Wednesday, 26 February 2014

SUNN O))) & Ulver - Terrestrials - Review

Terrestrials cover art

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 3/2/2014
Label : Southern Lord

TERRESTRIALS, album track listing

1). Let There Be Light
2). Western Horn
3). Eternal Return

Review :

Having been on a proper O))) trip for the last few months I was really happy when I managed to nab this as a review assignment. I have heard various bits of Ulver over the years too, so I was interested to see how this collab would play out. Carrying on in the vein of a more modern Sunn O))) this is an ambient work of art, varied and serene and pretty inspiring.

Rare moment of honesty: I have struggled to sum up in words how I accurately feel about this album. It could be accused of not going really anywhere, but you have to listen to it multiple times before it starts to sink in. There is a lot bubbling away beneath the surface. Best way to pick up on most things related to 'Terrestrials' is to become a sponge while it unfurls in the background. I'm still noticing things as I write this now.

'Let There Be Light' is positively fragile. It is so delicate in composition that you could be forgiven for cranking up the volume full blast to just perceive that there is actually a song happening in the earliest stages of its running time. Only when the faintest of horns breathes into life does it start to come together in a more recognisable manner. This is by no means a criticism; I love the detailed nature of the thing; like a video of a self assembling puzzle played at half speed. The picture becomes more and more visible in stages, like the first time you open your eyes from a period of sleep. It takes a while to work out what is happening. I came to the realisation that this song does not play, it is born. It grows in front of you, it lives, it loves and then it fades. The added elements of sparse drum rolls and cymbal crashes going on behind the horns builds, and then it ceases to be. Such a rewarding listen.

'Western Horn' and 'Eternal Return' both seem darker in comparison, and as a consequence probably more directly rooted in the field of drone. At least that's how it comes across to me. There is more discordance in these tracks, more rumble at VERY interspersed moments, but they could by no means be classed as 'heavy'. Both are seriously intriguing prospects, the latter track of the two is almost (dare I say it)... musical. I was listening to it with Markwell (Fellow reviewer) the other day and in a moment of genius he compared it to a soundtrack of one of those Nordic Noir TV shows that BBC4 seem to have popularised within the public. And he was right, it absolutely could relate a dark corner of a bar in Norway while a murder investigation is underway. It sounds like the loss of innocence, and the struggle to reason as to why it was taken away. Haunting string instruments, keys and a variety of metallic percussive sounds (I think there is some kind of Xylophone or gong in there or something) all work together to create this atmosphere that is positively tangible, rich and full.

I will always be a fan of the huge riff, but at times I can crave more than that. This will no doubt be a go-to album for me for many years to come when I desire something more involving or complex, beautiful as it is. Sometimes a dark beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. In terms of expression it is a whisper, but in terms of lasting effect 'Terrestrials' is difficult to shake loose.

Words by : Matt Fitton

You can buy it here

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