Crate-Digging Quick Takes: Sigur Rós – Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do

I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.

(Geffen, 2004)

Do you like music boxes? Sure, we all do. That includes Merce Cunningham. And Sigur Rós.

That instrument is the most obvious feature on this EP, as the clicks of the key turning the tiny cogs offer a palpable listening experience, beckoning you to intimacy. And they’re appropriate too, as Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do was a commissioned piece of music the band composed for Cunningham as part of his modern dance performance Split Sides. (Radiohead was also commissioned for this project; sadly, their contribution remains unreleased.) You can almost see the tiny carved ballet dancers slowly twirling to the revolutions of the music box’s gears.

You might read the explanation for the existence of this record and wonder why anyone would bother to release what is essentially background music for a dance piece they can’t even see. It’s a half release – the multimedia experience isn’t there. Ah, but we’re talking about Sigur Rós, the preeminent post-everything angels – can their brand of soaring modern classicism translate?

Actually, this sounds very little like Sigur Rós, strangely not a bad thing, even though singer Jonsi’s voice and bowed guitar are nowhere to be found. Besides the clicking of the music box (which spans all three tracks), there’s a bit of processed electric piano and guitar that pop up on “Ba Ba” and “Ti Ki,” perfect accompaniment to the interpretive dances happening in my head. (We’ll try not to go there too much – suffice it to say that I was surprised no cartoon apes were involved.) “Di Do” finds the band in an electronic/noise processing mood, as they chop Cunningham’s recitations of the titular syllables into something resembling the sample manipulations of The Books. Very un-Sigur Rós-like, but I think that’s the point – to get them out of their comfort zone and see what they can accomplish. Their work here is restrained yet inventive, and the curious among you should not hesitate to give this a shot.

RIYL: The Album Leaf, Wixel, The Books

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