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Press Reviews for Ekvílibríum

Ekvilibrium, the debut album by Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, opens with "A Symmetry," a track whose glitchy beats, strange rhythms, and familiar instrumentation will immediately conjure images of Bjork.  This isn’t an imagined likeness, however, as Sigurdsson has been a producer and collaborator of that lovable Scandinavian for almost a decade, as well as working with such varying talents as Will Oldham, Múm, and Scottish producer Howie B.  Ordinarily, I would try to avoid playing up such a connection, but on this, the debut of a high-profile producer and full of guest contributions, it seems impossible to characterize without putting it in context.

Alternating between instrumental and vocal tracks, Ekvilibrium is a polystylistic blending of techniques, making use of both traditional instruments and means, as well as digital wizardry and programming one would expect from Sigurdsson.   The album undergoes several metamorphoses, and although it doesn’t ever fully evolve into a coherent whole, it somehow manages to achieve a kind of singularity.  At times he makes due with very little en route to producing positively beautiful compositions, such as the track "Equilibrium is Restored."  On other tracks, however, he pulls out all the stops and makes use of all he has at his disposal.  Luckily for him, this includes illustrious friends, such as Dawn McCarthy, of Faun Fable, and Will Oldham, both of whom contribute vocals, and the composer Nico Muhly, who lends the record his piano playing. 

The programming/production style can be reminiscent of bands such as the Books, World’s End Girlfriend, and even Radiohead at times, having a sort of collage vibe. Unlike some of the aforementioned artists, however, we see here more recognizable song structures and  prominent use of vocals.  There are some really neat production tricks, which make it a good headphone album. The rhythm made out of dripping water in "Winter Sleep," for instance, stands out as a subtlety better appreciated at a close listen.

Although clearly a talented producer, and this is where he shines, Sigurdsson has demonstrated that he is also a competent  and talented songwriter. This may be a matter of taste, however, but it seems to me that his music sounds much better accompanied by a female voice.  Oldham’s tracks work, but, like the instrumental tracks, don’t sound as complete as when females vocals take the reign.   “Winter Sleep,” the collaboration with Dawn McCarthy mentioned above, is therefore the standout track, showcasing Sigurdsson’s creativity as a producer and composer.

Ekvilibrium is an interesting debut from one of modern rock’s most unique producers.  Given the space to branch out, Sigurdsson shows that he can make his own music, while refining a style that is still clearly his own, recognizable despite the great variety of artists he has collaborated with in the past.

Joseph Sannicandro

The Silent Ballet (April 2nd 2010) ★★★★★★★

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