Valgeir Sigurðsson - Architecture of Loss
It's only in recent years that Valgeir Sigurðsson has turned his hand to making music. One's most likely to find him producing other bands' and artists' work these days. He's worked with everyone from Feist and The Magic Numbers to Ben Frost and Wildbirds and Peacedrums, not to mention three Björk albums - as well as founded a record label (his third solo album is being released on Bedroom Community, the label he set up in 2005, and on which he launched the career of Nico Muhly) - but he made his first venture into writing his own material with his debut solo album, Ekvílibríum five years ago, and hasn't looked back since. He's written the score for the Icelandic documentary film Draumalandið (Dreamland), too.
He certainly keeps himself busy, and third outing Architecture of Loss reflects this quite well. It's quite a meticulously-composed affair, drawing inspiration from ambient, experimental and (to a much lesser extent) electronic music. It's music for the head, not for the heart, and despite its best attempts can sometimes come off as rather cold and unsettling. The humming bass tones and squalls of violin that open the album mean that 'Guard Down' immediately creates expectations that this album will be a surprisingly melodic modern classical record - and 'The Crumbling's' delicate, minor-key piano line and stately tempo raises these expectations - but its first two pieces are the exception, and not the rule. The addition of subtle, tuned percussion on 'World Without Ground' is a nice touch, but the song fails to go anywhere, shuffling along on a single chord; and as atmospheric as 'Between Monuments' is, it never manages to grasp a hold of the listener's attention.
Much the same can be said of the rest of the album: it drifts by, content to exist as pleasant background music, but it doesn't provoke any kind of response - at least for the most part. 'Erased Duet' hangs around for a shade over two minutes and is clearly the album highlight, coming closer to the standards of beauty this kind of music is known for than anything else on offer on Architecture of Loss; and its 'counterpart', the horribly discordant 'Reverse Erased', is a bracing and bold statement (albeit one that could be filed under 'seemed like a good idea at the time'), but these two songs are the only ones that leave any sort of lasting impression; that's 20% of the entire album. There are flashes of eagerness here (most notably, as 'Plainsong' moves toward its conclusion), but Sigurðsson's third solo album is mostly a triumph of style over substance.