Tuesday, January 30, 2018

It was a more innocent time

Chapters include 'Thirty-nine lashes, well laid-on', Scars of honour' and 'A caning'

Found (where else?) in our holiday apartment in Hay-on-Wye.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Murder on the dancefloor: Ulver's The Assassination Of Julius Caesar

When you find a gothic electro-pop album featuring in several end-of-year extreme metal best-ofs for 2017, it comes as no surprise to discover that Ulver are responsible.

Having wrapped up their Norwegian black metal phase some twenty years ago, they may have followed their own map ever since into ambient soundtracks, trip-hop, psychedelia, prog and neo-classical experiments. But as they were there at the beginnings of a genuine musical phenomenon, and since chief creative spirit Kristoffer Rygg still looks like he could holler under a blood-lit moon with the best of them if the mood ever took him that way, Ulver get lifetime genre-membership privileges.

Even though no-one knows which version of the band are going to appear from record to record and it's almost certainly not going to be metal.

To these ears, the Ulver that have turned up for The Assassination Of Julius Caesar really like: Depeche Mode circa Violator; Trevor Horn’s 80’s production work; early 90’s techno; slightly over-earnest songs about the Roman Empire; The Beloved;

The good news is that this foregrounds Rygg’s voice – Ulver’s beautiful, pure-toned trump card – against sympathetic, mostly electronic instrumentation. Assassination is the closest they’ve come to pop since their 2012 psychedelic covers set Childhood’s End, although given that much of their output since then has been freeform jamming this isn’t necessarily saying much.

And granted, the music is still brooding, jagged and lyrically focussed on matters of faith and tragedy. But now Ulver - on, say, closing track Coming Home – are doing their thing over beats not a million miles away from Crockett’s Theme from Miami Vice, which is a big plus in my book. The fussiness I can sometimes resent in their proggier work (I’m looking at you, Wars Of The Roses) is almost completely absent here.

In yr blogger’s opinion, then, Assassination is Ulver’s best, most consistent work since the austere majesty of 2007's Shadows Of The Sun. That’s another synth-heavy album and if you like, Assassination is Shadows down the alternative disco, throwing out shapes at a stately 80’s bpm.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

None more brooding: Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey is a wonderful, Romantic (in the poetic sense) ruin in County Meath, Ireland. We made a brief visit there last week as we were staying nearby. Here it is in all its glory on a clear January day.