March 3, 2014

Sunn O))) & Ulver ‎- Terrestrials (2014)

Last year, when a collaboration album between Sunn O))) and Ulver was announced, tight hipster jeans all over the planet were creamed instantly and that fucking Needledrop asshole was probably already writing a review before a single note was leaked. Like, you know, whoah, those two bands, man. Gotta tweet about it! #yolo #ebaygold ... Ebay gold, because there were 5000 vinyl records pressed (1000 white, 1000 red, 3000 black), all of which were gone with a fucking mouseclick.

Well, big fucking deal. While I like both bands, this was hardly exciting news considering the fact that they already worked and recorded together eleven years ago during Sunn O)))'s White1 sessions. But how the fuck would a hipster know? They were probably still swimming in daddy's nutsack at that time. Metaphorically, of course. Everybody knows that hipsters are being bred in laboratories, in an organic soy latte liquid in test tubes. But I digress...

Terrestrials is one of the few contemporary examples that make sense in an album kind of way: the songs simply need to be played in the exact album order, first side one, then side two, in a very classical sense. And also the instrumentation is very classic: in addition to Sunn O)))'s tectonic drones and Ulver's electronic and ethereal orchestration, there is a whole variety of brass and strings creating a quasi jazz vibe at times, pretty much along the lines of Bohren & der Club of Gore. On antidepressants. Mixed with speed. Speed in very, very relative terms, though. The bad part, however, is the (only) song on side two: starting off quite promising, mesmerizing even, it's those fucking vocals that ruin it all. Hey Garm! Yes, Garm, I refuse to call you Kristoffer, I would love it if you went back to the woods to howl with the wolves again. You did a fantastic job almost 2 decades ago, but your vocals these days sounds like some esoteric whale song on a new age meditation CD. With dolphins on the cover. I swear I can almost smell the incense. Oh, and by the way, why the fuck do you always, always, always wear that wool hat? Are you balding and can't get over it? No worries, buddy... you're not alone in this!

Listening to this album, it's hard to not play a movie in your head: probably a late night feature of a Kubrick one, as reinterpreted by Tarkovsky: artsy and bleak, yet strangely seductive and soothing at the same time. (And it really does not come as a surprise that Ulver were using 2001 footage as visuals on their latest tour...) Everything is, as you would expect, very anticlimactic and (of course) drone-y, but then again, I get the feeling that these 3 songs here might be among the most lighthearted either band has ever created. Not that it is poppy by any means or standards, or even uplifting, but beneath all that doom and gloom there is a sense of hope. The cover art shows a picture of our sun (no pun intended, it wasn't my idea to use it, mind you!), and the entire album to me personally has a very galactic vibe. It sounds like the soundtrack to the birth of a star or a galaxy, celestial beauty and chaos at the same time, a soundtrack for the realization that we, as humans, are essentially insignificant in this universe and can only stare wide-eyed. 

Terrestrials, with all its shortcomings and interesting parts, already has a place in my top ten for the year and it's only March. I don't know what that means, to be honest - is it really that great? Or does contemporary music suck so hard that I am willing to accept a mediocre record because it's better than anything else being released?

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