Press Reviews for Draumalandið
- In Your Speakers
- The Line of Best Fit
- FACT Magazine
- Dusted Magazine
- Music Ohm
- Record Collector
- The Milk Factory
- Alarm Magazine
- The Silent Ballet
Northern European film soundtracks and dramatic scores don't get a lot of attention, but they could arguably be their own pop music subgenre at this point. From Jóhann Jóhannsson's Englabörn to Erik Enocksson's Man Tänker Sitt, they often contain similar ingredients-- gothic strings, terse pianos, haunting vocals, and a melancholy atmosphere. But due to the format and the potency of the style, you can actually get away with making some very slight music. At minimum, you have to write only one memorable, stirring theme. Record it in a string-led arrangement, and again in a piano-led one. Stash allusions to it in a bunch of filler drone you use to glue things together and, voila, you're done.
But on Draumalandid, a soundtrack for a new Icelandic environmental documentary, Valgeir Sigurðsson goes the extra mile to produce work that stands up against the best of its genre. He lays the requisite foundations in place, with a palette of classical instrumentation and severe electronics. The powerful title motif he concocts for strings on "Dreamland" is reprised on "Draumaland", now scored for mercurial pianos wrapped in wheezing pump organ. But Sigurðsson isn't content to let his themes just sit there; he works them through a variety of mutations, climaxes, false endings, and codas. A bevy of collaborators, culled from Sigurðsson's own Bedroom Community label, inject their personalities and prevent the album from being stylistically monolithic.
Sigurðsson has an illustrious career as a producer and engineer. He's worked with Björk on numerous albums, plus CocoRosie, Ben Frost, Sam Amidon, Will Oldham, and Nico Muhly. His first and only solo LP to date, 2007's Ekvílibríum, predicted the magisterial classical/electronic style he explores here. But as a producer first, he knows how to use his collaborators effectively. Amidon and Muhly appear on opener "Grylukvæði", the best and most distinct track here. Amidon has one of the most inviting voices around today, and his Icelandic folk song, flecked with banjo, sounds wonderful, glinting through a rich haze of strings and crackling with space-transmission interference. And Ben Frost threads subliminal disturbances through the Death Star strings of closer "Helter Smelter".
But most of the record's success stems from Sigurðsson's commitment to making the music a drama unto itself, not just a supplement for existing drama. In the final minute of "Dreamland", a simple 4/4 thwack appears, but it does wonders, turning the stately dirge into a desperate march. "Past Tundra" seems like it's going to be pleasant but nondescript, until the mighty bass chords kick in, the string section starts to cook, and the piece veers off on a warpath you'd have never predicted from its beginnings. There are other gradations of tone, some effective ("Beyond the Moss", where stripes of melody lick out of loose, jazzy clutter), some less so (a trio of brief, negligible interstitials in the middle of the album). But overall,Draumalandid is an excellent addition to my growing collection of music for movies and plays I'll probably never actually see.
Pitchfork (March 3rd 2010)
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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
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