Sigur Rós: Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Do

October 15, 2010

Today’s roll: 3 – 5 – 12
Result: Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Do by Sigur Rós

Perhaps the only nu-gaze band to incorporate prog into their music—was I the only one who heard Peter Gabriel all over Ágætis Byrjun?—Iceland’s Sigur Rós have created some of the most achingly beautiful music of the past decade. They may have also been responsible for the re-popularization of the glockenspiel, later ruined by Arcade Fire and a million other indie bands with eyes to capture the same faery-like magic. Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Do is, however, a bit of an odd-man-out in the Sigur Rós discography, yet one of their more intriguing listens.

A roughly 20-minute EP of music composed for the modern dance performance Split Sides, by Merce Cunningham, Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Do isn’t the majestic, soaring rock one normally associates with the band.

In fact, you might suspect this is probably be more of a solo work by Jonsi or Kjarri as the sounds are mostly created on keyboards and glockenspiel and the rhythms are electronic and glitchy.

The first movement, “Ba Ba”, actually sounds a lot like Tubular Bells slightly reworked by Philip Glass or remixed by Richard D. James (the EP really has Pro Tools and Macbook written all over it). I’d be curious to know if Cunnigham wanted The Exorcist evoked because, though “Ba Ba” is some what prettier than Mike Oldfield‘s composition, it still evokes nightmarish visions.

Over the course of the next two pieces, a sense of hidden malice steadily increases until a collage of vocalized syllables (Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Do) swirls into a rather glorious cacophony of speaking-in-tongues gibberish and white noise.

According to Wikipedia, all three pieces can be played in sync to form a fourth composition. I haven’t tried this experiment myself due to the slight hassle involved, but I’d be curious to hear the result. It seems slighly dubious since you could really make this claim about any three pieces of music—the result just might not be remotely listenable.

Overall Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Di Dois an interesting listen in the context of Sigur Rós, but explores a lot of the same territory covered by other artists (Aphex Twin) earlier and perhaps better. It’s not bad by any means but it’s not quite great and has the feeling of being a little out of its depth. It’s ambient-leaning glitch/IDM for fans of Sigur Rós who aren’t fans of glitch/IDM.

Bottom line: it’s a good starting point for this kind of music—both pretty and challenging by turns—and being a mere three tracks is probably dirt-cheap in iTunes and not a risky investment. Recommended but not essential listening.


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