Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Prince Valium : "Andlaus" (Resonant)

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Prince Valium : "Andlaus" (Resonant)

Thanks to Sigur Ros and their tremendous recorded output, anything that has even a vague link to Iceland has me producing my credit card to online distributors without even stopping think about it. So you can imagine my disappointment when I wasn't overly impressed by this effort, by the Icelandic Prince Valium, when it arrived. I bought this album in the first week of January and was completely indifferent to it after the first few listens. For a start, every track seemed to follow the same structure of glacial atmospherics, dark e-bowed guitar and some less than inventive beat programming. In short, I initially found it a tad monotonous For the best part of January and most of February, this sat on my desk gathering dust until I decided to give it one last chance. It was then that it all began to click into place.

Prince Valium is the work of Þorsteinn Konráð Ólafsson, who is also one half of ambient/electronica duo sk/um. Under his Prince Valium guise, Ólafsson creates music that is reminscent of Sigur Ros' polar e-bowed guitar soundscapes and marries it with nostalgic beat work. The overall sound of "Andlaus" is deceptively massive, the echoic atmosphere is such that it sounds as if it was recorded in a large cave of ice.

The first two or three tracks, although pleasant enough slices of post-rock/electronica, glide past without leaving much of an impression. It isn't until the fourth placed "Afsal", that Prince Valium's potential starts to shine through. Melting away the glacial exterior, there is something heart-warming about the shimmering reverbed guitar melody. Combined with soft, synthetic drums, this is "Andlaus'" first moment of real beauty.

Much like Sigur Ros', the music here is expansive and epic. It must be a national requirement for the natives of Iceland to learn how to e-bow a guitar. It seems all Icelandic musicians are at it, but it does seem complement how I imagine the Icelandic landscape. "Tómleikar", a brooding, icy ambient passage contains some of this slow-moving, guitar work, as does "Redecorations In Four Dimensions". Only the latter, adds a touch of melancholy creating a wintry and soothing soundscape.

Having initially labelled "Andlaus" repetitive and boring, it is a pleasure to announce that I have been completely won over by this album and "Burning My B.A" is one of the tracks that turned it. It sounds as if it was recorded deep somewhere in the Arctic, the stuttering beatwork, wind sounds and booming melody soon envelopes you in frosty blanket of sound. "Guð Blessi Þig", the final track on the album, makes a mockery of my attempts to brand this album as repetitive. Completely changing tact, swirling mellotron sounds soon develop into an eerie circus style melody, the beats are a throwback from sometime around the mid-80's, recalling some of Vangelis' work. It is a sinister end to "Andlaus", but ultimately a brilliant one.

You have two choices with "Andlaus": Firstly, you can be initially pretentious like me and brand this album as poor man's post-rock/electronica, without giving it a proper chance. Or you can let the music unfurl at its intended glacial pace and embrace its ice-cool charms, crystalised melodies and some of the finest e-bowed guitar work this side of "Takk".

Rating - 73%

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