Aethenor is the ever-unusual combination of two members of Ulver, big Sunn O))) guitar-drone man Stephen O’Malley and London’s free-jazz drummer supreme Steve Noble. This album, sourced from 2010 live recordings, finds the players meeting each other in the middle for remarkable, highly-atmospheric, and more or less unclassifiable music. Hazel is out on the ever-solid VHF label.
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Vinyl LP £20.99 VHF140
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In which Stephen O’Malley screams “we have to go deeper” and continues to dive into the metalception netherworld. Once again enlisting his buds in Ulver, who now prioritise electronic beatwork atop their black metal CV, the Sunn member who isn’t Greg also gets jazz drummer Steve Noble into the studio for a record of dark, tectonic jazz, the likes of which Oren Ambarchi and co have probably dreamt of making. Bring these three separate musical entities together, and you get Aethenor, who largely sound nothing like you’d expect them to.
And yet… ‘Hazel’ is the most intense thing any of them have made in years. It’s a surprise, first and foremost, with its rhythmic implosions navigating lounging improvisations on the Rhodes and O’Malley’s guitars, their iced jazz sound recalling the recent, skeletal reworks of standards by Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison. Mixed with the subterfuge of metallic ambience more suited to Have a Nice Life, and a backwards medley of remote vocals -- sometimes a droning chorus that crawls up the wall, and at other times grainy filmic samples of conversation -- this record becomes a tug of war, a record as euphoric as it is claustrophobic in scope.
Call it dark ambient, I know you want to, but that’s mere wallpaper on this record: it conjures up ghosts while the earthy, more terrestrial collaborations delve into a cacophony of sonics. You wouldn’t think the slow and steady trendsetters of Ulver and Sunn could make something quite this intense, this deep into their bag of tricks, but Noble has unleashed them.
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