The beatific post-rock of Sigur Rós has always lent itself to interpretation. It’s no surprise, then, that Taiwanese choreographer Cheng Tsung-lung was keen to work with the Icelandic band on a contemporary dance show. Entitled 22° Lunar Halo, Tsung-lung’s work premiered in Taiwan in the Spring of 2019, and now the accompanying compositions make it to general release. The stage-ready music of 22° Lunar Halo is more abstract than the stuff that Sigur Rós have traditionally given us on their studio LPs. Split into two side-long pieces which see the band breaking down, rebuilding and adding to music from across their back catalogue, 22° Lunar Halo is an obtuse record that consistently confounds the listener.
Though Tsung-lung selected his favourite Sigur Rós pieces as the material to be reworked here, 22° Lunar Halo is not particularly similar to anything the band have previously released. While they have some previous for making dark music - their most recent studio LP, 2013’s Kveikur, was easily the most black-hearted in their discography - 22° Lunar Halo travels further into the abyss than ever before. The kind of stuff that is most closely referenced here is the brooding, dubwise ambient style of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement and Muslimgauze. Even the few moments when Sigur Rós approach the pretty music-box indie sound they’ve become known for are destabilised - the tender piano playing that ends ‘With Arms And Legs Moving, The Tell Tales’ is haunted by eerie reverb and cavernous atmospherics.
Sigur Rós were challenged to score Cheng Tsung-lung’s dance piece 22° Lunar Halo. The result was some of the most intense and powerful music this group has ever produced.