Eclipse Review: Ulver - Kveldssanger (1995) 2


artist: Ulver
release: Kveldssanger
format: CD
year of release: 1995
label: Head Not Found
dur­a­tion: 34:33

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Few albums can be said to have had such an influ­ence on a typ­ical style of music as Ulver’s Kveldssanger. Released in 1995 as the second instal­ment in the band’s Tri­lo­gie influ­enced by Nor­we­gian folk­lore, it has become a sem­inal album in the area of dark acous­tic and neo­folk music, and a typ­ical example of what hap­pens when musi­cians who play metal pre­dom­in­antly turn to an acous­tic style, and do it well. The album is posi­tioned between Ber­gtatt: Et Eeventyr i 5 Cap­itler - which com­bined black metal with acous­tic ele­ments and unique choir-like vocals - and Nat­tens Mad­rigal: Aatte Hym­ner til Ulven i Manden - an extremely raw slab of black metal and ambi­ent inter­ludes. But, the album found its def­in­ite home as part of The Tri­lo­gie - Three Jour­neys Through The Nor­we­gian Neth­er­worlde, a lim­ited box set from 1997, which col­lects all three ‘dark folk­lore’ albums on pic­ture LP.

The album con­tains a unique com­bin­a­tion of clas­sical gui­tar play (by Håvard Jør­gensen) and layered vocals (by Garm / Kris­tof­fer Rygg), spread over thir­teen tracks, includ­ing some instru­ment­als or only fea­tur­ing word­less vocals. In some places, some cello (by Alf Gaaskjønli) and flute com­ple­ment the basic gui­tar com­pos­i­tions. The themes are always drawn from dark folk­lore and nature mys­ti­cism, how­ever, to which the titles bear wit­ness. The album name itself trans­lates as even­ing songs (or, as presen­ted by the band, twi­light songs), a per­fect sum­mary of the atmo­sphere. Add to that the fol­low­ing, only a small part of the ref­er­ences: “Østen­for Sol og Vesten­for Maane” - East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a famil­iar theme from a Nor­we­gian fairytale, as col­lec­ted by Peter Christen Asb­jørnsen and Jør­gen Moe; “Natur­mys­tikk” - Nature Mys­ti­cism; “Klædt i Nat­tens Farver” - Clad in the Col­ours of Night. The album itself, unlike the two other albums from the tri­logy doesn’t seem to tell a con­tinu­ous story though; Kveldssanger is simply a col­lec­tion of impres­sions taken from the same world as the other two, one that has a firm place in Nor­we­gian cul­ture, admir­ably depic­ted by visual artists like Theodor Kit­telsen, but also the ladies respons­ible for the art on these Ulver albums: Maria Jac­quete for Kveldssanger and Tania “Nacht” Stene for the other two.

This “Nor­we­gian Neth­er­worlde” is a mys­tical land situ­ated in the wil­der­ness, obscured by civil­isa­tion, but lurk­ing in dif­fer­ent guises in the far corners of every people’s cul­ture. A place where nature shows both its darker and lighter sides. More musi­cians have attemp­ted to draw on these themes, par­tic­u­larly on the dark side, but one always runs the risk of des­cend­ing into kitsch or an infant­ile beau­ti­fic­a­tion of ‘evil’. Indeed, many of these musi­cians seem to have failed in walk­ing this pre­cari­ous con­cep­tual tightrope. Gran­ted, even Ulver itself at times viol­ates this bor­der in their dis­tinctly ‘kvlt’ liner notes to these first three albums. In the music how­ever, a per­fect bal­ance comes forth, where nature and folk­lore are allowed to dis­play the many faces they present to the human observer: sad, hope­ful, mel­an­choly, grim, pro­found…

As said, Ulver’s first three albums form a them­atic and musical whole, and to be sure, Kveldssanger should not be seen as sep­ar­aten from the other two, both of which are clas­sic albums in their own right. How­ever, of these albums, Kveldssanger can be said to have left the biggest mark on dark music since then. It is hard to ima­gine the music of pro­jects like Vàli, Octo­ber Falls, Musk Ox, Empyrium, etc. without this mile­stone. Indeed, many of these musi­cians would not pre­tend oth­er­wise. While many have emu­lated this style how­ever, some quite feli­cit­ously I might add, I have yet to hear an album that truly matches Kveldssanger in all its hon­esty, refine­ment, and ori­gin­al­ity.

Reviewed by O.S.

Tracks:

I. Østen­for Sol Og Vesten­for Maane (3:26)
II. Ord (0:18)
III. Høy­fjelds­b­ilde (2:15)
IV. Nattleite (2:11)
V. Kveldssang (1:32)
VI. Natur­mys­tikk (2:56)
VII. A Cap­pella (Sielens Sang) (1:26)
VIII. Hier­tets Vee (3:55)
IX. Kledt I Nat­tens Far­ger (2:51)
X. Halling (2:08)
XI. Utre­ise (2:57)
XII. Søfn-ør Paa Alfers Lund (2:38)
XIII. Ulvs­blakk (6:56)


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