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Sigur Rós - Valtari CD (album) cover


Sigur Rós

Post Rock/Math rock

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The Truth
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars No reviews? That's just ludicrous, as this album should be one of the most anticipated return-to-form records out there right now simply because Sigur Ros promised it. They also achieved it which is all the more reason to get this record.

Ambiance has always been a strong part of Sigur Ros' music, that's one of the main forces behind their music, such atmospheric and emotionally drenched piano and guitar playing matched with the ambiance Jonsi's vocals naturally provide. But with Valtari, every square inch of the album is ambiance and it benefits so much from it. There are still the pieces that wind up and crash down but now there's a much more ambient base to them. One reviewer on another site suggest you listen to "Ekki Mukk" while watching an avalanche in slow-motion and that was spot on. That track and the others have that epicness to them which has made Sigur Ros such a great band from an emotional standpoint but now the ambiance gives them an altogether personal touch which they had flirted at but never achieved.

A return to form, and much more, Sigur Ros is back with Valtari and album which may prove better than even Agaetis Byrjun with repeated listens.

Report this review (#758675)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a four-year hiatus the ethereal post-rockers of Sigur Rós are back, with a belated studio album that doesn't reaffirm their unique style so much as embalm it under a thick glaze of ambient formaldehyde. "Floaty and minimal", was how front-man Jónsí Birgisson described the music in a pre-release press statement; fans may be left wondering where he stashed the guitars and drums.

In retrospect their previous, more accessible 2008 album "Međ Suđ Í Eyrum Viđ Spilum Endalaust" was a not unpleasant detour, showing a warmer side to the normally arctic dirge rock formula all but patented by the band on earlier efforts. The new album charts a more familiar course, but it's less a return to form than a total retreat to some sort of electronic pre-natal womb, reducing the classic sound of Sigur Rós to its barest and most basic essentials.

Expect a surplus of atmospheric textures, some lush amniotic string arrangements, and of course that otherworldly falsetto voice crooning in a language almost but not quite Icelandic. The entire album is lovely beyond words, but not a single minute of it will surprise anyone schooled in post-Eno soundscape design. Jónsí himself already staked out very similar territory in his own 2009 album "Riceboy Sleeps", and this effort likewise resembles a glorified solo project.

A hint of the band's dark energy can still be heard in the slow, pounding crescendo of "Varúđ", and to a lesser degree in "Rembihnútur": the only songs with anything approaching an actual rhythm. But even here the circumspect drumming sounds like it was synthetically generated, and elsewhere on the album the energy is dialed back to austerity levels, hardly unplugged but with a couple of fuses deliberately missing.

Maybe that's the point. The entire project might have been an unintended but intuitive portrait of Iceland after its '08 economic collapse, marking the first, hesitant awareness of a band emerging from long hibernation into a new and unfamiliar world. You would sound a little over-cautious yourself, in their shoes.

Report this review (#782442)
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars We have been keeping an eye on Sigur Rós for a few years now. Initially, they sounded fresh, different and therefore promising - albeit a little too languid to our taste. However, by the time Takk and Med Sud came out Sigur Rós had made some good strides as far as structure, rhythm and the degree of animation. We were happy to invest into the 3 then-latest albums of theirs, and have been eagerly awaiting the next one.

But, this Valtari opus is too anemic, flaccid, and in places downright lethargic. Yes, there are some pleasant instrumental sounds. Yes, I Sigur Rós guys are talented musicians. We will take a pass on Valtari, but we are willing to wait for their next album, and I hope it would be at least as good as Takk and Med Sud .

Report this review (#784631)
Posted Sunday, July 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
2 stars I honestly came into this album having no doubts I would really like it. I had heard this was a more embient and more beautiful SIGUR ROS and I was really looking forward to it. Even after seeing some not so flattering reviews I was sure I would like this album a lot. Famous last words. I honestly don't get this record at all. I consider myself a fan and have three of their earlier studio albums that I value highly. This unfortunately doesn't come close to past glories. I would not call this beautiful but it is ambinet,

Each song sounds similar too making this review almost seem redundant. "Eg Anda" is quiet and spacy to start and it starts to build some around 2 1/2 minutes. Vocals a minute later. Slow pulsating sounds end it. "Ekki Mukk" is again quiet to start as reserved vocals join in. It's louder after 2 1/2 minutes but the sound will continue to fluctuate. "Varuo" is laid back but not very melodic. Vocals are the focus 1 1/2 minutes in. Piano and background sounds help out each time it settles.

"Rombihnutur" opens with humming sounds as sparse piano joins in. Vocals after 2 1/2 minutes. "Davoalogn" is again soft and quiet to start and the vocals come in around a minute. It builds some then settles back. This contrast continues. It blends into "Varoeldur" where slowly pulsating sounds with piano lead the way. Vocal melodies after 3 1/2 minutes. A very repetitive song but it works. This is the only song that I like. "Valtari" is spacey and if there was a so called beautiful passage this is it. "Fjogur Piano" is really laid back with slowly played piano helping out early.

I just can't recommend this album.

Report this review (#786744)
Posted Thursday, July 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Valtari" is the 6th "regular" full-length studio album by Icelandic post rock act Sigur R's. The album was released through Parlophone in May 2012. Their last album "Me' Su' ' Eyrum Vi' Spilum Endalaust" was released in 2008, so it's safe to say that Sigur R's aren't the most productive bunch around. I guess their working pace suits their reflective and melancholic music well though.

The music on "Valtari" is slow paced, melancholic, mellow and incredibly beautiful. There's something soul searching and deeply moving about Sigur R's music, that you very rarely find in music of any sort or style. That goes for most of their output and certainly applies to "Valtari". Layers upon layers of atmospheric sounds and instruments that form the instrumental basis of the tracks and on top of it the high pitched and fervent vocals by J'nsi Birgission. It's the kind of music you get lost in. The kind of music you listen to with dreamy glassy eyes while you reflect on your life's ups and downs.

The album is well produced featuring a warm organic sound production. All in all "Valtari" is just a really great album. If I have to mention one slight issue it would be the lack of variation. Besides the closing dramatic and loud minutes of "Var''", and "Rembihn'tur" which features some rythm/percussion, most tracks sound very much alike. It's not a major issue, but a bit more variation between and in tracks would probably have made "Valtari" a even more memorable album. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#868364)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars The music on Sigur Ros' Valtari brings to mind the ultra-mellow mood of getting home after a weekend night out and not being quite ready for bed, but not wanting to listen to anything that will get your blood pumping.

In short, this is not the most exciting album of music you will ever hear by a long shot. In fact, each time I've listened to this album I've struggled to make to through its 55 and a half minute running time in one shot. Valtari is track after track of subdued, atmospheric background music, which would probably be perfect as a soundtrack to a film, but struggles to hold the listener's interest on its own.

I think what hurts this album the most is that there really doesn't seem to be a lot of variation and the very ambient, atmospheric, but sometimes plodding music on this album really could use a bit of it.

Is there anything good here? Well, the outro to "Varuo" with its pounding piano rising up to reach an ear-shattering finish was decent. "Rembihnutur" with its vocal piece and fuzzy chugging was enjoyable (and at just over five minutes, it knows when to call it quits). I also liked the simple piano at the start of the finale, "Fjogur Piano", which stood out due to the absence of the wall of ambient sound that seemed to take over every other track.

Overall, while I can't say this album is necessarily bad, I sadly don't find it to be particularly interesting. Perhaps fans of Sigur Ros will enjoy this one, especially if they had bought it when it was released (Valtari coming out after a four year break between albums), but I can't really recommend it except to fans and completionists.

Highlights: "Varuo'" (outro), "Rembihnutur", "Fjogur Piano" (intro)

Report this review (#1046411)
Posted Friday, September 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Drifting past the target.

A full four years after the incredible and criminally overlooked Me' Su' ' Eyrum Vi' Spilum Endalaust Intitle in 2008 Sigur Ros finally returned with Valtari in 2012. After their fifth studio album the band had announced an indefinite hiatus at the end of their tour. The guys in the band had been forming families and although several sessions had formed to record new material at least two attempts at making a new album had been scrapped. The band had been recycling old material and didn't like the way things were going.

So they split - until the release of this album.

Valtari is in many ways what most people would expect of the atmospheric post-rock band, but with a certain sense of absence permeating through the course of the album. It has moments where the band comes through in all their gorgeous glory, but for the most part it is slow, minimalistic and even, in some cases - boring. The band self-described the album as "an avalanche in slow motion," which does suit the overall feel well. These are the kinds of tracks that would make for a good break-up in an otherwise bombastic album but in a collection on their own they feel tedious.

While it is a great achievement to come back from such a hiatus and definitely a good thing to see the band back in form again it is tough to recommend this album to anyone outside of the band's core group of fans. Fans will find something new to love in the perhaps experimental approach to the album and may even consider it a gem in their discography but for the general prog enthusiast it would be an album to come around to much later in your explorations of an otherwise interesting and highly emotionally charged band.

Report this review (#1196719)
Posted Saturday, June 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After an indefinite hiatus, Sigur Ros finally returned with their 6th full length album "Valtari (Roller)". There were several times during the hiatus that they started working on a new album, and after a few starts and stops, recording new material and throwing it away because they were not satisfied, they finally came out with this album which focused on a more ambient sound than before. Instead of trying to describe what the songs were about on this album, Sigur Ros decided to let the listener interpret the music on this album in their own personal ways. They picked the title of this album because they felt that the music slowly rolled over the listener. You should go into this expecting a very ambient and peaceful album.

The first track is "Eg anda (I Breathe)". It starts out with a piano repeating a short, hymn-like melody, with other instruments entering and eventually Jonsi starts to sing. The ambient feel is apparent off the bat, but this one is very reminiscent of some of Sigur Ros' best material, sparse and beautiful, that boils slowly and has a slightly unsettling feel underneath all of the music. Later, a high pitched vocal that sounds somewhat processed stays mostly in the background.

"Ekki Mukk (Not a Sound)" is less melodic than the first and more meandering. It remains ambient most of the way through with a slight build a little over halfway through where shimmering beauty becomes the focus and then it calms to a very slow and quiet pace. It flows into "Varuo (Caution)" which starts with a keyboard playing an arpeggio pattern and Jonsi's subdued meandering higher register. Sustained bowed notes begin a crescendo with a slow changing chord pattern as things intensify. The keyboard changes to a piano in a higher register as bowed guitars reach the top of the crescendo, then things calm quickly. This one is quite repetitive as it is based on the same pattern throughout.

"Rembihnuter (Tight Knot)" starts with a subdued tribal rhythm with atmospheric guitars which quickly go into a melodic pattern. Jonsi starts to sing a fairly repetitive melody and alternates with the guitars for the lead on this song. After 3 minutes, an organ takes over when the rhythm stops with a subdued drone in the background. Soon, Jonsi starts the melody again and percussion starts again. This one is quite a bit more simplistic and melodic and not as immersive as the other tracks so far.

"Dauoalogn (Dead Calm)" is a track that was actually written in 2009 (this album was released in 2012). This has a very slow beat and a minimal sustained melody. Jonsi's vocals are in his higher register with a sustained echo giving his singing a far away feel. Except for a few very short bursts of dynamics, it remains minimal and calming throughout with an expansive yet desolate vibe. Around 8 minutes, things really start to open up with an almost sudden increase in intensity with organ and guitars creating a beautiful climax.

"Varoeldur (Campfire)" is also an older song written in 2009 and is an alternative version of "Luppulagio" from the "Inni" album. It features a constant slow rhythm with a quick build at the beginning which quiets for the vocals. Bowed guitars build a heavy, but not quite monstrous sound which calms about halfway through. The guitars continue an unsettling vibe under the vocals which push it forward to another build. At 6:30, a sudden increase in loudness and a theme is created with the guitars which carries the track to the end.

"Valtari (Roller)" is the minimalistic title track. Again, this is a very slow burn with a lot of ambient atmosphere and sleepy vocals. Layered organ and guitars remain shimmering and almost dronelike. "Fjogur Piano (Four Pianos)" takes old unused material and loops it into an atmospheric track.

The Japanese release also had 2 bonus tracks. "Logn" is completely ambient using electronic drones and vocal loops in an 8+ minute track. This is mostly just a relaxing soundscape without a lot of development. "Kvistur" runs 5 and a half minutes and is another experimental soundscape, this time with a lot of dissonant noise and ambience. The bonus tracks are okay if you love ambient and experimental music, but the best tracks are on the regular album.

This album is different than most of their other albums in that it is very atmospheric and ambient. If you don't like that type of music, then you probably will be disappointed in this album, but I find it very relaxing and peaceful. It is true that it is not one of their best, but there is still a lot to discover in this album, it just takes more time and effort. There is still plenty of beauty found within it's tracks. 4 stars.

Report this review (#2054453)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2018 | Review Permalink

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