Norway - Full Moon 183 - 08/13/11
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 26
Center Of The Universe: Bellydance Nation
(2005 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0026.CDR)
Ulver: A Quick Fix Of Melancholy EP
(2003 Jester Records TRICK-026)
Welcome to round 26 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
Bellydance Nation is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic sleeve with a cardboard folder and a booklet containing art & information.
The Ulver release comes in a jewel case.
Sissyfus vehicle C.O.U. are no strangers to eastern influences, but this release goes a couple of steps
further in that direction than earlier releases, even listing the song titles in Arabic handwriting (only!).
Sissyfus himself plays instruments like oud, saz, sitar, darbouka, surna and mrdangam, while a handful of
musicians helps out here and there, adding violins, more darbouka and bagpipes.
The up-tempo "This Love Will Last 4ever" successfully blends eastern and western melodic traditions, sounding at times like
an Irish-Arabian folk tune. We've heard similar melodies before from C.O.U., but the busy arrangement is adventurous without
getting confusing or tiresome, even when stretched over more than 7 minutes, a length which seems to be the norm for songs on this album.
"So Lets Just Forget About It" starts by pushing the tuning of some instruments beyond
the western comfort zone, and probably also challenging anybody's concept about being "in tune".
Sissyfus' voice seems to adjust well though ... and after a while the song's skewed melancholy flows into "Bellydance Nation Part 1", another
peculiar mix of neo-medieval, british and eastern folk music.
"The Seed" is calmer and slower, almost a ballad, again a rather sad melody along more western traditions, with rather sparse arrangements.
Nice, but here the 7 minutes seem long.
"Sleep" is also slow and sparsely arranged for the most part, at times sliding into a psychedelic dub experience, while
the more acoustic "You've Got No Idea!" steps rather deep into melancholia before "Bellydance Nation Part 2" takes over, this
time dry-sounding and dominated by cheesy synths, 7 rather uninteresting minutes.
"Doppelganger" introduce a pop refrain, but here Sissyfus' singing falls through, and as the toylike synths and rapid
electronic rhytmics join in, the album sadly ends with a low point. Not counting the nonsensical "Hidden Track Part 2".
To sum it up: C.O.U. goes Arabic on this somewhat reflective and mostly melancholy album, but there seems to be a lack of
quality control when it comes to both songwriting and arrangements. At its best western and eastern melodies are melded into
something that suits Sissyfus' singing, but other times the results just sound cheesy, lackluster and careless.
So like with other C.O.U. releases, it's pick and choose.
By the time this EP was released, it seemed like Ulver approached melancholy in a way that could hardly
be described as neither quick nor a fix, but the title is a fitting description anyway.
The opening "Little Blue Bird" is symphonic and operatic, after a while coloured with elements of glitch and other broken sounds.
Since I've been bashing Sissyfus' singing on occasion, it feels appropriate to note that Kristoffer Rygg perhaps stretches his capabilities
a couple of times here, although his voice itself has qualities that I in general appreciate.
The instrumental "Doom Sticks" is overall more synthetic, but when harp arpeggios and strings join in, the tension increases from sleepy reflective to the
more mysterious and eerie.
"Vowels" in some ways continue this, but this time with a vocal with more of a gothic and medieval feeling, like from a dark monastery.
Otherwise it is sparsely arranged, leaving room for the strings to resonate, to great effect.
The EP ends with another instrumental, "Eitttlane" (sic), a more floating piece, where only the
obscure and faded samples of rock drums at some point intrude, before it floats away, drifting towards darkness on mellow trip-hop rhythms.
To sum it up: Overall I would say this release displays more cinematic drama than pure melancholy. The lyrics are esoteric and can
be interpreted in many directions, leaving the Ulver mystique intact. But all in all a little disappointing and directionless interlude from Ulver.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 2 () - Jester Records 2 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Meta Forever CD Astroid Antics from Metronomicon Audio which is up against
the 1349 Rykkinn CD Brown Ring Of Fury from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2011 Knut Tore Breivik