Wednesday, April 30, 2003

New music around the place. I got a raise last week, so I dropped by Scrape and picked up the following:
Ulver: Lyckantropen Themes
I think the first Ulver album I bought was Nattens Madrigal, a deliberately perverse and unlistenable heap of black metal fuzz that was their one and only release on Century Media. The promo photos at that time showed the band in black suits and sunglasses, Reservoir Dogs style, with a big black American car in the background. These accessories, the story goes, are what they spent their advance on. Century Media made the best of a bad situation by claiming that Nattens’s “grimness of sound” was the result of it having been recorded live to four-track in the Norwegian woods. As such it was authentic, evil, and cult. Too bad it sounded like a miked-up sewing machine. I love Ulver. Lyckantropen Themes is the soundtrack to a short film by Steve Ericsson. The music extends the style they developed on Perdition City, their last full-length—it’s mostly ambient, wordless and beatless, flowing from one interlude to another. A chordal motif reappears at various points, but there’s nothing much to ground the listener. I’m pretty sure this will be one of those albums, like Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi, that sounds slightly different every time I play it. By the way, I bet my friend the Shockker could make an album like this in his sleep.

Katatonia: Viva Emptiness
Their previous album, Last Fair Deal Gone Down, was a great collection of death-pop and the soundtrack to my full-on summer of 2001. The sticker on the front of the new one has a quote from Chris Bruni (who writes for U! and Brave Words) declaring it “A masterpiece for the ages.” I’ll have to listen to it a few more times before deciding whether this is true or whether Chris was just overexcited at receiving the advance promo before everyone else.

Opeth: Damnation
So Opeth finally deliver the mellow prog album I’ve wanted from them since Morningrise. Am I wetting my pants? Is this a masterpiece for the ages? Well, at this point (having listened to it twice), it’s shaping up to be a fairly minor release in the Opeth catalogue. I expected more twists and turns…more drama. I hoped they’d bring the abrupt song structures of their heavy epics into a mellower arena. Although I’m struck by how low-key this album is, I can’t deny that the songs are memorable—I’ve got about eight different sections, lyrics and hooks bouncing around my head right now. My favourite tracks so far are the mellotron laden (both string and choir settings!) opener , “Windowpane” (an outstanding song), the middle piece, “Closure,” and “Weakness,” a surprising electric piano and voice duet that ends the album. Mikael Akerfeldt thanks his record collection for “making this album come true,” which is something I can relate to. From track to track, Damnation sounds like Porcupine Tree, Camel, and Nick Drake, all of whom Akerfeldt has namechecked in interviews over the years. Despite my semi-thwarted expectations, you know I’m loving this.

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