Published July 4, 2013
On ‘Architecture of Loss,’ Valgeir Sigurðsson pares down musical selections originally written for Stephen Petronio’s ballet of the same name. The resulting album is a dark, brooding soundtrack somewhere between chamber music and ambient noise. Parts of the album envelop the listener in a wash of nearly sub-audible tones, bitter metallic percussive effects, and high, glitch-y electronic rustlings. Other tracks are glacial and ghostly. ‘Architecture Of Loss’ is an album of tiny, careful movements between long periods of stillness, on the edge of existence.
One of the most successful tracks on the album is “Between Monuments.” After floating on a subtly changing landscape featuring violist Nadia Sirota, the piece finally erupts into a beat-driven conclusion. “World Without Ground” and “Reverse Erased” feature Nico Muhly and Nadia quite nicely, with shape-shifting textures and off-kilter rhythms. The ultra-close mic recordings make it seem like the players are in the room with me, trying not to breathe or the piece might crumble. Less successful tracks, however, feel like a jam session powered by winter sadness. After minutes of single-note playing in “The Crumbling,” the piano gets to play two notes at the same time—how liberating.
Releasing an album that’s just for listening and creating music for a ballet are two different things. A ballet’s music is usually written to complement the dancers on stage. Without ballet, we wouldn’t have Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” or even Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” for that matter. But when you take away the dance, the music by itself has to hold up on its own. Some “Architecture” tracks seem like they’re missing that extra visual piece of the puzzle that completes them. Others, like the final track, seem unnecessarily short.
Valgeir Sigurðsson’s latest release opens with hardly a note and ends on a seemingly unfinished chord. But for a ballet and a very personal work called ‘Architecture Of Loss,’ these sounds are may be very appropriate bookends. They encapsulate an album that makes me aware of the transience of life, and all the little gestures, the tiny emotions, that never quite got expressed.