the changes undergone by Ulver over their soon-to-be twenty years of existence is a masterpiece of the art of betrayal. Never resting, never confident, they've explored just about every road ahead of them, and in doing so, time and time again left their fans in blissful wonder as to what comes next. But through their continuous betrayal of any possible expectation, they've betrayed themselves most of all. And I think the need – and willingness – to betray oneself is the inner flame of any creative force. If there is a major challenge, it is that of transgressing one's own limitations, of destroying whatever concepts, superimposed or self-inflicted, may exist about who you are and what you stand for, of cultivating your doubts rather than strengthening your convictions. The importance of being uncertain, simply put.
If early Ulver was an umbrella, and their second coming a sewing machine, then present-day Ulver is the dissecting table whereupon they meet. Their night at the opera in 2010, beautifully framed by Ian Johnstone's gnomelike pre- and postlude appearances, represented the ultimate anointing of this entire charade of seemingly contradictory identities. And as the closing line – What kind of animal are you? – materialised on the screen, the question at hand was easy to answer: Bastard. I'm a fucking bastard. As is Ulver. As such, they capture the unrest and uneasiness and inner conflict of any reasonably vibrant and self-conscious individual. Being alive means having Angst. Being an artist means exploring that Angst. Rock 'n' roll is here to disturb.
Ian Johnstone and I met the day after the opera gig, and together with my wife Elizabeth and our youngest daughter Jenny we went to the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum at Slemdal, Oslo, for a private viewing that Yvonne at the museum was kind enough to host. And somehow, entering the glowing darkness of the Vigeland tomb with its dimly lit frescoes of ecstasy and pain seemed a perfectly logical step to take from yesterday's massive attack.
Ian, who was there for the first time, was overwhelmed, and got a carte blanche from Yvonne as we left to come back and do a performance of some sort in the mausoleum, anytime he'd like. We then walked down to the city centre to visit friend and artist Sverre Malling in his studio, with a sensation resembling that of leaving the opera some fourteen or fifteen hours earlier. If the Ulver concert was the kill that weekend, then the Vigeland mausoleum was death itself. Felt like a nice place to be, I have to admit.
Stig Sæterbakken, Lillehammer, July 19 2011.
Shirt design by Kristin Bøyesen | www.soup.no | Click to enlarge
Kscope are very proud to announce that Ulver are the latest band to join their roster. Early pioneers of Norwegian black metal, the band have continually evolved throughout their career and now stand as living legends of the dark music industry.
The last two years have also seen Ulver manifest into a live band. Following their first live performance in May 2009, at the Norwegian Festival of Literature, the band toured Europe in 2010 selling out prestigious venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Volksbühne in Berlin and Casa da Música in Porto, to great acclaim:
"Ulver's presentation is surreal and stark. A psychedelic excursion, an immersive experience, fuelled by haunting, progressive art. After such a night, you don't want to see another band for a few days. Because anything else would pale when put alongside Ulver." (Classic Rock Magazine)
2010 culminated in a packed performance in the main theatre of the Norwegian National Opera. Ulver were the first band outside the established Norwegian music scene to be invited to play at the opera house and a DVD of this landmark performance will be released on Kscope later this year.
Such an invitation is quite an accomplishment for a band that has always remained uncompromisingly independent, operating without marketing, advertising or any backing from a label (except their own imprint, Jester Records). Despite this stance the band are revered around the world, have sold in excess of half a million records, have well over 11,000,000 plays on Last FM and the interest does not seem to be fading; indeed the band are now preparing to add another bookmark to their chameleonic legacy.
A bigger label, management, touring – all this is new and unchartered territory for the band, and one in which they are not necessarily savoir-faire. During the last two years they have shifted from the safety zone of the studio towards a more traditional route, facing the music rather than hiding in the shadows. Everything can happen, and has. The new album, Wars Of The Roses, clearly reflects this.
With a long standing reputation for being unpredictable and unafraid of radical departures, the most subversive aspect this time is perhaps the band's increased accessibility; even touching on the polished sensibilities of pop and rock. The opening track "February MMX" is a striking example.
But naturally with Ulver comes ambivalence. Fringe figures appear: horror connoisseur Stephen Thrower of Coil and Cyclobe, experimental guitar-guru Stian Westerhus along with British free improvisation legends Steve Noble and Alex Ward. They all play important parts on the album, their instant instincts perfectly aligned with Ulver's composed compassion. The familiar baroque menagerie of piano, wood and wind sit alongside the machines and the ghosts within.
The album ends with "Stone Angels", a long and winding dreamland narrated by Daniel O'Sullivan (who became a core member of the group in 2009). The text is written by acclaimed American poet and translator Keith Waldrop, an acquaintance of Jørn H. Sværen, the author in the band. It is, quite frankly, beautiful.
Thematically, the same is at stake as always with Ulver: the human condition and a world in fall. But this time the landscape is viewed from a bird's eye perspective, exposing culture and tradition rather than the personal vulnerability expressed on previous albums. In the words of Julian Cope:
"Ulver are cataloguing the death of our culture two decades before anyone else has noticed its inevitable demise."
Wars Of The Roses was mixed by producer extraordinaire John Fryer (Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, Swans etc.), following a chance meeting outside Crystal Canyon studios during the latter stages of recording. Sounds like fate.
See the KSCOPE ULVER SITE for available editions, audio excerpts, lyrics, ordering etc.
Gold on heavy black paper | Limited edition 100 copies
Artwork by Steuso | Scrape Labs
ULVER NEWS UPDATE NOVEMBER 2010
Ok, so now we have been on the road, and it has been rewarding, all fear and loathing considered. We are a domestic pack these days. The children miss their parents and we miss them. So. We have decided to limit next year's touring to two shorter blocks, one before and one after summer, plus an odd festival here and there. We would also very much like to make a few apperances overseas.
2011 is the future, a Critical Geography, the new album of Ulver. The anthological presentation we've been hiding behind since Lillehammer is history after Warsaw.
We are stoked to say that our blood-brothers VIRUS have accepted the offer to play their debut concert with us at London-palace KOKO, as a kick-off spectacular. This is Virus' Lillehammer, and they are a bit apprehensive. We are certain though, that if you show them the same courtesy that you showed us, this will be one to remember. An announcement from the band:
"Apprehensive is not the word. Plain terrified, is more like it. We used to feel safe and sound inside our little bubble, being a non-live band, barely daring to release albums. We've gotten tons of propositions over the years, but when Ulver approached us it all seemed to fall right into place, to create the best possible condition for both us and our fans to finally do this thing. We couldn't think of a better way of taking that next step - bringing our mischief to the stage - than under the wings of our friends, who've been in the exact same spot we are now."
The KOKO gig will be a further reunion of the old-school rebels, in that our red-bearded buddy ZWEIZZ will be opening the ball. He will also be travelling with us to a quite a few of the other venues announced. See you in the wild.
Ulver, Oslo, November 24 2010.
ULVER PERFORMING WITH THROBBING GRISTLE AT THE CASA DA MÚSICA PORTO NOVEMBER 5 2010
After their acclaimed performance at The Norwegian National Opera this Summer, Ulver goes on to play at Rem Koolhaas' architectural milestone Casa da Música in Porto. They are proud to share the stage with legendary Throbbing Gristle, the band that more than any defined the industrial and avant-garde music scene from 1975 onwards.
Ramble On and The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet presents
ULVER LIVE IN CONCERT
WITH SPECIAL GUESTS IAN JOHNSTONE & CHRISTIAN FENNESZ
The Norwegian National Opera, Main Stage, Saturday July 31 2010
"That Ulver all of a sudden decided to become a live band may prove to be one of the best ideas in Norwegian music ever." Øyvind Rones, groove.no
ULVER, early pioneers of Norwegian black metal, now living legends of the dark music industry, has since the beginning in the early nineties sold half a million albums worldwide. The band has also made music for several major motion pictures, and the controversial American director Harmony Korine sums it up: "There's a real lineage from a composer like Wagner to a band like Ulver."
Author and rock legend Julian Cope says: "Ulver are cataloguing the death of our culture two decades before anyone else has noticed its inevitable demise."
During their first fifteen years ULVER never played live, which contributed to the shaping of their legendary history. When Mr. Stig Sæterbakken finally succeeded in persuading the band to play their first concert at the Norwegian Festival of Literature last May, fans came from all over the world – including Australia, Japan, Canada and the US.
A newspaper writes on the band's latest concert so far, at the Logen theatre in Bergen: "The cult band hit us hard with suggestive music accompanied by images of salutary nazi jugend crosscut with living dead jews. Ulver is one of the few bands which can move from pictures of Jesus to sex, burlesque and atom bombs without making you jump. The music alone is too powerful for anything to make you more flabbergasted."
Ulver takes up The Norwegian National Opera with their dramatic mix of sound, light and images, together with prominent guests such as Christian Fennesz and the artist and Coil-affiliate Ian Johnstone. This is the first and last time Ulver performs on a major stage in Oslo in 2010.
"Ulver's presentation is surreal and stark. A psychedelic excursion, an immersive experience, fuelled by haunting, progressive art. After such a night, you don't want to see another band for a few days. Because anything else would pale when put alongside Ulver." Malcolm Dome, Classic Rock Magazine
"In many respects, Ulver epitomise what happens when metal's melancholic strand is taken to its logical conclusion. While the band's roots lie in clattering black metal, their evolution began with the release of 1998's openly progressive Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell. By the time they'd got to Shadows Of The Sun, they'd wandered still further away from their gnashing early work, sitting at the remote, windswept crossroads of art-rock, ambient adventurism, improvisational noise, and the hymnal aspects of modern classical music." Phil Alexander, Mojo Magazine
ULVER SALA ESPACE TORINO FEBRURAY 18 2010
Gold on heavy black paper | Limited edition 50 copies
Artwork by Steuso | Scrape Labs
ULVER SHADOWS OF THE SUN 200 LIMITED EDITION
In sale on the February 2010 European tour. Captain Kyrck, thank you for all your help.
Our first gig after Lillehammer was at the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic early August. A strange thing, with a crowd of about 10 000 people – so many at a loss – and severe monitoring problems. We pulled through alright, but it definitely made us realise how far removed we are from the metal arena. Nonetheless we are considering doing Hellfest next year, together with our friends Ihsahn and Sunn O))).
Next thing was the Norwegian Øya festival in Oslo medio August. Our first gig with a second drummer, Tomas Pettersen, as well as a guest appearance by Jørgen Munkeby on saxophone. We played a good one, kind of blue, as the sun descended over our hometown. A few days later we went to Mølla, which is an old mill by a waterfall in Gjerstad, a small municipality in the deep south of Norway. It was a tranquil happening, maybe too much so, as we finally went on stage at 02:30 in the morning. We couldn't see much, but think the party was over. We played for the woods. Thank you, Knut.
We then drove north to Trondheim and the Pstereo festival, situated right next to the bewitching Nidaros Dome. It was a technical nightmare, the power broke down thrice during our set due to some earth fault. It was a mess. At least it was dark. Conclusion: Festivals are hazardous, people and place being out of control. Hate it.
Queen Elizabeth Hall in London was a good turn in terms of scene and ambience. Playing for about 1 000 people in seats, some in suits, and with a Britpop band called Mothlite as opening act. A very special night. However we must say we were mightily disappointed by the rigidity of the Southbank bureaucracy, being a body with official sources up their asses. Fuckers banked in excess of NOK 100 000 and sent us home in debt. That just ain't right. And on top they have the audacity to withhold money for our merchandise, contrary to contract. Pay up, you red-tapists.
Gagarin 205 in Athens was a sound show, even though we weren't necessarily on our best form. Didi Music treated us as kings and queens, oh, the queens that are in some of us. In grim contrast to the story above. Thank you, especially to Kostas and Eleni, for everything. Io Pan.
Down to earth, below the Acropolis: We are painfully aware of the passing since Shadows. It's time to get another Ulver proper out, and we have started to write. Our own dark brand.
Subsidiarily: We have recorded some hippie songs, from the sixties, bands like The 13th Floor Elevators, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and stranger Aquarian folks. We aim to make this into a full album, a kind of Ulver kicking against the pricks. We'll put up a rough mix of our take at I had too much to dream last night, next week.
There is also a collaboration with Sunn O))). We had a terrific tracking session with the Nazgûls after their appearance at the Øya festival well over a year ago. We spent a month or so editing the material and adding our sheen to the sound. Since then it has unfortunately been lying dormant due to difficulties getting everyone together. We hope to join forces and finish the thing this spring. It is becoming a ghost.
Although being little more than an intro, you might want to check out Another brick in the wall part I, which we recorded for the latest Mojo magazine and their Pink Floyd special, celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Wall.
Also read marine-biologist-become-music-journalist Seth Beaudreault's interview with us, published on Avantgarde-metal.com last night together with a Queen Elizabeth Hall live report etc. The interview was done the day after our stage debut in Lillehammer, Norway, this May. A colloquial conversation, and rather lenghty. Seth, it was a pleasure. Take care, wherever you may roam.
Lastly we would like to welcome Daniel O'Sullivan into the pack. We all know that God exists as three persons, but now is the dawn of the triangular pyramid.
ULVER, the stray dogs of Athens, November 26 2009.
Folkloric Norwegian black metallers turned expansive, experimental mystics Ulver are to make their UK debut with a show at South London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on October 9, featuring support from Mothlite (featuring Ulver live guitarist/piano hands Daniel O'Sullivan). In May, the band made their first live appearance in fifteen years at the Norwegian Festival Of Literature in Lillehammer, ensuring that this forthcoming, Terrorizer-endorsed event will be a feast for not just the ears, but the mind. Louise Brown got advance notice from vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.
Why do you choose to do only few events?
We have been asked a lot and always said, "No", maybe because we didn't need it. The excuses have been many. But the last couple of years we have been talking more and more about it; that it would be good for us somehow, to come out of our cave and reconnect with humanity! And, I'm not ashamed to say, with the added pressure of the record industry's downfall, it has become an imperative. It's a combination of destitution and daring I suppose. A necessary live evil, if you will.
We take the task seriously, as we do most stuff. We are no strangers to the grandiose, but we are not grand gesticulators. It's not in our nature to put on a show; we've had to compensate for our incompetencies by emphasising other things, like light and projection.
What made you agree to do this concert in London?
When we first started to consider doing live shows we all agreed that conventional touring was not an option. We wanted to do one-off concerts in main cities and venues. This one kind of goes without saying; it's the Queen Elisabeth Hall. We feel privileged and proud to be in a position where something like that is even possible, it being one of our first concerts ever. Besides, one of our members, Daniel O'Sullivan, is from London. Our agent too, Mark [Lewis] has done an amazing job making it happen, and it would be downright uncultured to decline.
You played recently the Norwegian Festival Of Literature, it seems an odd choice, what made you agree to that?
Not many know, but Ulver member Jørn H. Sværen is also a writer and an editor, running two avant-garde small presses in Norway. So the association is not that strange. And the former artistic director of the festival, Mr. Stig Sæterbakken, is no stranger to melancholy. He knew what it would take, and it was him that approached us with the right conditions in the first place. The festival being the largest of its kind in Scandinavia, it had the necessary funds to give us time and space to focus on the stage.
What was the reaction from fans to seeing you live, many for the first time?
It was a very benevolent atmosphere. The audience seemed almost as nervous as we were and I think most of them were quite taken by it, despite getting some criticism for it being too short, which is a positive negative. We also showed some pretty brutal images on screen and I was worried that people would be taken aback by that, but no, it was all very reassuring.
Thanks so much to all of you who came from everywhere to little Lillehammer, making our first concert as this band not the last. Alaska, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Los Angeles, Mexico, Texas. The world came to us that day. And we were touched. We were freaking out, but feel sort of comforted and/or reassured now. We have decided to play again; but for how long and under which conditions are uncertain. Visitation hours are short. Someone wants it to go on forever. We are not sure.
We were Ole Aleksander Halstensgård, Pamelia Kurstin, Lars Pedersen, Kristoffer Rygg, Daniel O'Sullivan, Jørn H. Sværen, Tore Ylwizaker.
Our special thanks goes to the following people:
Kristin Bøyesen, for all her efforts in the preparation for projection. You are a cat with a camera.
Paal Klaastad and Terje Bjordal at Oslo Audio, for high maintenance. God stemning.
Neil McNasty, for lights and illuminati. We thought we were paranoid.
Cornelius Jakhelln, who gave a public talk on us, as we exist in his mind. In a climate full of conceit and ungenerosity, it speaks volumes for a musician to address another in such a manner. Read Cornelius' text below.
Regine Stokke, a brave girl sentenced with MDS/AML. Our burdens are nil compared to yours. We are glad you did make it to the concert and that we got to say hello to you. It is truly astounding how you manage to smile in the face of such adversity. Forgive us our pathetic coquetry with death. We don't know what else to say.
Finally, Mr. Stig Sæterbakken, fine author and former artistic director of the Norwegian Festival of Literature. We would still be in hiding if it were not for your incessant insistence.
ULVER, sunshine, June 22 2009.
WE'RE WOLVES: METAMORPHOSIS DRESSED IN BLACK
Lecture given at the Norwegian Festival of Literature
May 30 2009
I shall speak as a musician speaks of other musicians: with envy. I can think of no greater compliment from one follower of Apollo's art to another, than this short statement, voiced with difficulty and easily misunderstood: I envy you. And that is my statement to Ulver, on this day of their first concert: I do envy you.
I was there when your first album appeared in 1994. And I am here when you give your first concert fifteen years later, in 2009.
I'm a musical infidel. I freely admit it. Everybody knows everything, it seems, except me. I may make your blood freeze by insisting on my own ignorance; however, I listen to Ulver as an insider with a distance, possibly as a related outsider.
As a peripheral member of the same music scene in which Ulver started their journey, that of Norwegian Black Metal (avantgarde or not), I share much of the same aesthetics and references as the wolves.
You know everything about this band. I have nothing to teach you.
Still, let me quote Didrik Søderlind's press release for Ulver's last album Shadows of the Sun, as he succinctly sums up the band's evolution:
"For even though it might be hard to believe it when you listen to the soft-spoken new album, Ulver were once a seminal black metal band. They even have the name (Ulver translates as "Wolves") and a trilogy of folklore-inspired metal to prove it.
But even in a scene that sent shockwaves around the world, Ulver were outsiders. While other black metallers were "slaves to the one with horns", Ulver were inspired by Thomas Kingo, a 17th century composer of psalms.
As the band matured, their influences became even more eclectic. Techno auteurs Autechre rubbed shoulders with visionary mystic William Blake. Ulver have released acoustic folk albums and instrumental techno records, raw metal and industrial soundscapes, and they have composed music for films."
Also, I asked Ulver member Jørn H. Sværen a few questions that came to me, such as "Who does what in the band?"; "How does the music come about?"; "Are you the ideologist of the band?"; "How long have you been working with Kris?"; "Do you see any deeper connection between your publishing houses England and H Press, and Ulver?" This is what he answered:
"It has been a conscious decision on our part, not dwelling on who's doing what in Ulver. It has resulted in quite a few speculations, that I'm playing drums for example, I can't play a note. But that is of less importance, Ulver is a state of mind in my view. I am not the ideologist in the group, if I were to pin it down then let's say Tore is the engineer, I am the puritan and Kris is the visionary. I met Kris in the late eighties or early nineties, I don't remember. Only that it was in a line outside a concert in Oslo, I think it must have been Morbid Angel. We hooked up and became friends, Kris is one of my closest now. I don't see H Press and England as connected with Ulver, but it all stems from the same source if you will. The books from England for example, they could be said to touch on the same truths that make up the core of Shadows, I think in both the lyrics and the music. The great and grand clichés. Kris and I write the lyrics together, and they naturally show the signs of our dispositions."
I have organised my lecture as a trip through the album Blood Inside, incidentally my favourite in the Ulver discography. More than pure analysis of the music, the talk will give you an insight into my personal Ulver phenomenology. I am
DRESSED IN BLACK
You shall know them by metamorphosis; "like hell we are, all dressed in black," they say.
These playful words remain unsaid: "We're wolves, were wolves, werewolves."
You shall know them by grandeur, percussive heartbeats insisting that time is alive in music; "Monumental or something?" they say
You shall know them by strings transposed and transported into the digital domain, plucking away on your nervous system, singing songs of death and subsequent rebirth: "We dug our own graves a long time ago".
Let me be a snotty, coke-snorting journalist for a second: "Dressed in Black" sounds like the Coldplay of black metal ... I am tempted to label it (tongue-in-cheek) Grand Nocturnal Pop, possibly Grand Rock of the Night ... with a piano passage at 6.20 mins that sounds a bit like a quote out of the Georges Bizet's opera Carmen?
Using music as a soundtrack to your own life is a worthy quality test: With "Dressed in Black" droning in my ears I run my normal route, mirroring much of Berlin, or European culture, modernity or even civilisation – I am no stranger to big words, and definitely find them appropriate here – I envy Ulver their musical expression, because its melancholy mirrors the greyness of my former GDR neighbourhood, my passing the bunker where Adolf Hitler shot himself on April 30th in 1945, then further on past the Holocaust memorial, an ominous mass of concrete blocks resembling anonymous graves, then head-on into the lush alleyways of Tiergarten, chasing the setting sun westwards. The low bpm of the music calms my pulse, sort of, and the ringing choirs and echoes beautifully capture the moment.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
You shall know them by ambition, by their scoring the resurgence of the Tower and the descent of God: "Blood of the God word, spoken in tongues ... That we may see the end of the Babel Tower," they say, voicing desires so far unspoken ... "Fucking heaven to kingdom come".
And that sentence has many meanings I will not count: Fucking heaven to kingdom come.
"For The Love of God" invites you into a Sigur Rós-like soundscape with droning bass sounds and eerie, child-like choirs ... and the insisting percussion on vintage-sounding skins makes me think of black big band-music from the 1970s ...
As "For the Love of God" enters my ears, I feel like a witness to the beauty of Spring in Berlin. I witness the world in passing, an experience of ephemeral beauty. The perception of beauty belongs to the traveler as much as to the sedentary. I long for
You shall know them by perpetually being born, as an instance of God in Nature: "What is has neither come nor gone, but error moves," they say ... "Today we have changed eternities and what is past no novelty improves."
By the third song of Blood Inside, it is clear to me – as the last mind on the planet – that there is nothing left of the 1993-era Ulver. The orchestral dark rock herein belongs to a wholly other paradigm than that of black metal. The band's evolution from black metal to grand nocturnal pop can be understood thus: the grandeur of the former genre is also found within the latter. Grandeur: Vocal harmonies in several layers, string arrangments, huge percussion etc.
"Blind knowledge is working at useless ground, and crazy faith is living the dream of its liturgy," they say.
How can I speak of music when I ought to speak of God? Perhaps it is so, that by speaking of music one also speaks of God. The Christmas lyric is a poem by the Portugese poet Fernando Pessoa.
Let me quote the 27th proverb from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake: "The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great for the eye of man."
I run. Through the veil of green leaves I see the Berliner Philharmonie where Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Edvard Grieg and Johannes Brahms conducted their works. Wilhelm Furtwängler took over the leadership in 1923; Herbert von Karajan lead the orchestra from 1955 to 1989. I cannot stand the thought of living in a city devoid of an orchestra. However, I do have an orchestra ringing in my ears; they perform the track called
BLINDED BY BLOOD
You shall know them by words spoken from the past to the future, a lullaby from a father to his son: "You are from the heart of it all ... the light from the love of the night," they sing ... and tears appear in my eyes with these words: "Crying from the inside - the fear ... my little one ... From the Earth It all ends"
The song begins with the mild chiming of bells, then a Moby-like sample of a resounding, black voice singing gospel, then Dead Can Dance-atmospheres ... haunting and resolutely beautiful. Grand rock. Black Grand Piano – "piano" in its Italian sense, meaning also "quiet", "tranquil".
Run again, along, entlang der Tiergartenstrasse; when crossing the Hofjägerallee I look at the Siegessäule, that proud monument designed in 1864, after the Preussian victory over Denmark the same year. By the inauguration of the Victory Column on September 2nd 1873, Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). We look at the Victory Column with the eyes of convinced pacifists.
Do you hear the drums and cries of ancient war?
IT IS NOT SOUND
You shall know them by slowliness, by the precise and deliberate exertion of violence upon your ears and the emotions induced by dark music. "For the record, No one will understand What it is all about," they say ...
Granted. Granted. Grand Nocturnal Pop. Grand Rock of the Night.
"The dead name ... Backwards ... Amen"
"Animals! Werewolves, once among the most influential of the black metal family, now stray, strange birds," their press release reads. "ULVER is 33 years and counting backwards. They have the whole future behind them."
You shall know them by pretending to be the inversion of Jesus, Christ, the Saviour: "It just happened a long time ago ... 33 years ... Again and again and again ... What is it all about ... It is a promise of a lifetime ... Never recorded".
Again and again I run. At the Spreeufer I see young girls pique-niquing with white wine; I see old people parading their Nordic Walking poles, and when crossing the Corneliusbrücke, the bridge over the Spree, something marvelously curious: Llamas. They are animals I can only describe as noble, alert and stoic; while this description rings of 19th-century anthropomorphism, I challenge you: Bring Ulver next time you are in Tiergarten and go see those wonderful animals in the Zoologischer Garten. Every time I pass them I feel that we share some sort of existential community. The music of Ulver – now in my ears – seems to encompass the animal realm as much as the architecture of the GDR, the Third Reich or the blooming trees of Tiergarten. For once, tell me
You shall know them by their vocal lies in the ruthless pursuit of musical truth, by their attempt at creating confusion: "It is the two," they sing, "They turn the pages of the same book ... It means nothing to them ... The pages turned by the one ... Is turned back by the other."
Ladies and gentlemen: IT IS THE TRUTH. The topic for this year's festival. Do you dare to speak the truth, and nothing but the truth?
They are not Ulver. They are David Irving.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE QUEEN'S BENCH. Before:
The Hon. Mr. Justice Gray
B E T W E E N: DAVID JOHN CADWELL IRVING Claimant
PENGUIN BOOKS LIMITED, 1st Defendant
DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT DIVISION, 2nd Defendant
XIII. Findings on Justification. Excerpt: The charges which I have found to be substantially true include the charges that Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that for the same reasons he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-semitic and racist and that he associates with right wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.
They are not David Irving. They are Woody Allen.
(Two Woody quotes)
a. "On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily as lying down."
b. "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
You shall know them by their claim to that which once was known as True Norwegian Black Metal: "They know it by heart ... By the nothing inside it ..."
The song is a fine mess of insisting percussion and strings, choirs, trumpet samples and melancholy synth lines. Kris' layered vocals are mixed with funny cartoonish effects. It is the truth, curious and comical.
I continue my run past the llamas in Berlin and end up, mysteriously, on the shores of Norway, among the wooden houses of Haugesund. The salty seaside air awakens my brain, as I pass decaying Jugendstil villas, wharves, cross two huge bridges before ending up at the column dedicated to Harald Hårfagre ("Harald Fairhair", who after victory in the Battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872 unified Norway into one kingdom.) From that magnificent viewpoint, standing on the Viking king's burial mound, next to the stone column placed on top of it, I look out on the North Sea, admiring the grey sheets of sea and sky merging in the horizon. I am all alone. I am with Ulver. Then two visitors. I talk to a black couple of engineers from North Carolina, who just moved to Haugesund to work in the oil industry. They seem to take pleasure in this bit of Viking sightseeing. An ambulance with wailing sirens pass. We are
IN THE RED
You shall know them by their travels into new domains of sounds and sense: "Out of nature ... Something bloody ... A body," they sing, with echoing strings mirroring the cold emptiness of hospital corridors. "Hospital doors open," they sing, "a great white".
The dire hospital song terminates in a jazz tune, with trumpets, clarinets and vibraphone engaging in merry big band battle. I would have loved to play this music to the young man you will see soon in a certain YouTube video clip ...
"Hey, dude ... are you stuck in 1993, or what? This is the music you will be playing in 2009, NOT the unholy Satanic fistfucking black metal (or whatever else it is) you believe that you will be playing in the future ..."
The future is now. I'm lovin' it.
From the Haraldshaugen monument I run further, as in an Olympic commercial from 1994, to the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer, located in Oppland with 25070 inhabitants counted in 2004. Although I, in theory at least, ought to be listening to the song "In the Red", all of a sudden I find myself speeding through the forest listening to Ulvers primitive black metal album from 1996, Nattens Madrigal, while running upwards along the waterfall called Himmelriksfossen. It is a splendid, sunny day in the end of May. Spring has finally come to Norway, and nature celebrates Winter's departure with a huge party of singing birds, budding trees and blooming flowers. As I make my way up the forest path, the noise of the waterfall merges with the blazing "Of Wolf and Fear", so that I can hardly distinguish the one from the other. I become aware of the deep similarities between those two sound sources, one a product of nature and the other a product of culture; The True Norwegian Black Metal can be compared to a waterfall, falling freely and unrestrained, out of necessity. The riffs are always played with open strings and at blazing speed, the drums a violent million litres of water coming at you blindly. The screams may be likened to the water of Himmelriksfossen crashing down on the stones below. The movement of TNBM shares its necessity with the waterfall; both are unavoidable forces behaving according to the law of gravity. Do not quote me on this.
On top of the waterfall. It now seems that I am out of breath and out of music. Hence, I will pause Blood Inside for now and parade the trivia machine instead, by recounting the number of names by which I know the chief wolf. In the first Ulver album, I knew him as Garm. In my unhappy days in Oslo (Ulver's Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven & Hell era), he went by the name Kris around town. By the release of Metamorphosis EP, I think it was, he started appearing as Trickster G. When he was kind of enough to lay down vocals for the Solefald track "Loki Trickster God", his email address was Storeulv, ("Big Wolf") and the sender name Christophorus. In Blood Inside and Shadows of the Sun his name is Kristoffer G. Rygg. Thus, His Holiness is known under a fine panoply of aliases.
In this piece of seemingly irrelevant trivia, I find a property essential to the Ulver identity: playfulness, the joy of appearing under different names and masks.
What is tried is not true, but trite.
However, contrast this with the following statement made by Kris to Norweigan newspaper Morgenbladet in 2008, after the release of Shadows of the Sun (my translation):
"There are many things about the music business that we are uncomfortable with. You have to play theatre, kind of, wear a mask and act in special ways in order to get media attention. We are not very skilled at this. Wearing some kind of public persona (or personality) is so unnatural, I cannot relate to it. In that respect, none of us in Ulver should have been musicians. We should have done something completely different. We are good only in one segment of doing music, namely doing music as such."
The last line ought to be quoted in Norwegian, as it translates only difficultly: "For det er bare ett segment av det å drive med musikk som vi gjør bra, og det er musikk i egenskap av musikk."
In conclusion, I would like to share the following with you:
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE NORWEGIAN FESTIVAL OF LITERATURE FEBRUARY 12 2009
The Norwegian Festival of Literature proudly presents:
ULVER LIVE AT MAIHAUGSALEN, LILLEHAMMER, SATURDAY MAY 30 2009
Once amongst the pioneers of Norwegian black metal, now living legends of dark experimental music, ULVER are today one of Norway's most acclaimed international artists. While remaining something of a secret treasure back home, a long series of strong releases, most recently the album Shadows of the Sun (2007), has earned them a unique status worldwide.
ULVER have since their first album been exclusively a studio band. This being their first live performance in 15 years, the concert at Lillehammer is a historic event.
A statement from the band: Last year Mr. Stig Sæterbakken approached us with an offer to play live at the Norwegian Festival of Literature, and after long consideration we have decided to accept the invitation. We go to the job with great humility and horror. Ulver, Oslo, February 11 2009.
Times are changing. Jørn just got married, godspeed, and G. has been doing outdoor work at one of Oslo's largest cemeteries. The funeral services dept., Gravferdsetaten, remember. Gardening, six feet under, while Tore has been setting up recording facilities for the fine criminals residing in the Oslo State Penitentiary. So it goes.
Aside from God and the dead and the dangerous, and as you may have noticed, we have committed a cover for C+C Records' quintuple CD celebration of TAFKAP's 50th birthday. Instead of saying thank you, the little man threatened to sue. The world is indeed an ungrateful place. Prince is not our familiar, but we think the song is alright. Siri Stranger, Wyclef's favourite girl, is with us on this one. Some soul, you know. Other artists range from Maja Ratkje, Nils Petter Molvær and Sidsel Endresen, King Midas, Kaada, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, to premium producers Stargate and busty glamour girl Lene Alexandra. More info here.
We have helping hands in two songs on our friends Alkaline Trio's new album, Agony & Irony. It was released today by Epic Records. Congratulations fellas. We've also done a remix for Mindless Self Indulgence. Pay for it. And in mode, we will do one for Genghis Tron too.
We now look much forward to locking ourselves up in the studio and not having to worry about anything else. A new opus magnum/minimum. Please be patient.
Ulver, underground, Oslo. July 1 2008.
Interviews and reviews of SHADOWS OF THE SUN here. And more to come.
The sun is turning, and as the shadows begin to fade we trust you all have at long last received your packages. As most of you know we did not receive the LPs before early November. We would like to apologise once again for the delay and thank you for your patience. Only a few of you have been on our backs about it, and while we understand, we'd like to emphasise that we too have lost a great deal of time and money on this shit. It happens. And life goes on.
As you all know, by now we are filthy rich and expanding the business. Just look at this stunning new artifact:
This beauty is, believe it or not, in stock and will dispatch immediately. Please note that it is from the golden section – NOK 500 / EUR 62 / USD 89 – and only for the ULVER dipsomaniac. A total of 200 have been made; when they are gone, they are gone. Order here.
It is likely to become the most useful band merchandise we will ever make, tragic as we are. Salut.
On the exclusive note, we should also mention that our US partner The End Records is now pushing a ltd. ed. of the Shadows vinyl. One hundred copies in a wooden box with a varnish and a branding, in tandem with a t-shirt and postcards designed by our brother-in-the-hood Stephen O'Malley. Here.
The year of the Rat is on.
JESTER RECORDS, December 22 2007.
Many of you have been waiting for sound, and we are sorry for the silence. We needed to be alone, without the hustle and bustle of the living. We are uncomfortable with the world, the industry and our place. We have been working, sluggishly, well aware we could end up with nothing. Nonetheless we believe we have succeeded in giving our fears some kind of form. SHADOWS OF THE SUN, our 7th full-length album, is finished and will be released October 1st. We feel it is our most personal record to date. Low-key, dark, and tragic. As we are.
ULVER, Oslo, July 13 2007.
"Dark and tragic" might be fitting adjectives for Ulver's 14-year career, but "low-key" is definitely a more recent development. For even though it might be hard to believe it when you listen to the soft-spoken new album, Ulver were once a seminal black metal band. They even have the name (Ulver translates as "Wolves") and a trilogy of folklore-inspired metal to prove it.
But even in a scene that sent shockwaves around the world, Ulver were outsiders. While other black metallers were "slaves to the one with horns", Ulver were inspired by Thomas Kingo, a 17th century composer of psalms.
As the band matured, their influences became even more eclectic. Techno auteurs Autechre rubbed shoulders with visionary mystic William Blake. Ulver have released acoustic folk albums and instrumental techno records, raw metal and industrial soundscapes, and they have composed music for films.
I'd like to say that they are equally comfortable with whatever medium they choose, but that would be a lie. Ulver never seem comfortable—they seem restless, longing for some far-off horizon or hidden world only they can see. This makes every new release from Ulver interesting because you not only have to ask "is it good?" (with Ulver, that's a redundant question) but "what kind of music is it?"
So, what kind of music is this? The boys already told you it's "dark and tragic", but while being weighed down with the world, they have managed to produce their most accessible album to date. This might sound like a paradox, but Ulver thrive on such paradoxes. Their fears have been given a shapely form indeed, capable, perhaps, of bringing a little comfort to some.
Soothing electronics and natural percussion provide the basis for Garm's warm vocals, singing songs of loss and disillusion. While the lyrics provide little hope, the music carries a note of quiet faith. It sees Ulver abandon many of their grand concepts, to focus on music and human emotion. Contributions by world-renowned thereminist Pamelia Kurstin help make SHADOWS OF THE SUN a piece of rare beauty.
You want comparisons? SHADOWS OF THE SUN sees Ulver borrow some pigments from David Sylvian's palette, using it to transport their own visions onto the canvas. Incidentally, Austrian audio abstracter Christian Fennesz, an associate of Sylvian, also help make this album what it is.
Other comparions could be made. The band are avowed fans of Coil. Nick Cave, maybe. But such comparisons only cheapen, because Ulver really don't sound like anybody you already know. They are the perfect strangers.
I'd call them "lone wolves", but I've promised the band to lay off the wolf jokes.
DIDRIK SØDERLIND, Fall 2007.
We have received a note from Kenneth Anger claiming that we are libeling him.
The IT IS NOT SOUND video is of course not directed by Kenneth Anger. The set design is of course not by Albrecht Dürer. Being who we are, we assume that people read between the lines.
Remember Gloria Swanson? Really Ken, who's the cranky old bitch?
I have a problem with censorship [...]. They don't seem to want to take too many risks with living people. Or else I've got to tone down or rewrite some things. – Kenneth Anger
Animals! Werewolves, once among the most influential of the black metal family, now stray, strange birds.
Perdition City from year 2000 was ULVER's last proper album. KERRANG! ranking it top ten that year and writing: "This ain't rock'n roll. This is evolution on such a grand scale that most bands wouldn't even be able to wrap their tiny little minds around it."
A series of EPs and a couple of soundtracks followed. In 2003 ULVER marked their ten years of metamorphosis with a remix CD featuring household subversives such as Fennesz, Stars of the Lid, Third Eye Foundation and Merzbow. ULVER has been nominated to the Norwegian Grammy Awards, Spellemannsprisen, twice, in different categories. They have continued scoring motion pictures, most notably a joint soundtrack with singer/songwriter Tom McRae for the multiple award-winning Uno last year. Only Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter got more visits.
Their last release was the EP A Quick Fix of Melancholy. The band described the thing as chamber music for the fucked up. Some dude responded: "Ulver seems to have tapped into a musical vein that not many are aware of. This reminds me of The Nutcracker Suite type of holiday cartoons being thrust through the imagination of a mental patient at the local institution of your choice."
Nuts or not: ULVER is a tough crack.
"You could file it under spoken word, electronica, metal, pop, or art songs, and be right every time. It's Ulverific!" (The Village Voice)
Now BLOOD INSIDE. It's really very good. They did it themselves, and got away with a little help from legendary producer/mixer/artist Ronan Chris Murphy: King Crimson's preferred audio pilot and collaborator with ladies and gents such as Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, John Lennon, Pink Floyd), Joan LaBarbara (Philip Glass Ensemble, Steve Reich), as well as younger blood from Tool to Ministry.
ULVER is 33 years and counting backwards. They have the whole future behind them.
Just think about it. Would you have more kids with laptops unprepared for droning metal storms and featuring one of them Sonic Youth's covered by a perfectly bland art design out every day at Hippsville Records? Then go fuck yourself.
It is hard. We know. Very advanced. Very narcissistic. A bona fide blow in the head. Lights out.
ULVER is in the hospital. They are really sick. Operating in the red, making wrong calls, damn pranksters. And they have a lot of instruments. Be patient.
Video: starring His Holiness John Paul II aka Trickster G. with spastic paralysis. Set design by Gustave Doré and Albrecht Dürer with a Kenneth Anger impersonator behind the camera.
We give you ULVER's BLOOD INSIDE. Certified and sanctified. For gods and dogs alike. The first 2000 in red velvet and numbered inside.
Due to reorganisation the boys are now stationed in a labyrinth outside Cairo. They are shifting shapes to come.
JESTER RECORDS, June 2005.
October and we're done with the film business for now. UNO has become a major success in Norway, with over 200 000 visitors the first month, and it just won a prize at the EuropaCinema festival in Italy. A commercial soundtrack has been released by Bonnier Amigo Music Norway. Forget it; we will push our own via Jester in due time.
We just have to release the Blood inside. It is running cold and the brain is receiving it and interpreting and transmitting again and again and again. It is making us sick. A baroque thing, beyond all good taste.
FOR THE RECORD
NO ONE WILL UNDERSTAND
WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT
THE DEAD NAME
IT JUST HAPPENED
A LONG TIME AGO
AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT
IT IS A PROMISE
OF A LIFETIME
In between: A collaboration with our long time friend Stephen O'Malley and his SUNN O))) has taken place. The result is a 15 min. epic commisioned for a Swedish radio broadcast, and it will be on SUNN O)))'s bastard White 4LP Box scheduled for spring 2005.
We've also done a down-tempo Strange ways for the upcoming KISS tribute album Gods of Thunder. Released next year by VME in cooperation with the Norwegian Kiss Army, featuring among others TURBONEGRO and GLUECIFER. KISS is king.
ULVER, October 20 2004.
Los Angeles was strange. Blood Inside, gold outside. Friggin' Frank Zappa's guitar player, Mike Keneally, ended up going mad over our record. We are proud to probably not use much of it. We also had Tom McRae with band over for a day of improvising for the film UNO. Some sort of moon unit we were in Ronan's own Woodstock, with pianos, acoustic guitars, cello, violin and of course Rhodes. We have four hours on record which will be edited down for an "unplugged" disc accompanying the final film score. Still in the making. UNO opens the
Haugesund International Film Festival in August.
The score for Mona J. Hoel's film entitled Salto, salmiakk og kaffe is done. Featuring Sámi siren Mari Boine and percussionist Marilyn Mazur, who's played with Miles Davis for crying out loud. We make a CD for you.
Oh beautiful harvest.
ULVER, June 14 2004.
Encore: Spellemannsprisen, the Norwegian Grammy Awards, 2003. We are electronica. Last year we were open. Next year we will be gone. Unless all labels collapse. Live on Norwegian TV2 February 28 2004. We are away. California.
Ronan Chris Murphy will mix our new album in his Veneto West studio L.A. He is the man for work with King Crimson among others. Blood Inside is the title. This fall. All falls.
Back march we start working on two feature film assignments. No rest. Wicked we. Mona Hoel and Freedom From Fear is one. The other is Aksel Hennie's UNO, with the melancholic British singer/songwriter Tom McRae on a joint score. Other projects in negotiation.
We hail the Lion.
ULVER, January 28 2004.
A Quick Fix of Melancholy ep and the Svidd Neger soundtrack are now out. We are working dedicatedly on our next full-length release, with the Heart album as working title, replacing the utopian enterprise. Oblivion to you all.
ULVER, September 17 2003.
Happy birthday. Change hands. A head.
Admitted and circumcised. By friends. Thanks.
Haywire lycanthropy. Wolves evolve.
ULVER 1993-2003: 1st decade in the machines is complete. Remixes by ULVER, Alexander Rishaug, Information, Third Eye Foundation, Upland, Bogdan Raczynski, Martin Horntveth, Neotropic, Stars of the Lid, Fennesz, Pita, Jazzkammer, V/Vm, Merzbow. Some previously announced artists/mixes have been left out; there's a play time and a time to deliver. Out March.
A Quick Fix of Melancholy ep: 3 tracks over 30 min. reflecting the title. G. on vocals on VOWELS by the Canadian author Christian Bök. Out April.
Svidd Neger is slightly delayed. Premiere late May / early June.
ULVER, February 12 2003.
Lyckantropen Themes has been nominated to Spellemannsprisen 2002, the Norwegian Grammy Awards, genre Open Class. Other nominees are Mari Boine, Jaga Jazzist, Nils Petter Molvær and Sidsel Endresen with Bugge Wesseltoft. The soundtrack will unlikely bring us the award in this company, none the less we appreciate the nomination. The show is broadcasted on Norwegian national television February 22.
ULVER, January 7 2003.
The score for Svidd neger is almost done and will be released on Jester in parallel with the film premiere March 2003. The music is more elaborate than the abstract minimalism of Lyckantropen.
The string remake of Nattens Madrigal is of course delayed - no further friggin' comment. The original havoc is now re-released on vinyl by the Dutch Displeased Records; on CD by the Italian Avant Garde Records.
From the fashion wing: A merchandise deal with UK's Plastichead is in place. Perdition City and Lyckantropen T-shirts are available now.
JESTER RECORDS, December 12 2002.
ULVER has been employed for the soundtrack to the upcoming Norwegian anti-Dogma outburst Svidd neger, a 1.5 million USD budgeter hitting the big screen spring 2003. The scenery is absurd Norway in splendour; the music will be all pomp and circumstance. More information at www.sviddneger.no.
Some horror film enthusiasts have also approached us for our competence as true servants of darkness and evil. However we don't sell our souls cheap these days. We'll see, it all comes down to hard cash.
ULVER, July 20 2002.
New releases scheduled for 2003 to mark ULVER's ten years in metabusiness:
1. A collection of transformations from the ULVER catalogue by artists such as Christian Fennesz, Jazzkammer, Kevin Drumm, Kid 606, Martin Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist), Merzbow, Neotropic, Pita, Bogdan Raczynski, Alexander Rishaug, Stars of the Lid, Third Eye Foundation, Upland, V/Vm and others. Both classic and current ULVER material will be remade through contemporary noise, glitch and electronic frolic.
2. A new album, Utopian Enterprises, with texts and images in one grand package (the size depending on our sponsors). A return to vocals and violations with maximum manipulation and understanding of audio technology, beauty and - predicting the misunderstanding - pretence. We've killed too many darlings to please the police. When hurt, we reflect, the failure. Fuck you.
From the visual wing: ULVER is currently employed for a soundtrack to the Swedish film Lyckantropen, directed by Steve Ericsson (trailer download at www.lyckantropen.com). The beast in man, in different neighbourhoods, different forms, but all the same: Awakening.
From the silence wing: The two post-Perdition city improv-glitch-EPs (limited and sold out) are re-released as one disc on the American indie label Black Apple Records (www.blackapplerecords.com) under the title Teachings in silence.
The ambient string remake of Nattens Madrigal is a drag. We promise to complete it within summer and release it through Jester (www.jester-records.com) this fall. If Century Media fancies our liquidation, contact the ULVER finance department at email@example.com.
ULVER, from the March 15 2002 press release.
Everything falls. World history is an endless process of failure and falling, forced forward by opposed powers. In this twilight ULVER hovers, somewhere between Beast and Man, noise and silence, the golden summits and the dead centre.
Their first fall was into the satanic metal scene emerging in Norway in the beginning of the 1990's. Their songs were manifestations of rebellious romanticism, combining elements from Old Norse folk music with the primal brutality of black metal. The first three albums form a trilogy exploring the sinister aspects of Norwegian folklore. The beastliness begins with Bergtatt (1994), is balanced with the all acoustic, neo-folk album Kveldssanger (1995), before returning with even more impact on Nattens Madrigal (1996), where the pure anger and anguish is a consequence of the quintessential lycanthropic lyrics.
ULVER's uncompromising and enigmatic attitude made the band one of the most influential of the Norwegian subculture. Nonetheless they recognized that these early endeavors were stepping stones rather than conclusions - a thought that most bands of the scene did not care or dare to think. ULVER has always been in radical opposition to all forms of restriction and habit. "I think we quite early discarded all convulsive attempts at being dark and evil in any common sense of these words", states G., "When it comes to darkness, I find it much more fascinating when applied subtly."
ULVER fell further with their fourth album, Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1998, trick001). This double CD is an epic recital of the book where Blake evokes the power of imagination against the restrictions of the human ratio. Musically it explores a wide range of sound disciplines, including ambient soundscapes, industrial, cinematic jazz and rock/metal hybrids.
While some genre purists were taken aback by the violation of their boundaries, a new audience now discovered the band. ULVER started interacting with a broader range of people on the cultural fringe: modern heretical philosophers and musicians, writers on conspiracy, chaos magicians and the likes. In Norway the band has been involved in books, movies and multimedia projects, enjoying rising acclaim from a downright diverse lot. ULVER posters started appearing in everything from dumb smash box movies such as Senseless to the TV series Sopranos. The controversial director of the motion pictures Kids and Gummo, Harmony Korine, recently commented, alluding to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "There's a real lineage from a composer like Wagner to a band like ULVER". This confirms ULVER's outstanding status - a status that has resulted in proposals from world-class engineers for production of future albums, remix requests from other musicians, as well as invitations to multimedia projects.
Then followed the aptly titled Metamorphosis ep (1999, trick006), a dark cultivation of the electronic experiments introduced on the Blake album. The EP served as a foretaste of what awaits us now: Perdition City. ULVER's fifth full-length album shows the band retreating even further, into observations of beauty and decay and the loss of innocence. However disillusioned the band may appear today, there are still these keen visions, still these withdrawn and picturesque atmospheres. Subtitled Music to an interior film, this is indeed music to evoke images in the mind.
ULVER belongs to a rare breed of musicians who fall with strict consequence on album after album. And Perdition City is a stunning manifestation of all this within a framework of artistic perfection and mature aestheticism. It is also an album that will convince those in search for modern and sophisticated music without hearing the wings of angels and demons beating beneath.