April 2017, Best Electronic Album: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar by Ulver

As we said in a previous post, it’s not easy to categorize the music from Ulver, the Norwegian experimental musical collective founded that is now approaching 25 years of actrivity. If their early works explored the realms of black and folk metal, with the passing of time they started an incredible and ambitious exploration of other genres, including ambient, electronica, and neoclassical. This year, with their last work named The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the band is playing with a blend of futuristic electro-pop and experimental music. The result, as usual, is brilliant.

Never afraid of challenging or redefining current musical conventions, Ulver has now enacted what they are calling “their pop album”. You don’t have to worry about vexing radio humdrum or pastel ear candy though – Talk Talk and Music Machine are pop music as good as any in the universe of Ulver. A universe where “pop” is more a mark of distinction, denoting immediacy and possible body movement. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is an album the band has been longing to do for many years, to delve into the music of their childhood, along with the now fading memories and drifting clouds of romance. (Bandcamp)

The magic in the music of Ulver is that regardless of the specific genre they are playing with, they always manage to make you feel a deep and immersive musical experience. And the fact that the album is their most accessible to date means that today an higher number of listeners may venture into Ulver’s music and enjoy the elegance of their production.

It is not easy to find an album which manages so well to combine enjoyability of listening with a sensation of latent discomfort. A perfect example of the contrasting emotions that are provoked by Ulver music is given by the second track of the album, the beautiful Rolling Stone, which features an apparently simple musical structure with a slow but incessant battery, layers of synths and double voices, and a few free-jazz saxophone inserts. The overall experience is obscure and dramatic like the disturbing story which is sung over the music, which is accompanied by a musical crescendo transmitting a sense of anxiety and danger.

I have seen the world you believe in
Black ships with rats dead Caesars and sons
Hear the children sing they cry murder
What is done is done and there is more to come
Poor little sister I hope you understand
The babe in the woods will be taken by a wolf
The second coming means nothing to me
I have tasted death every body and thing
I long for my own for the curtain to fall
To wipe the blood off the face of the Earth

(ROLLING STONE, by Ulver)

We must be only grateful to Uvler if they keep this endless experimentation and exploration of the musical realms if at the end they manage to convey this kind of emotions. The beautiful dark-pop songs of their last album are now constantly rotating in our musical playlists, and the appreciation we have for this little masterpiece is still growing.

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