"Change is the one constant." That's all it really boils down to, isn't it? From the smallest level to the greatest body, everything is changing. Human beings are evolving. Society is mutating. The universe is expanding. Entropy is increasing. Ironically, the only thing that's constant (aside from Gary Coleman always looking like a friggin' kid) is change itself.
Ulver knows this. Hell, Ulver lives it. This band has been an exercise in mutation almost from its inception. Sure, its first few albums were loosely black metal, but, as the members noted, they were mixing in other styles as they went along. Ulver soon left the genre entirely to pursue electronica, folk rock, avant garde, jazz, lounge, and more, in Themes from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Metamorphosis was more focused, moving into folksy electronica. Perdition City, on the other hand, brings lounge and jazz influences into the picture.
Ulver hardly even acknowledges the potential bizarreness of such a sound, going straight into a smooth fusion that hardly skips a beat. "Lost in Moments" invites you to be just that. It recreates the atmosphere of a cluttered but comforting jazz bar. Excited saxophone melodies combine with subtle bass guitar elements, which follow the pace set by the restrained drumming. Even Garm's bluesy vocals (just how much range does this guy have!?) fit the mellow, relaxed mood.
However, even with the majority of the album going in this direction, Ulver still bucks the trend. "We Are the Dead," an experimental collage that harkens back to the wasteland ambience (as found on Themes...) of past works, inserts suspense and unease in the middle of an otherwise placid experience. It's an unsettling reminder that nothing is as meets the eye with this band.
Although I got the sense that Ulver was becoming more focused for this album, I had no idea it would go in this direction. That was obviously the point, and what speaks volumes about the strength of this album is that it thrives on that element of surprise. Perdition City testifies to Ulver's staying power. It's already an early contender for my Top 10 Albums of 2001 - very highly recommended for people who are interested in an electronic-jazz-lounge sound.
Jester Records offers Perdition City for $16.