18 February 2008

Album of Last Week: Ulver - Kveldssanger (1995)

A vicious tag team of illness and real-world concerns (damn them!) kept me from posting much last week, so I'm going to make up for it by posting about two albums this week.

Ulver is a band that truly defies classification. They began their existence as a Folk-influenced Black Metal outfit, and later branched out into avant-garde electronica after 1998. Ulver's first three albums have retrospectively been given the title of The Trilogie. 1995's Kveldssanger was the second installment, and is the subject of my focus in this episode of Album of the Week.

What strikes the listener first is that Kveldssanger is utterly acoustic. The sound is so very different from the rest of Ulver's curriculum vitae that one might not think it was the same band. The second aspect of the album which strikes the listener is the atmosphere. The title of the album in English is "Evening Songs," and the music is well-suited to that description. The music is peaceful, with just the right balance of melancholy and contentment; inevitably, when listening to Kveldssanger I find myself envisioning summer evenings in an idyllic countryside where I have never been, yet is strangely familiar. Lyrics are sparse throughout, coming primarily in the form of two brief a cappella interludes--namely "Ord" and "Sielens Sang".

It's difficult to pick out the best tracks--every song on the album is good, and this is the sort of album which bears listening in its completion--but "Høyfjeldsbilde," "Naturmystikk," and "Halling" are my personal favorites, the first because it manages to capture that summer dusk feeling better than any other song on the album, the second because of it's incorporation of woodwinds and the third because it is perhaps the most peaceful song on the album, so much so that it feels almost happy.

Kveldssanger is one of those rare albums where I can chose a track at random and enjoy it utterly. Combine that fact with it's idyllic atmosphere, and the end result is one of my favorite albums of all time. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

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