Audio Reviews
Ekvķlibrķum
by Valgeir Sigršsson
Bedroom Community (2007)
Ekvķlibrķum
6 / 10
Even if you've never heard of Valgeir Siguršsson, it doesn't mean you haven't heard him. Not only was he a key producer on several of Björk post-Homogenic works, Siguršsson has shared his studio wizardry with both Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Cocorosie. Imagine a Timbaland with a bit more art school cred. . .

And like the aforementioned "promiscuous boy," Valgeir has stepped into the foreground with a solo album of his own: Ekvķlibrķum (the Icelandic word for Equilibrium, as you probably guessed).

As is typical of producer-as-songwriter albums, Ekvķlibrķum boasts a variety of guest musicians, including Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables, pianist Nico Mulhy, and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who contributes two of his best vocal performances to the project.

But it's Valgeir's production work that's the true star of the show, and provides the connective tissue between the instrumental and lyrical pieces (which alternate for most of the album). Stately, subtle, and uniquely his, each track features a sampling of the studio master's trademark flourishes. The beats, which are somehow both delicate and urgent, are inimitable. The vocals are treated with sparse effects which integrate them seamlessly with the instruments, rather than distract from them.

The singularity of Siguršsson's personal style is, however, both the selling point of the album and it's only real flaw. All ten tracks have a certain veneer, one that's dreamy and shimmering; one that Valgeir does very well. But at no point does the album ever really break away from this mold.

More than anything, this is a major detriment to the instrumental tracks. They are largely indistinguishable apart from the varying lengths. None are particularly aggressive, none are particularly dark, and none are particularly hummable; some are long and some are short.

There's not a moment of Ekvķlibrķum when Valgeir presents less than top-notch production for the listener. It's just that the album is SO consistent, you feel you could almost hold it against him. Each song has such a similar sheen that it's hard to pick out highlights.

They do, thankfully, exist; it just may take repeated spins of the album to find them. Second track and first single "Evolution of Waters" is perhaps the best display of Siguršsson's talent to date. Each echoing beat, cascade of static, and string crescendo perfectly suggest the sea, both at peace and during storms. Add to this an achingly vulnerable lyric and Bonnie "Prince" Billy's typically sincere vocal delivery, and you have a nearly perfect piece of music.

And despite its brevity, "Before Nine" is possibly the most beautiful of the instrumental tracks. A string quartet and piano piece composed by Siguršsson and arranged by Nico Mulhy, "Before Nine" provides a jaw-dropping prelude to "Kin," the final vocal piece of the album.

What Ekvķlibrķum demonstrates best is that Valgeir Siguršsson has a true gift for realizing sonic landscapes -- both fanciful and natural -- with both skill and sensitivity. However, he may not be quite as capable of dreaming up those landscapes for himself. Ekvķlibrķum is a technical marvel and highly recommended for those who appreciate mixers and sequencers as much as melody and harmony. But for casual listeners, there may not be enough variety to encourage listening through to the end.
Posted by: Koye Berry

Audio Reviews (October 7th, 2007)

Tags: Valgeir Sigršsson Bedroom Community