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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover

ÁGĆTIS BYRJUN

Sigur Rós

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.12 | 415 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars The sounds of wind, water and light.

Having dipped my toes in the world of post-rock on numerous occasions with a feeling of nothing more than mild and polite admiration of both the musicianship and general ideas behind it, it is really rather nice that the first experience is the only one I keep coming back to. Sigur Ros and more specifically Ágaetis Byrjun: an album of meticulous, yet unkempt beauty that lifts you up and takes you away on a lovely journey for as long as you allow yourself to be spellbound by it.

Being rather eclectic if you delve a bit deeper into the songs, it is first and and foremost a supreme tour-de-force in building and cherishing atmosphere, regardless of the methods used to get there. Despite a lot of detail and at times rather busy arrangements, what stays with me is a sense of space and a lot of room to breathe. A cool and breezy morning by the sea. The air still fresh from the rain during the night, with glimpses of light appearing here and there under the sullen, departing clouds. One reviewer described it as Nordic. Being Nordic myself, I can somewhat relate to that, however unspecific it may be, even though I would describe the feel of the album as something more universal.

Slow-to-glacial, cottony rhythmic foundation serves as the bedrock upon which soothing, gently swirling layers of ambient, moody keys and guitar make up much of the main structures, quietly painting a shifting soundscape of pale, refreshing colours. These are in turn lovingly adorned by crisp, clear and often a bit sparse (almost percussive) melodic details from a distant guitar lick and the odd, high-pitched piano/e-piano notes. Undercurrents of bass, warm horns (or is it woodwind?) and other goodies quietly pass by beneath. And out of the blue a sudden or gradual build-up of forceful, noisy and ringing guitar shoots out of the layered soundscape like a mountaintop. Awe-inspiring.

Sometimes it turns into a busier, more orchestral affair, again with strings, horns and piano sticking out as more defining features, in often (tastefully) bombastic and uplifting crescendos, where the sounds of the instruments seems to rise upwards - blending the cheerfully melancholic with the painful smile - in a sort of dancing motion that I find damn near irresistible.

Then there is the more familiar rock structures that, while slowed-down and very atmospheric, brings up the drums and bass from the back of the mix adding points of anchorage and a bit of meat to the often floating, fluffy structures on Ágaetis Byrjun. There are a few instances where things even get a bit jazzy, rhythmically speaking. The wall-of-sound-using-especially-guitar-trick that seems to be a defining part of the sub-genre make some appearances now and then, but it is never allowed to dominate, but rather accentuates and act as a form of dynamic catalyst. To great effect, I might add.

Like a smoke or a mist over this invigorating mix floats vocalist Jónsi's mellow, otherworldly and very expressive vocals, further enhanced by a touch of effects. In spite of (or perhaps because of) never reaching for proper emotional extremes in his delivery, they blend exquisitely with the music and feel all the more meaningful and integrated with the album as a whole.

What still strikes me as the biggest feat here is how the album comes together as a harmonious whole. So rich and crafted and yet so free in form and structure, so naturally evolving... It is a very uplifting experience. Happy or cheerful are not the right words, as it is a bit too reflective and cerebral for those two. It has more to do with a strange sense of spiritual peace and purpose the album is simply overflowing with. A quiet, cleansing everyday joy that bubbles just beneath the surface.

Rooted in something familiar and earthbound, expressed through sounds that fly a lot higher.

4 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 4/5 |

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