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Valgeir Sigurđsson - Ekvílibríum

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Artist: Valgeir Sigurđsson

Album: Ekvílibríum

Label: Bedroom Community

Review date: Feb. 6, 2008

When Will Oldham paired up with Valgeir Sigurdsson for 2006’s The Letting Go much of the grit and raggedness typically found in the Bonnie “Prince” Billy canon was scrubbed clean. Grandiose string arrangements filled in the vacuous holes that once sur-rounded Oldham’s voice, creating a smoother and generally less affecting tone. But there were blissful moments on that LP (“Big Friday,” “Cold and Wet”), mainly due to Sig-urdsson’s deft production flourishes and the warm instrumentation he introduced to the project. Sadly, Eqvilibrium explores none of the gorgeous avenues that were opened during his collaboration with Oldham; instead, Sigurdsson reverts back to a sound that is similar – though far less interesting – to the early musings of his most famous collaborator, Bjork.

Though Debut and Post were revelatory upon initial release, their elec-tro-rock production aesthetic has not aged particularly well and Eqvilibrium shares that same dated quality. But unlike Bjork’s propulsive arrangements, each song here drifts into the next with a lackadaisical, chilled-out ambience that borrows heavily from Brian Eno’s later period ambient works – most significantly 1982’s On Land. In fact, this whole album is filled with new agey musical nods to Eno as well as a non confrontational, yoga studio aesthetic that grows rather tiresome when stretched over 10 tracks.

As is often the case with producer-helmed solo LPs, Sigurdsson taps a few guest singer-songwriters (Oldham, J. Reid, Dawn McCarthy) for lyrics and vocal performances. McCarthy’s haunting croon and elegant wordplay on “Winter Sleep” finely compliment the much needed textural change provided by the song’s intricate string and horn ar-rangement. Reid’s “Baby Architect” is far less successful due in large part to its free as-sociative lyrical phrases, which ooze with pretension and make little sense (“And while the telephones are sleeping / with the alphabet mix feelings / that’s the way the whole thing falls together / why our numbers disagree / baby architect is crawling / up the time before our eyes.”)

But it is Oldham who is the most offensive of the collaborators, delivering two, vaguely philosophical tracks in which he seems to sing from the perspective of a senile old man, contemplating love and death, but without any poignancy or insightfulness. On “Evolu-tion of Waters,” Oldham sketches a trite portrait of an aging character using the sea as a thinly-veiled metaphor for fear: “Love is a stream / ending in the sea / you are the sea / you always were / I’m not sure of it / I’m not sure of love.” The eternal questions of love and death are not new to Oldham – he has made many wonderful albums that focus squarely on those broad topics – but here he sounds out of place and unabashedly sappy. The swelling arrangement and dramatic, string-laced chorus is overblown and smacks of Enya or any one of the egregious songs found on the Pure Moods compilations.

Seriously, at times, listening to this LP feels like I’m back in middle school watching “In Living Color” reruns on FX and being forced to sit through that tedious Pure Moods commercial. I can almost hear the commentator’s breathy voice imploring me to dial up the toll free number and procure a copy – a chilling flashback indeed, one that should not be resuscitated by an album released in 2007. We should know better by now.

By Matthew Kivel

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