Sunn O))) & Ulver, Terrestrials

Catherine P. Lewis

By Catherine P. Lewis

on 02.04.14 in Reviews

The Seattle masters of fog-laden drone Sunn O))) worked with the Norwegian black metal-turned-ambient group Ulver on a single track for 2006′s WHITEbox, a box set compiling Sunn O)))’s White1 and White2 albums. But where that first partnership seemed like an afterthought, Terrestrials is a more developed project. The three tracks were culled from a night improvising in an Oslo studio after Ulver’s performance at the Øya Festival in 2008; Ulver continued to enhance and add to the recording, with periodic assistance from Sunn’s Stephen O’Malley.

Sunn O)))’s drone grounds Ulver’s avant-garde ambience

With the exception of the beginning of “Western Horn,” Terrestrials isn’t as dense or as heavy as Sunn O)))’s typical work. Much of the album leans more towards Ulver’s spacey, experimental point of view: The strings on “Eternal Return” come courtesy of guest musicians Ole-Henrik Moe and Kari Rønnekleiv, who also played on Ulver’s 2013 release Messe I.X-VI.X, and the keyboard and vocals that close that track fall squarely in line with Ulver’s proggy, theatrical melodies. But Sunn O)))’s presence can still be felt rumbling just beneath the surface. As a faint horn melody floats by on “Let There Be Light,” an ominous drone rumbles below, the track awakening like a glacially-paced yawn. That’s the kind of atmosphere that Sunn O))) builds effortlessly, making them the perfect partner for Ulver on this all-night improvisation.