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Valgeir Sigurdsson - Ekvilibrium [Bedroom Community - 2007]

One phenomenom that the Nineties brought us is the producer as artist. Of course this is nothing new, as there are forebears from as far back as the 60's in the form of Van Dyke Parks and in the 70's (Jack Nitzsche, Eno). But the nineties was a turning point for producers, especially with the commercialization of hip hop, the huge popularity of techno, and the love of the remix.

It could be argued that Ekvilibrium is to be taken just as any other artist's work should be, ignoring the fact that Valgeir Sigurdsson is better known as a prominent producer of such acts as Bjork, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Will Oldham) and CocoRosie.

The album sounds great; it's loaded with sumptuous strings, well executed electronica, and a widescreen panorama of production effects. The best songs on the album are unquestionably the collaborations. Will Oldham and Dawn McCarthy, who were in Iceland recording the last Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album the Letting Go, both make contributions to Ekvilibrium.

The first of the songs co-written with Oldham, Evolution of Waters is one of the most focused tracks on the album. Oldham's confident vocals fit perfectly within the framework of the orchestral electronic backing. Winter Sleep, co-authored by Dawn McCarthy, is also a fine track, and may actually be the best of the album. McCarthy has shown that she can jump from style to style. Her vocals on the Letting Go provided subdued backing, blending perfectly with Oldham's whispered croak while her vocals for Faun Fables are artistic and experimental. The upfront and fairly straight singing on Winter Sleep is a nice change of pace for McCarthy. Baby Architect, a collobaration with J. Walker a.k.a Machine Translations is also a quality tune. It's upbeat and punchy, and if there's going to be a single from this album, there's my pick.

So what about the rest of the album? To put it simply, there's nothing offensive about it; the album is so carefully produced and put together that it almost fools you into thinking there's more to it than there actually is. After about the fourth or fifth listen, you begin to realise that the songs beneath all of the gloss are pretty, but  weightless. The other thing that hits you is the fact that the electronica end of the album sounds like it was jacked almost directly from the Bjork songbook. I'm not suggesting that Valgeir Sigurdsson give up on songwriting, there is some promise here. I imagine that some people will enjoy this music, and I can't fault them. You could do a lot worse for sure. But just as you drive by a beautiful house, marvelling at its craftmanship and aesthtic appeal, when you open the door you might find that it's empty.           

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Erwin Michelfelder
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