In recent times Sigur Rós have turned their attention towards writing music for dance pieces. As well as 22° Lunar Halo, a new composition designed to soundtrack Cheng Tsung-lung’s contemporary dance work of the same name, the Icelandic group have also delivered us Variations On Darkness. This record sees older Sigur Rós material - both known and unreleased - reworked under the eyes of Valdimar Johansson. Originally created to score the Erna Omarsdottir choreography which premiered at Sigur Rós’ own Nordur Og Nidur festival back in 2018, Variations On Darkness now gets a release through the band’s Krunk imprint.
The similarities between this record and 22° Lunar Halo run deeper than the fact they were originally conceived for the stage. Like that LP, Variations on Darkness is a set of tense and moody music characterised by ominous drones and harsh, degraded soundscapes. Ghostly wisps of the band’s prettier past output are subsumed by foggy reverb and crackling static. On the rare occasion that percussion enters the mix it is rarely to provide rhythm but rather to further disorientate the listener with angular, jagged blasts of sound. This is monolithic and challenging stuff that has more in common with The Caretaker or Prurient than it does with, say, Sigur Rós’ long-time allies Amiina.
Variations On Darkness is a brave new world for Sigur Rós, savagely deconstructing the band’s previous sound in order to build something else entirely from the rubble.