Sigur Rós has, in the past, caught flack for valuing static
beauty over development, building icy, gorgeous landscapes that remain nearly
motionless over the course of a song. Here, however, momentum lurks in even the
Wispy delicacy – the birdlike tones of Jonsi, the ghostly
echoes of piano – builds into massive, swirling climaxes. Songs like “Varúð”
start in whispers and crescendo into thundering, overdriven frenzy. Valtari also benefits from the
experiences band members have accumulated during a four-year hiatus. The
playful, electronic dance aesthetic that Jonsi pursued in Go enlivens pop-tinged “Rembihnútur.” Keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson
returns from classical experiments with a bit of Arvo Pärt’s pure melancholy,
as in the lovely, piano-led “Varðeldur.” The concert film Inni may even have awakened Sigur Rós to the appeal of live
immediacy: amongst the Ligeti-esque choirs of angels, the tremulous strings, the
twinkling glockenspiel, the gleaming sheens of synthesizer, you can hear the hiss
of distortion and the rasp of metal on metal.
It’s a bit of necessary friction, the rasp that lets you
grasp these slippery, shimmery, beautiful songs.
“Rembihnútur” JENNIFER KELLY