May 29 on the XL Recordings label, the latest from the Icelandic band is
bursting with slippery, shimmery, beautiful songs. How many of you got to hear
the webstream of Valtari last night, or attended one of the many indie record store listening parties?
By Jennifer Kelly
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
prettiest tableaux. 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.
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
It’s a bit of necessary friction, the rasp that lets you
grasp these slippery, shimmery, beautiful songs.