Ulver - Messe I.X - VI.X
Jester Records
Ambient, Neoclassical
6 songs (44:44)
Release year: 2013
Jester Records
Reviewed by Goat

The twelfth full-length from Ulver is possibly the most restrained the band have ever been. A soft, neoclassical hum forms much of what you'll hear, delicate electronic patterns and gentle strings, Garm/Kristoffer Rygg's vocals not even making an appearance until the fourth song – this will take patience from those used to altogether more from the band. You could reasonably expect people to have gotten used to Ulver's post-metal years however, and Messe I.X – VI.X is far from metal. A very dainty creation, this is a collaboration with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra that features over twenty guest musicians, but uses them exceedingly sparingly. As ghostly and beautiful as you'd expect from that artwork, Messe I.X – VI.X will appeal to fans of Ulver's latter-day period, especially those willing to allow an album to grow on them...

This is far from instantaneous music, y'see. The nearly-twelve-minute opener As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon Grapples with Ghosts of a Bloody Past especially will test your patience, building up very slowly until about the fourth minute when a mournful cello begins to wail, other instruments joining it as it forms the nucleus of an orchestral movement. The following Shri Schneider has an electronic patter behind the flittering instruments, a flute discernible behind the almost 80s pop backing before it collapses in on itself, fading to nothing. Glamour Box (Ostinati) marries that electronic patter with the previous orchestral hum, and introduces that well before Son of Man rolls in, my favourite track present mainly due to Rygg's breathy and arresting vocal performance, which is married to some lovely and grandiose orchestration.

Noche Oscura del Alma returns to ambience, with some eerie whistles and hums, before Mother of Mercy ends the album with more vocals, almost a continuation of Son of Man initially, returning to the sort of minimalist hum that opened the album. It all very clearly means something (the lengthy title of the opener is seemingly taken from a Reuters article, for example) but it's difficult to know what. It's not the best thing Ulver have produced of late – I found it hard to follow completely and even slightly dull at moments – but it's undeniably beautiful when it works and more than worth a try. You can hear the full album for free at their BandCamp.

Killing Songs :
Glamour Box (Ostinati), Son of Man, Mother of Mercy
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Ulver that we have reviewed:
Ulver - Wars Of The Roses reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Ulver - Perdition City reviewed by James and quoted 95 / 100
Ulver - Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell reviewed by James and quoted 81 / 100
Ulver - Bergtatt reviewed by James and quoted CLASSIC
Ulver - Shadows Of The Sun reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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