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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover

ÁGĆTIS BYRJUN

Sigur Rós

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.14 | 527 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This would be the album that would bring Sigur Ros out of obscurity not only in their own country of Iceland, but in the entire world. Hard to believe that a band that sings only in their native tongue and also in another made-up language would be so popular in America also, but this band proved that it can happen. This was only the band's 2nd full album, but it is so innovative and beautiful, so well produced, that you would swear these were well seasoned musicians. These feats in and of themselves tell a lot about the artists involved, but it is only a huge plus that this album is one of the most beautiful experiences in modern music today.

People like to compare them to Pink Floyd, but there is no comparison to any band. The techniques they use are unique, like using a cello bow on guitar strings and then adding reverb to create atmosphere. And this album is completely full of atmosphere and emotion. When I listen to it, I marvel how some of this music is even earthly possible. It approaches celestial status at times, lifting you above everything. It is also very immersive music in that to fully appreciate it, you have to immerse yourself and really listen. There is so much going on even at regular levels, but also in many underlying passages. But you don't have to always be immersed to hear it's beauty. For example, the 3rd track "Staralfer", when I first listened to this album, I was not really immersed into it, but the beauty of the orchestration and musicianship pulled me in instantly. Just as another reviewer has mentioned, this album can bring you to tears, and this is one track that does it. It's hard to believe that the topic of the track is a child's fairy tale about a staring elf, but that is why I think it is important that the lyrics can't be understood, because it leaves that track and every song by the band open to complete interpretation. You can paint your own pictures in your mind.

But, the amazingness of the music isn't just limited to that track. It starts off with an "intro" which is simply the title track (Number 8) played backwards. But it prepares you for "Svefn-g-englar" which is also a lovely song, where the lyrics are repeated often, but the lyrics and the vocals are just instruments in the entire band. The birthing process through the perspective of a new born is the topic of the song. The use of the bow on guitar strings is used well in this song to increase volume and emotion of the track. Then the beautiful and heavily orchestrated "Staralfer" comes next and words can't express the emotion in this track. I love how the orchestra builds while Jonsi sings and then just drops off to what sounds like an electric guitar that is not plugged in to an amp being strummed while he continues to sing. An interesting side note here is that the strings in this track are palandromic, or the same forward and backward. I also find the track " Hjartađ Hamast (bamm Bamm Bamm)" extremely interesting and amazing, with totally unique sounds and textures, and at times copying the sound of a hammering heart, as is hinted in the title. Throughout the album, there is such an effective use of dynamics, and that is very relevant in this track.

"Viđrar Vel Til Loftárasa" is probably the closest song to a Pink Floyd type sound. It has a very long introduction which features a solo piano and an orchestra crescendo-ing and then a sliding guitar sound very reminiscent of Pink Floyd joins in very tastefully. Then vocals finally start, remaining somewhat subdued and far away this time, but the instruments still swell and ebb around the vocals. The effect is amazing. Then suddenly, there is that huge sound of the treated guitar and bow again, and it is joined by strings which eventually drown everything else out as it builds and tempo and pitch are sped up. Then it drops off suddenly and flows into the familiar drum beat and bass line of "Olsen Olsen". This is another beaut of a song. The far off voice starts sounding like Jonsi is singing from a distance, like from a distant canyon. And that flute melody that comes in from time to time is perfect. It gives the track a definite Celtic feel. When that melody comes back, it is played by the piano with strings chugging underneath, and then joined by the band and the orchestra and chorus. Love the jubilant feel of this one. As brass joins in, things get slightly disjointed and dissonant as it fades out. Before the track is over, you hear the flute far away in the distance. The title track is more acoustic sounding and is probably more of a traditional love ballad sound, but lovely nonetheless. There is still enough ingenuity in this track to keep it interesting. The song is fragile sounding, like it is likely to go wandering off into non-traditional territory at any time, but something continues to keep it restrained to it's boundaries. Everything is finished off with "Avalon", which is simply the strings section and the strumming section from "Staralfer" slowed down to about 1/4 of the original speed, and sounding rather muffled. It serves as an ambient ending to the album.

When you listen to this album, you can see why it was so well received everywhere in the world and also lauded by critics. It is an amazing album, which strongly proves that Progressive Rock is alive and well. This is a definite masterpiece, though it is not universally accepted by all prog-heads, there is no denying that if you let yourself into this music, that it is simply amazing. Some have a hard time liking it, but to some, the love for this music just comes naturally and others need time to listen to it seriously. This is a definite 5 star masterpiece, and in my own rating system, it even gets that very rare 6 star rating. Perfect.

TCat | 5/5 |

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