Ulf Söderberg

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The debut solo offering from Ulf Söderberg, frontman of Sephiroth, is a journey into the sound worlds of numerous places at once. The gorgeous gothic architecture his compositions are framed in resemble no one else's. They move the listener in a very specific way to the interior, far inside the composition's marrow, and then leave her or him there. Söderberg's music has the stamp of the dark northlands all over it, but there is a warmth and passion in it as well. It is foreboding, mournful, dramatic -- even epic in some cases -- yet never without a place for the listener to enter and be projected, along with the music, into some heretofore unseen sphere where there are not only no easy answers, but none period. There is only atmosphere. Aside from some flutes of various types played by Anders Hagberg, some handclaps, and moral support, Söderberg does everything himself -- the programming, the shape and construction of the considerable harmonic architectures, and melodic shapes enhanced by everything from didgeridoos to samplers. A listen to "Våroffer" and its driven dance rhythm interspersed with the sweet darkness of space and layered atmospheres would make a listener reconsider industrial music as a music with potential if it were this humanly executed. "Frostblommor" is its opposite, a piece of shimmering electronica wrapped inside a cocoon of silence as it gently moves its way to the surface with circularity and deliberation. By the time the chorus of voices enters, signifying change, and the spaciousness is layered with a spare foreboding chord, we can feel tension at the beginning of a darkness that goes unresolved as the piece fades into the ether. However, the very next work, the dark beauty that is "Det Vakande Tinget I Nordväst," gives us loss, grief, hope, drama, redemption, and transcendence...but from what to where is unclear. And that's as it should be. Ambiguity is the hallmark of mystery, especially in music, and Ulf Söderberg understands this implicitly. He leaves the listener astonished enough to be weary from the journey, yet willing to take it again -- and the next time go further into these sonic landscapes carved from his imagination and skill as a composer of not only music, but emotion. Truly mysterious and truly fantastic.

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