Norway - Full Moon 169 - 06/26/10
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 12
Center of the Universe: Promotional Copy
(2003 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0012.CDR)
Ulver: Silence Teaches You How To Sing EP
(2001 Jester Records TRICK-012)
Welcome to round 12 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 goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
Promotional Copy is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic
sleeve with a cardboard folder containing art & information.
The Ulver release comes in a jewel case and includes a folded insert with art.
The oddly titled Promotional Copy is not a collection of previous recordings by C.O.U. The label clarifies: "Trying to find its roots, the C.O.U goes back to the start but soon ends up at the point of no return in terms of musical direction. Piling up heaps of strange electronic sounds, spooky acoustic instruments and myriads of samples the C.O.U. tries to make a promotional copy of its own style, but fails and ends up with a haunted pop-album."
The flashbacks to earlier C.O.U. output I got when listening to this album for the first time, was partly due to the fact
that they are using samples of their own songs, but overall this sounds unmistakenly like the Center of the Universe.
And as usual, Sissyfus is doing everything, and some more - the list of instruments even counts "water".
"Get rid of this tune" is a cheesy casio instrumental, the synthetic sounds kind of numbs the reflective mood that is there,
making it feel a little superficial, but it's up-beat and playful, and a little sad. "A Short Way" is just a minute long instrumental, with Eastern-Europe/Middle East
sounding melody lines. So, the album really starts with "Hoax", which also sounds curiously familiar. Especially the chorus,
which sounds like a summer day when not much is happening, catchy, but the colours feel kind of bland.
"Chili Powder" could perhaps spice it up, but it falls into the valium-laced Mario Game soundtrack category .
"Found You!" is repetetive and floating, but it's fragile mood and simple lyrics makes it a highlight of the album. Slow hiphop
rhythms join in as the song's theme morphs into "Hidden Track", a loopy instrumental slowly drifting away, quite trancey.
Much is happening in "Fool 4 a Day", a lot of strange sounds popping in an out, but as with some of C.O.U.'s songs, it falls
short due to the combination of too many cheesy sounds and the nerdy melody, here overshadowing the refrain, which
in itself is almost hummable.
"Strange Loops" is more exotic, an instrumental with japanese sounding parts and
an eerie melody that must be difficult to sing ... but Sissyfus pulls it off, in his own way. For once, the view opens up, and I can
see a horizon appearing. "Bonus Track" comes as another surprise with it's square synth-pop complete
with computerized-like voice (think Stephen Hawking). The lyrics are more of a joke, and perhaps the whole song too,
but hinting towards Kraftwerk is not a bad idea. Now, the song itself quickly becomes quite annoying to listen to, but
it anyway stands out as refreshing in this collection. "A Long Way" is another reflective ballad, the female voice
of Nijl Paardje is welcome. The song itself is moving very slowly, sideways, almost fading from the start. The ending "Ghost Track" is
just a short fadeaway track.
To sum it up: On it's best, C.O.U. can produce unpretentious naive-pop nuggets, but this album sounds different,
sometimes inducing the kind of melancholy you can get from watching an old photograph where the colours have faded along with the memories.
Other times it just feels subdued, detached and lackluster, making its introspectiveness seem dull and the experimental bits appear uneventful.
More than anything, listening to Promotional Copy reminds me of a hot summer's day, you're in your early teens,
all your friends are on vacation, so there's really "nothing" to do, the roads become dusty
dried-up veins, the green grass turn grey, and you just hope the standstill day will pass quickly.
I am ambivalent about this album, but some songs will grow on you .
To quote the lyrics from "A Long Way": "It seems like we've come a long way, to do nothing at all."
I'm sure Sissyfus, C.O.U. and the Metronomicon crew will prove that wrong very soon!
There has always been an aura of mystique around Ulver, and apart from the recording date (Feb. 26 2001, reportedly
recorded during the sessions for the Perdition City album), there is no
information whatsoever following this release, apart from the label address and a note saying that this EP was released
in a limited edition of 2000. The booklet containt some blurry pictures of buildings, that's it. No track info either,
but there is only one large track, clocking in at 24 minutes. So let's fire up that bio-machine and go soul-searching!
We're inside the machine now, some maintenance is getting done, sounds of welding, air-vents letting go, some deeper
droning sounds, all come and go, something is getting repaired, all robotic perhaps, metallic saws, suddenly the air-vents
go amok, rapidly firing air, introducing an ecm jazz guitarist's lush instrumental, but the repair work goes on in parallell,
a tiny robot clicks by, once, twice, what's he up to, gathering info, sending reports to the main cluster, we float
a minute like this, holding our breath, then something collapses, time perhaps, or space, sounds go backwards an builds
quickly into something unpleasant, and we're transported to the insides of a grand piano, grand, but synthetic, probably
a yamaha, playing a classical pastiche, melancholy and passionless, but with glimpses of a new horizon, spacey sounds drift by, backwards
and forwards, a minute goes by, something is trying to get through to us while the piano fades, but the walls hold, the piano stops,
the drones keep on making noises, soon they will get here, but now we're back inside the machine, the drones following, disappearing,
yes they are gone, trying to rest, but then suddenly we're inside the mainframe, the bits fly by, at first it seams like chaos but
they create tones, a melody, themes, and rhythmic patterns of blips, some random, but repeated, what's that, fragments of lost
transmissions, a broken message, between who, interruptions increase, then a human voice, strangely singing, lo-fi long distance
analog radio recordings looping, can this wordless humming be of importance, it repeats but isn't getting clearer, sounds like
a vinyl record now, scratchy, almost unplayable, at least it's human, the repair work continues, but doesn't improve the
transmission, the humming chorus repeats over and over, feels kind of relaxing, but we know better, then it stops, leaving us
on alert, something heavy and big rumbles, but far away, then suddenly the singing reappears, this time they're in the same room,
crystal clear, beautiful, no words, only the comforting voices, bass and percussion is added, a simple theme is repeated, the
robotic work continues unaffected, seemingly, but are they trying to communicate, sync in to the music, it's not easy for them,
the music fades, the robots seems confused, frustrated, the singing reappears shortly, then fades, a short silence, then large machines
thundering, from a distance though, we should be safe here, is that a sitar, a theremin, strange, how come to grips with this,
perhaps we're in a smaller dimension after all, the large machines now sounds bubbly, the sitar, the theremin,
the machines, they all work together, repeating the pattern, meditating, was that footsteps, probably not, wait, there they
are again, sounds static, but they are footsteps, in a tunnel, lots of reverberation, echo, but they are not closing in,
neither moving away, is the person just standing there, just faking to walk, seems so, but then finally the footsteps
appear to be fading, as synthesizers drift in, tangerine dreaming in short repeated sequence, the theremin is still here,
the banging also, voice fragments, the record skipping now ... eerie ... click ... buzz ... blip ... is that grasshoppers,
no, just the small robots working, FUCK, it is a grasshopper, alien and huge as a building, no, wait, that was just a sensitive microphone,
we're inside the yamaha again, a close deep voise singing, the words are again incomprehensible, a lot of transmission noise,
but the voice is still clear, is it backwards, some of the static noise morph into synthetic tones, then just the sounds
of flickering fluorescent tubes, they're going to break, it will be dark soon.
To sum it up: soul-glitch ...
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 3 () - Jester Records 1 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Cyrano album You Sensualize My Soul from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the
Origami Galaktika release Stjernevandring/Eesti Lilled Silmad Süda from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2010 Knut Tore Breivik