Music Reviews

Sigur Ros

Ba Ba / Ti Ki / Di Do


Ba Ba / Ti Ki / Di Do is the latest EP from Sigur Ros. It is both a prelude to their new album, due later in 2004, and a soundtrack of sorts for Merce Cunningham’s dance Split Sides.

The project began last year when dance legend Cunningham recruited the Grammy-nominated Icelanders to create an interesting, yet simplistic score for his new production. Split Sides was performed as part of the Next Wave Festival at Brooklyn’s Academy of Music and again a few months later in Paris. For the performance, Sigur Ros (joined by Radiohead for one of the Brooklyn shows) performed three pieces to accompany the movement of the dancers on stage.

The improvised score is composed primarily from sonic odds and ends. The band uses music boxes fed with sheet music, Fed Ex boxes, a glockenspiel, a percussive device made from stacked ballet shoes and backing tapes of Cunningham speaking and tap dancing to create a pastiche of sonic density.

The result is wholly innovative. Sigur Ros has created three pieces that work well as a continuous piece of music while remaining aesthetically simple and bare. These pieces evolve in density and sound, seamlessly folding into each other, creating an inventively beautiful and winding ambient twenty-minute soundscape.

“Ba Ba” begins with quiet chime-like sounds that slowly become enveloped in electronic quivers, creating something ethereal, quiet and simple. “Ba Ba,” the most fragile and delicate of the pieces on the EP, is luminescent in its simplicity and sparseness. Similar to a trippy march or a manic waltz, it builds, repeats and expands itself.

“Ti Ki,” the longest of the three tracks here, takes off from its predecessor. It takes the repetition and builds on it, adding winding sounds and some feedback. It is here that the composition breaks out. The layers and textures created by the music boxes are blended with some piano sounds, blips, bleeps, thuds and clicks. Part two has a semi-somber tone to it. It has a feeling of melancholy and loss mixed within its nervous system. By layering the sounds and adding depth, Sigur Ros not only expand the track, they add an air of tragedy to it. “Ti Ki” is like a rainy day or driving by a car crash, but more beautiful and haunting and sad.

The final part, “Di Do,” is not a happier piece, but one best described as a systematic override. There is so much more going on here sonically. Like the first two pieces, “Di Do” winds and contorts at the beginning. However with progression, things build to a crescendo of tranquil sounds, which then plunges into chaos, causing things to reach a frenetic, climactic head. Cunningham’s voice is added, becoming enmeshed in the most complex and structured ambient noise of the work. From there, Sigur Ros further deconstruct the delicacy and fragility of the first two tracks by turning everything asunder, adding hiccups, screeching, hissing distortion and static noise. Sigur Ros has taken a quiet tranquil body of music and caused it to convulse and shake in seizures of spastic chaos before freefalling into a quiet fade of beautiful, lush melody.

Anyone who thinks they have Sigur Ros pinned down is in for a rude awakening. Ba Ba / Ti Ki / Di Do is their most daunting project to date. Somehow, they have managed to collaborate with the persnickety Merce Cunningham without losing face or sacrificing any of their creative energy. This EP highlights Sigur Ros’s complexity and musicianship while underscoring their continuing importance as innovative composers.

Sigur Ros:

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