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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover


Sigur Rós


Post Rock/Math rock

4.14 | 556 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Do you remember your first Sigur Ros experience? I do. It was characterized by thoughts such as "get to the point" and "her voice is kinda annoying after awhile".

I am so happy I kept at it. My last few years with Ágćtis Byrjun have been bliss. I get shivers from the first few harmonized vocals of "Intro" and the wonder and respect continue through the remainder (though I must admit that the slowed-down rehash that is "Avalon" is more or less optional).

If you have no experience with Sigur Rod, or Post-Rock in general, expect atmospheric washes of organic sounds at a deliberate (one might say glacial) pace. However, background music it ain't; intensely emotional, the depth of the songs are belied by an apparent simplicity and restraint. While you don't get the socio-political sound sculptures of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR and A SILVER MT. ZION, or the (relatively) heavier rock buildups common to MOGWAI, you do get a more defined and personal sound identity. The Hopelandish lyrics place the vocals into almost intrumental space; translations add but a fractional enhancement to the full emotive capacity. The near redundancy of the refrain to "Svefn-G-Englar" completely fails to grate like it used to, and I'm even almost over the embarrasment of discovering that the singer is male.

Ágćtis Byrjun is by no means all airy-fairy sweetness and light; though the overall feel is one of floaty serenity, there's an undercurrent of urgent intensity that especially comes to the fore in "Ny Batteri" and "Hjartaő Hamast". At times, Jonsi seems on the verge of despair; at others, such as "Flugufrelsarinn", there's a creeping, insidious quality that appeals as much to my gothic sensibilities as do the more common hints of mournfulness or melancholy. It is precisely complexities and contrasts of this nature that keep Sigur Ros from being lumped in with banal New Age or Head Music comparisons.

Ágćtis Byrjun features more symphonic texture than other Sigur Ros releases, which leads to such delights as the soaring, heartbreaking "Starálfur" and the triumphant finale to "Olsen Olsen", which adds a hint of playfulness in its brassy Nordic fanfare. Still, much of the album is built around the heavily reverbed bowed guitar and breathy, compressed vocals of Jónsi. If these don't do it for you, none of the other (slightly more experimental) albums by the band are going to win you over either.

James Lee | 4/5 |


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