Bedroom Community

Press Reviews for Draumalandið

Draumalandið the film is a timely exploration of the high price paid by Iceland when it chose to exploit its natural resources for the (transitory) economic advantages brought by the aluminium smelting boom. Exposing the "dark side of green energy", the film mourns the pyrrhic victory of the landscape's resultant destruction eloquently and movingly.

This album - the soundtrack to the film - has been created by Valgeir Sigurðsson, Icelandic songwriter, composer, engineer and producer, with a whole raft of his Bedroom Community labelmates in collaboration, from composers Nico Muhly and Daníel Bjarnason to American folk singer Sam Amidon and an orchestra put together specifically for this recording.

Draumalandið translates as "Dreamland" - indeed, this is used as a track title too - and there is certainly a dreamlike element to much of this subtle, sometimes sorrowful music. The sadness comes through - in mournful strings and yearning melodies - in all its many and varied guises, from the nostalgic regretful mood of the beginning of Helter Smelter to a deep grief ably described in the mournful violins, guitars and melodies.

Many tracks - Past Tundra, Hot Ground, Cold - can be best described as soundscapes, impressionistic depictions of a mood or a place rather than just "songs". The small dedicated orchestra produces appropriately symphonic, string-driven peaks and troughs. With the exception of the Sam Amidon-sung opening track (an adaptation of a traditional Icelandic folk tune about a child-eating witch) there are no vocals, but instead music that captures the textures and feel of the landscape. Throughout several tracks you can make out the sound of a bleak wind billowing and blowing, and on Past Tundra this reference is made more overt with the inclusion of what sound like wind chimes. The overridingly pastoral feel is occasionally interrupted, as with the angry "man made" static crackle that punctuates Grylukvaedi.

As befits the subject matter, this is an album also suffused with anger. From the aforementioned crackle, to the frantic increase in pace of Past Tundra and, particularly, closing track Helter Smelter, the music manages to convey its meaning remarkably, and eloquently, without using words. An uneasy sense of impending danger or menacing warning can also be found in the dramatic chords, or in the frantic strings and dissonance found on Draumaland.

If this all sounds rather stark and forbidding, then it must also be stressed that there is immense beauty here too. In the piano chords, chimes and plucked strings of I Offer Prosperity And Eternal Life, in the the harp-like interludes on Nowhereland and most of all in the the spare, restrained, somehow dignified elegiac nature of the project as a whole. It is perhaps this sense of beauty that most successfully underlines the tragedy of the despoliation of Iceland's natural glory, alongside its dramatic economic fall from grace. Sigurðsson's achievement is no mean one, then, in producing a soundtrack that so appropriately fits with the film that it manages to convey its messages and story even without the accompanying words and pictures.

Jude Clarke

Music Ohm (March 1st 2010) ★★★★★★★★

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