LABEL: BEDROOM COMMUNITY
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 21st 2017 FORMAT: CD/DL/LP
“Post-minimalist, post-ambient, post-something else”
History freely dilates and collapses on Valgeir Sigurðsson’s Dissonance, his first solo release since 2012. Its three large-scale works are haunted by the old Western tradition, infused with the ethereal workings of electronics and sound manipulation.
Dissonance treads elegantly along a fine line between traditional symphonic organicism and the fissures of the faltering structures of reality. It takes forward Sigurðsson's typically expansive, panoramic writing, and elevates it to a perpetual construction and deconstruction of time and space.
These are hardly his first experiments with the archaic technology of classical instruments, but here the distance between past and present is precisely what the music itself is designed to explore, and to distort.
Recorded and produced between September 2015 and November 2016 at Greenhouse Studios, Dissonance is disarmingly human, reflecting the most extreme four years of Sigurðsson’s life full of ecstatic joy and deep sorrow. Dissonance is a personal and collective musical treatise to explore and question a world that is collapsing under its internal dissonances.
The recording process on Dissonance incorporates an orchestral recording technique that Sigurðsson has been developing for some years now, where he breaks up the orchestra and records each of its sections separately. Layer after layer he records performances by collaborators Liam Byrne and Reykjavík Sinfonia. A handful of string players and just one of each of the orchestra's instruments are then multiplied to create an imaginary orchestra. This method enables Sigurðsson's complete control over all the details and nuances, and the trade-off for the time-consuming process is a truly unique sounding ensemble that is at the composer's disposal for further electronic manipulation. This also results in an elastic palette of sound for the live performance version of Dissonance which Sigurðsson will take to the stage in 2017, alongside Liam Byrne (on strings) and visuals created by the Antivj collective.
“His new collection of long-form works feature emotional string arrangements in a digital setting.” - Pitchfork
The Icelandic record label Bedroom Community recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, culminating in a collective show at London’s Barbican Centre and a take-over at Iceland Airwaves with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Constantly busy behind the scenes, at the helm of the label and the world-renowned Greenhouse studios in Reykjavík where the music never stops, composer and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson releases his fourth studio album Dissonance on Bedroom Community April 7th.
The album follows his 2009 Dreamland and 2012 Architecture of Loss scores, blending autobiographical narrative with themes and references drawing upon both old inspirations and contemporary impressions. In the title piece, to paraphrase another composer, time itself becomes space: Sigurðsson explodes a single moment from Mozart's 1785 "Dissonance" string quartet into a 23-minute vast, inhabitable expanse of glacially slow harmonies.
But the effect is achieved not through digital time-stretching, nor even through the use of a string quartet, but with yet an older musical technology—the viola da gamba, which would have seemed antique even to Mozart himself. This fretted ancestor of the violin and cello offers, in place of their brightness and warmth, a solemn and uncanny purity that lends Mozart's harmonies the grandeur of a cathedral choir. With player Liam Byrne Sigurðsson pushes that sonority to its limits, digging past that pure tone and into the grit and grain of the instrument. After tracking layer upon layer of the viola da gamba, Sigurðsson routed some of the signals back out to amps, speakers, and effects to add further colour and texture, before recording these processed versions back onto tape for a final mix.
Someone much more closely associated with the viola da gamba is the English composer John Dowland, whose songs and consort music are marked by longing and melancholy. Asked by Robin Rimbaud (of Scanner fame) to create a new piece in honour of Dowland for the City of London Sinfonia, Sigurðsson created "No Nights Dark Enough" for chamber orchestra and electronics, with movement titles that quote Dowland's most famous song, "Flow My Tears.”
"Eighteen Hundred & Seventy-five" was commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the 125th celebration of the Icelandic settlement in Canada. More classical in its form but no less emphatic, the piece narrates the treacherous journey undertaken by Icelandic settlers in the 1800s, and the hardships they endured.
This is music made to acknowledge, and confront, apocalyptic times.