By Sigur Rós
There are a few things you should know about this EP before we get started. Here's basically a run down of the few major facts that led to this EP being recorded by Sigur Rós.
1) Modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham approached two bands to contribute music to his latest piece, 'Split Sides'. Those bands were Radiohead and Sigur Rós.
2) The music was to be played to the dancers on the opening night of the piece, thus making it totally improvisational. One half of the night was Radiohead's music, the other was to be Sigur Rós'.
3) The music was to be made especially for the event, so there would be no ballet dancers jumping around on stage to 'Just' by Radiohead.
4) 'Split Sides' premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Radiohead have no plans as yet to release their contribution to the piece.
So there you have it. That's where it came from, but what does it sound like? Well, if you've heard any of lead singer Jón þor Birgisson's side project 'Frakkur', or the soundtrack to the film 'Hlemmur' that the band did, then you have a pretty good idea of what this is all about. Music boxes tinkle, pianos swell and cut up electronics boom and bip.
On 'Ba Ba', probably the most accessible piece on this EP, the tinkling music boxes swirl around in a gorgeous haze, only accompanied by dramatic piano late on in the track, and some beautiful atmospherics are created. It won't be played down your local disco anytime soon, but that's what makes it so special. Imagine 'Tubular Bells' as remixed by Brian Eno and Múm.
'Ti Ki' features more music boxes, but this time cut up and sampled again and again. It's very interesting and totally beautiful. The piano gets even more dramatic, and even more melancholic, if that's possible. The dreamy soundscape only improves with time as it employs some sped up, cut up vocal samples toward the end.
'Di Do' is the only track to feature any kind of vocal contribution. It's Merce Cunningham himself, as sampled and cut up by Sigur Rós. I'm willing to bet you were thinking 'where on earth did that stupid title come from'? but as this track gets going, you think 'ahhhh... now I get it'. Against a backdrop of piano and music box, the vocals are chopped up and scattered about as if by random, spluttering the phrase "ba ba ti ki di do" in various forms and sequences throughout the track. Ballet shoes were fitted with tiny microphones, and then sampled for the crux of the rhythm, and if you think I'm making this up, go to their website to find out for yourself.
As beautiful and awe inspiring as it is, maybe the EP would have been perfect if the guys had stayed away from the absolute mess of sound that envelopes the tail end of the CD. It's like Keanu Reeves' worst nightmare in The Matrix. A sonic collage of fucked up, ultra processed noise rammed into a computer and left to stagnate. Richard D. James would like, but I'm gonna go on the record and say that I prefer the other 19 out of 20 minutes thanks.
For a measly £4.99, this could very well be the most perfect CD purchase you make all year.