“We want to keep experimenting with instruments and sounds and taking it our way. It’s a different type of sensibility” – Garm on Ulver’s drastic change in sound over the past decade

Ulver. A band that has taken radical shifts in genre and tone over the past decade. They started their career playing folk-influenced black metal, but since 1998, they started going down a strange path. Their musical style became increasingly experimental and eclectic, starting to blend rock, electronica, symphonic sounds, and noise. Many have been waiting for the return of a black metal Ulver, but it seems very unlikely. Which, in my opinion, may be for the better.

Their 2002 release, “Teachings in Silence”, is one of the most interesting compilations of music I’ve ever heard. The album is actually comprised of two limited-run EPs released in 2001: “Silence Teaches You How to Sing” and “Silencing the Singing”. The first track, “Silence Teaches You How to Sing”, is actually a 24-minute piece of what I’d like to call “psychedelic glitch”. I say this because the piece is made up of subtle weird and unnatural glitch noises, alongside Garm’s beautiful vocals, melodic yet minimalist electric piano, and a whole slew of instruments and sounds that are hard for me to pick out. However, the psychedelic part of all of this is the sounds here almost spiral around you. You hear certain elements come in, and throughout the piece, you realize that the sounds seem to be shifting. Overall, “Silence…” is one of the greatest pieces of pure glitch I’ve heard in the new millenium. Quiet but noticable. Also, my favorite section happens around the five minute mark, where the electric piano comes in with a beautiful yet minimal melody that is memorable and hard to get out of your head. Just amazing.

The rest of the pieces are comprised of the “Silencing the Singing” EP. “Darling Didn’t We Kill You?” sounds like a line that straight out of a black comedy-horror film. The sounds, however, show very little hilarity. Glitch noises eventually introduce a distorted guitar and piano riff, until in the middle of the track, the sounds suddenly are stuck in a loop, and drum machine beats slowly make their entrance into the piece before it all ends. “Speak Dead Speaker” is also similar, except that here, ambient synthesized strings are present, though somewhat buried in the mix and sounding like they come straight out of a strange suspense film. Near the end of the track, however, a string quartet plays a melancholic composition along with the unnatural glitch effects.

The last track, “Not Saved”, is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Though minimally composed, it does have a great impact. Sounds of church bells along with electric piano and glitch sounds are combined to create a slightly unsettling effect. However, at times, the piece can be very soothing and beautiful…that is until the church bells snap you out of the spell. Still, overall, the track is a great ending to the compilation.

Overall, “Teachings in Silence” is one of the best releases Ulver has put out. I have yet to hear their more recent works, but in my opinion, these songs are the best showcase of Ulver’s experimentation with instruments and sounds to create new styles and atmospheres that were never imagined before. Each track is great in its own way, and as a whole, it’s incredible.

Title: Teachings in Silence

Artist: Ulver

Genre: Experimental electronic/glitch/ambient

Released in 2002 by Jester Records

Available at most major retailers!