Bedroom Community

Press Reviews for Draumalandið

I’m impressed by the way that the Bedroom Community label operates in a manner akin to a co-operative, with its resident artists making best use of each others’ talents. The end results, as I saw recently at the Barbican when Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and Valgeir Sigurðsson came together, blur lines between electronic, classical and folk musical forms. This collaborative tradition continues on a new album by Sigurðsson, which features all of the above plus Ben Frost and new recruit Daniel Bjarnason. With Sigurðsson on production duties, Bjarnason has also turned in an excellent contemporary classical debut for the label.

Draumalandið is a soundtrack to a movie based on Andri Snaer Magnason’s book of the same name, about the environmental impact of the Icelandic government’s drive to dam rivers for their use in the aluminium smelting industry. Aside from the opportunity for an appalling pun (“Helter Smelter” indeed) this also affords Sigurðsson with all the visual stimuli he could need for a work that it is vast and dark, shot through with flashes of heavy industry – a close relative to work by his countryman Johann Johannsson. Other than on the Amidon-sung opener “Grýlukvæði“, the glitchy electronics of his last album Ekvílibríum have all but vanished, leaving orchestration to dominate. At times this can be relatively restrained, just piano arpeggios and wheezing harmonium, but often the results tend to the epic, a piece like “Past Tundra” swelling from just one violin and unusual metallic percussion to a rousing finale. He saves the best for last, with the sickening spiralling motifs of the aforementioned “Helter Smelter” undercut with Ben Frost drone, rendering Iceland as the land of Hermann-scored environmental nightmare.

Mapsadaisical (February 10th 2010)

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