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It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 6
coverpic coverpic Now We've Got Members: Curious Yellow
  (2001 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0006.CDR)
vs.
Ulver: Metamorphosis
  (1999 Jester Records TRICK-006 - CD)

Welcome to round 6 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records! Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other. Humorously counting goalsIt's a GOAL! and giving out yellowOooops, a yellow card! and redOooops, a red card! cards, soccer style - but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see round 1.

Match preview
Curious Yellow is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic sleeve with cardboard and paper folders containing art & information.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The Ulver release comes in a jewel case and includes a folded insert with art & info.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The match

Since watching some videos where Ulver's music was combined with the drawings of H.R. Giger, I often get his "biomechanical" images flashing in my mind when listening to Ulver. On a philosophical or spiritual level, this symbiotic mix of flesh and machines may also be viewed as a visualisation of human existense where mind and matter combine. This troublesome combination has given us everything, but the flipside is pain, chaos, evil, and eventually we all will experience total obliteration. Sad but true? I get the impression that these children of black metal have grown into restless souls, now drawing inspiration from poets like William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud. And Ulver's new electronic sound combined with elements of religious mysticism creates an image of souls in exile, where aggression and opposition has been replaced with alienated despair. But enough of that - you don't have to read poetry or this intellectual blabber to appreciate Ulver's music. So swing that CD!

"Of Wolves & Vibrancy" starts with a deep spacey or submarine humming, but it's soon partytime, as we're heading right into a snappy psychedelic trance theme It's a GOAL!! I see the waving of glow sticks, but they are of course soon fading - the drugs don't work for wolfs. "Gnosis" starts out less structured, with dark, fractured Eno-like ambient soundscapes & bits, until a rhythmic pattern appears, and we get a low-paced defunkt version of the trance party. Add to this the poetry of Rimbaud (extracts from "Bad Blood") and you know the party has ended Oooops, a yellow card!, and you're left alone to sort out the existential mess in your head. O, brother, where art we going ...

"Limbo Central" (subtitled "Theme from Perdition City", pointing to the forthcoming Ulver full length album called Perdition City) is more uplifting, with a calm but slightly mystical sounding piano theme, slashed up with harsh electronic swords. "Of Wolves & Withdrawal" starts almost in silence, but if you turn the volume up, you can hear a sound like that of a large space vessel's low humming (as if I would know), a deep, slowly pulsating bass drone, prone to making loose objetcs in your room tremble. After almost four minutes of this we arrive at a large hall, something is sliding and hammering far away ... echoing ... closing in ... redrawing ... then deep repeated thundering sets in ... and fades away.

To sum it up: Ulver satisfies with this interlude, even if only the first track really gets me. Seems like wolf security has tightened up, no metal parts was appearantly allowed here, so I look forward to see where Ulver are heading now.

Over to Now We've Got Members, who seem to be a loosely assembled group organized around the Metronomicon Audio circuit. On this their first release, we have Henrik Kamphus Nilsen on drums, Christian S. Ludvigsen on bass, Cyrano on various keyboard instruments, Thomas Meidell on various guitars etc., Dag Striberg on saxophone and Magnus Nielsen on fiddle. The ever-present multi-instrumentalist Skjulstad is of course here, also taking care of the singing, creating an obivous link to Center of the Universe. Seeing the lineup, it comes as no surprise that Curious Yellow is the most organic sounding Metronomicon release so far.

"Rumba/Members Interlude" is a calm instrumental opening to the album, kind of a rumba reflection, with a playful but a little sad melody. "Never Forget" is more in a Balkan (klezmer, Gypsy, etc.) melodic setting, which Now We've Got Members clearly is very inspired by. The fiddle sounds very traditional here, but the song structure with its syncopated breaks is rather quirky. Finally, the song ends with a beautifully flowing instrumental theme. "Calypso" does not impress as much, with rather anonymous verses and a refrain that sounds like a nerdy cottage take on soft rock. "Now We've Got Numbers" sports som quite effective woodwind riffing balanced by gliding synths, but in spite of being very dynamically arranged, it only gets half interesting here, when the second part moves it into a Gong-like It's a GOAL! improvised theme. Probably a great vehicle for lenghty live improvisations. With "I Wait for the Universe to Open Up" it's back to the Balkans. In spite of the verses which are low in intensity and adds a little distortion to the vocals - with its clarinet solos this one could have been used as a soundtrack to a Jewish wedding-party movie scene, without any eyebrows being raised. "Paranoia Light" moves partly into post-rock territory, in a cosy lo-fi and somewhat calculated eccentric way. But mixing the slow, beautiful and saddened with Balkan twists and turns makes makes for an interesting listen It's a GOAL!. I've not seen the movie that "Curious Yellow" refers to, so I can't relate my impression to that, but it's a mellow instrumental, a non-intrusive meditative listen. The more rocking parts of "Insomniac" reminds me of a half-acoustic Smashing Pumpkins, blended with calmer parts and dissonant breaks, but rather forgettable.

To sum it up: Apart from the singing, which is not guite on par Oooops, a yellow card! with the instrumental skills here (something I guess you can say is a recurring drawback for the Metronomicon releases so far), this is a promising debut. Obviously drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, it will be interesting to see how this develops in the future, because with a better production and a sharpened creative focus, this could become really great. And I am sure the members could cook up a spicy live stew!

Match result: Metronomicon Audio 2 (It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!) - Jester Records 1 (It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!)

THE LABEL TABLE
# Metronomicon Audio (MA) Jester Records (JR) MA JR
01 C.O.U.: Darklow Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Ulver: Themes From William ... Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! 1 4
02 C.O.U.: Sellout EP It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! Esperanza: Esperanza Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card! 2 1
03 C.O.U.: Bestboy Electric Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Arcturus: Disguised Masters It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! 1 1
04 Cyrano & C.O.U.: s/t It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! When: Psychedelic Wunderbaum Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a red card! 2 1
05 Täppas Strepens: Beans, Bacon ... Oooops, a red card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Bogus Blimp: Men-Mic It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL! 2 4
06 Now We've Got Members: Curious .. It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! Ulver: Metamorphosis It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! 2 1
Total 10 12

Next match
Next head-to-head meeting is the Taking a Nap With The Center of The Universe release from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the Ulver release Perdition City from Jester Records.

Copyright © 2009 Knut Tore Breivik e-mail address

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