Press Reviews for Architecture Of Loss
- Fractured Air
- Create Digital Music
- Headphone Commute
- Fluid Radio
- Indie Rock Mag
- Bearded Magazine
- Norman Records
- Drowned In Sound
- The Liminal
- Sound Colour Vibration
- The Wire
- The Milk Factory
- Solomons Says
- New York Press
- Arts Journal
I attend several contemporary dance performances a year and encounter a few more through recorded scores. Based on this limited sample, it seems almost mandatory for modern choreographers to power dancers with blends of acoustic classical instruments and electronic tones by the likes of Ben Frost or Gavin Bryars. The third full-length by Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson, a score for a ballet by Stephen Petronio, is a textbook case of this approach. Architecture of Loss pits gravely emotive chamber music against furtive electronic frequencies. Drawing from the ballet's concepts of loss and forgetting, it's like something sneaky by Anton Webern and something subliminal from Touch Music playing in synch: bold, yearning themes often break free, but feelings of occlusion and indeterminacy linger.
Except for his production and engineering work with Björk and many others, Sigurðsson is best-known for founding the influential Bedroom Community label, a lightning rod at the juncture where the ambition of classical music meets the aesthetics of indie music-- though it's reckless to breezily dispense with the purview of a label that launched the recording careers of people as individually diverse (yet collectively related) as Frost, Nico Muhly, and Sam Amidon. All of the label's different strands gather in Sigurðsson's music, which can be sweepingly neo-romantic and sweetened with folk melodies à la Bartók while remaining alert to the possibilities of microtonality, mechanization, and minimalism.
Muhly plays piano on Architecture of Loss, and his fans will find much to admire in Sigurðsson, whose piano writing treads the line between the "Moonlight Sonata" and "Mad Rush". His string writing is more astringent, full of naggingly prolonged notes and wrenched transitions. Using a small ensemble, a deliberately limited vocabulary, and electronic processing, Sigurðsson doggedly transforms minimal material, much of it focused on the viola, stepping out of its habitual niche below the violin and above the cello for a star turn. The viola's dominance speaks to the album's equivocal nature; the space it explores between high and low, violence and calm, melody and miasma. Baritone guitar and the occasional trombone ballast the low-end, while pianos, electronics, and even an aquaphone-- the coolest instrument ever, played by crack auxiliary man Shahzad Ismaily-- fill out the upper register.
In such a bright spotlight, it's a good thing that violist Nadia Sirota plays with such force and character. Very occasionally, the stridency of her tone overwhelms finer moods with a general buzzing anxiety. But mostly, Sigurðsson's cagey writing and Sirota's impetuous phrasing blend into music that appears to make sudden, inspired decisions of its own accord. Her playing is riveting on "World Without Ground", where long tones pulsing in different instruments surge over a thumping pizzicato groove. Sirota unleashes ghostly sheens and ivy-like lines that orbit the backbeat in widening arcs, adding a potent centrifugal force to the song rather than another linear one. And one of the best moments comes on "Between Monuments" when it unexpectedly bursts into a world-shaking homestretch with stomach-dropping portamentos in the viola. The recurrence of long, stuck notes feels thin by the time of "Big Reveal", but a rugged electronic scaffold and corkscrewing motivic material soon liven it up.
Not long ago, Sigurðsson was named one of NPR's "Top 100 Composers Under 40", and yet it still feels like we are only seeing the beginnings of what he can do. As a producer and engineer, he has spent a lot of time working in the background, using his technical expertise to help other people realize their visions. He even tends to play a contingent role in his own music. Of his three albums, two-- Architecture of Loss and Draumalandid-- are scores. Only his first and most ambient-influenced record, Ekvílibríum, contains unfettered original music, and even that one was partly worked around the voices of people such as Bonny "Prince" Billy. All these scores and collaborations are great, but with Sigurðsson's compositional talent proven, they can't help but feel a little like bided time. What I'm eager to hear is something with a title that isn't shared with a ballet or a film-- something more along the lines of Valgeir Sigurðsson, Op. 1.
Pitchfork (September 28th 2012)
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Architecture Of Loss
Released on 17 September 2012
Released on 2 March 2010
Released on 27 May 2007
On the web
- Find out more on Valgeir Sigurðsson’s website
- Check out Valgeir Sigurðsson’s page on Facebook
- Follow Valgeir Sigurðsson on Twitter