Prince Valium: Andlaus

Icelander Þorsteinn Ólafsson (aka Prince Valium) produced Andlaus (‘without breath') in his bedroom using nothing more than a guitar and computer but the results are anything but hermetic. The willowy electronics add wide-screen atmosphere but it's primarily Ólafsson's chiming guitar reverberations that give the material its expansive scope. With the guitar style so purposefully grandiose, it's hard to not think of Sigur Rós when a piercing guitar swells in the regrettably-titled “Goofy Takes A Bath” and in “Crying Hearts,” a splendid ballad that's unfortunately marred by a female singer's occasionally off-key vocalizing; Andlaus' densely-layered material (e.g., “Romantic Shopping”) sometimes calls Manual to mind as well. Though the album's pitched as an ‘electronic ambient album,' it's hardly wallpaper music, especially when a dramatic lurch like “Tomleikar” escalates to such a cathedralesque pitch and when brooding shudders of six-strings resonate throughout the material elsewhere. Ólafsson upholds interest through constant shifts in mood: “Redecoration In Four Dimensions” is stately, “Afsal” melancholy, and “Burning My B.A.” both brooding and fulminating. Despite the aforementioned imperfections, Andlaus is often alluring, and never more so than during the radiant waltz “Guo Blessi Pig” that closes the album so sweetly.

January 2007