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Sigur Rós - Takk... CD (album) cover


Sigur Rós


Post Rock/Math rock

3.85 | 302 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Most of the time when I listen to a new album I like to spend time finding out as much as I can about the band, the stories behind the album and that period of their careers, and to read all of the lyrics carefully to discover as much as possible about the music so I can put it into context. I really know nothing about Sigur Rós though. I only bought this album because I recognized the band's name from reading about them from time to time on Progarchives. Turns out this was a good investment of my limited discretionary income.

The lyrics, what few there are, are mostly unintelligible, either because they are sung in what I assume to be Icelandic, or just because the words are secondary to the music itself. For these guys, this is not a bad thing, as their sound is certainly appealing and actually kind of cheerful. The cover and liner artwork and lettering are exquisite, what I think may be a woodblock and ink painting. There aren't many modern albums around today with such a timeless and mature look to them.

"Takk." is an airy little intro to the rest of the album, and it transitions after just a couple of minutes into "Glósóli", a well-developed, largely instrumental song that reminds me at various points of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, particularly the second half of F#a# Infinity. The song starts slowly and is quite mellow, but builds to a crescendo in the middle that is very much a Godspeed trademark. Also a bit like Set Fire to Flames, but less depressing.

"Hoppípolla" is mostly a piano/strings piece, again with the ethereal and unintelligible vocals that neither add nor detract from it. Apparently the song is about celebrating life by prancing around in the rain, falling down and getting a bloody nose, and then getting back up and does it again. Odd theme, but the music is upbeat.

"Með Blóðnasir" is a short work that features some warm, fat guitar chords, chant/humming, and the ubiquitous bell sounds that permeate the entire album. It transitions into "Sé Lest", a lengthy, bells-and-strings spacey instrumental that again is somewhat reminiscent of bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, but in this case quite a bit softer than most of their works.

"Sæglópur" is the Sigur Rós version of "A Perfect Storm" or "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", only with a happier ending. The song starts out with very slow and precise piano, some light bells (synthetic, I expect), and the repetitive verse that is either Icelandic, or just made up. This represents a calm sea upon which a boat is sailing, I think. The song builds into a more driving gale wind of guitars and drums, probably intended to represent an ocean storm upon which the boat is tossed and apparently crashes and sinks, upon which the plodding piano returns, along with the nonsensical lyrics. The man in the boat is lost at sea.. but is somehow rescued and returns home - "Alive, has returned home. A lost seafarer, alive". Finally, the song fades to black.

"Mílanó" is the longest track on the album, clocking in at more than ten minutes, although the first three minutes or so are no more than sporadic piano and those darn bells, slowly building up to the introduction of a slow, plodding drumbeat and faint background guitar. Again, the lyrics make no sense, and I suspect they wouldn't even if I knew Icelandic. By this time I've decided that singer Jónsi Birgission is something of a Scandinavian Neil Young. Again, I know nothing of this band, but somehow I get the impression he wouldn't mind the comparison. If their music is any indication, these guys are probably pretty laid back. After a brief build-up, the song returns to the languid piano wanderings, interrupted by a couple more similar short crescendos before winding to a close. This song actually reminds me a lot of some of those little jewelry music boxes with the little ballerinas that my sister had when she was a kid. Quite pleasant, non-threatening, and mildly functional.

The vocals on "Gong" reinforce my impression that the singer is possibly even attempting to sound like Neil Young, with that high-but-not-feminine lilt that sounds as if the man behind the voice could easily lose touch with reality altogether with very little effort. At times this song is more aggressive and mainstream than anything else on the album. I don't know if bands get the same types of pressures in Iceland to deliver radio-friendly material, but if they do than this song is probably the one that was done to shut label executives up.

The "Andvari" tune is a bit like those sleep-through-hypnosis tapes, very slow, calm, and peaceful. I'm listening to this one right now, and am seriously considering taking a bit of a nap. This song is pleasant, but it seems to take forever to wind its way to a close.

"Svo Hljótt" is also slow, but a bit more brooding than its predecessor. There's also a sustained aggressive bridge between the mild beginning and end that almost seems angry, or at least as angry as these guys are capable of seeming. I'm imagining a long winter afternoon in a very cold place where the lack of sunlight and resulting winter blues are causing the authors to become a bit cabin-fever crazed. All is well by the end of the song though.

The album closes with "Heysátan", which sounds like it has some acoustic guitar in it, or maybe that's just more keyboards. Hard to tell. This is another one that seems to take more than half the song to develop into anything definitive, and even then it never really takes shape. Apparently this one is a tale about a farm kid who's mowing and stacking piles of hay and is not enjoying the task all that much. But here again, everything seems to be okay in the end, and the singer contentedly takes a break and kicks back for a rest.

If everything Sigur Rós does is this laid back, I have to say we could use more guys like this in music. This is a very refreshing departure from some of the angry rap and grunge, mindless pop and boy-band, and tired rock which dominate the business lately. Like I said at the beginning, I don't know too much about these guys, but after listening to this album, I can safely say I'll be buying some more of their albums in the near future. This is a well-produced, beautifully packaged, and soothing work or art. I can't imagine too many people buying it and feeling like they wasted their money. It's fresh, original (despite the similarities to Godspeed), and quite up- beat. As always, timing is everything when assessing art, and the fact that it is early spring right now, the grass is covered with fresh-smelling dew, the harsh winter winds and snows are gone, and there are delicate little buds on my trees and roses in the yard, make this a very positive and uplifting album to be listening to at this particular point in time.

I think Takk would make a very solid addition to any progressive music fan's collection, and by definition that means it rates four stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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