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Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun CD (album) cover


Sigur Rós

Post Rock/Math rock

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5 stars Of the two SIGUR ROS albums, I would characterize Agaetis Byrjun as the more orchestral of the two, using fuller, more sweeping arrangements. There is also more use of ambient sound effects. It's also, in spite of the darker cover art, the brighter and more optimistic of the two. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this evokes in me the beauty I might imagine in Heaven. Yes, there are some dark places here, but overall, this is a very comforting work to listen to.

Probably PINK FLOYD's album Meddle is one of the best comparisons--especially to "Svefn-G-Englar", which seems to have been heavily influenced by "Echoes". Although "Svefn-G-Englar" is not an epic on the scale of "Echoes", it manages in its own way, the same kind of relaxed beauty found in the opening and closing sections of the PINK FLOYD song. The classic rock influences also show in SIGUR ROS' reliance on more traditional instruments rather than allowing it to be completely synth-driven. The Hammond organ is clearly audible in "Svefn-G-Englar", and the Rhodes electric piano is featured in "Hjartad hamast". Also, the haunting backdrop common to most SIGUR ROS songs is not created by a synth, but instead by an electric guitar played with a cello bow. JONSI's voice, rather than conveying any message, is an instrument in and of itself, even higher than RADIOHEAD's THOM YORKE, and even more melodic.

While it is all quite good, my absolute favorite tracks, without a doubt, are "Staralfur" and "Hjartad hamast". A gorgeous piano riff in "Staralfur" serves as the backdrop to a beautiful string section. This is the sort of work with which I would love to be greeted in Heaven--especially the final great orchestral solo. "Hjartad hamast" is a very interesting combination between a melancholy-seeming blues-influenced piece and a sequence so beautiful that it evokes a sense of flying. In light of that section, even the more brooding sections no longer seem so dark.

Other highlights include the percussion work on "Ny batteri" and the piano on "Vidrar vel til loftarasa", as well as its innovative orchestral outro. The last two tracks seem to move in a less orchestral direction that foreshadows the work on ( ). "Avalon" even takes on a somewhat minimalist approach not unlike TALK TALK's later work. Lately, this album has even been a comfort in trying to deal with a recent loss. Others' perception of the music may differ, but the overall effect of this album is to uplift. While I respect both Agaetis Byrjun and ( ), I must say that this is the strongest of the two.

Report this review (#34511)
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is amazing. You should stop reading now, and go to buy it. Every song here is a depressive master piece. It starts with a slow, boring and repetitive "Svefn-G-Englar", and then, when you're about to stop the CD, it comes a climax that can kill you the first time you hear it. So, you start to see the beautiful magic in this record with the next songs, especially "Flugufrelsarinn", the best rock song ever since the '70s. All the other songs are incredible beautiful epics that you won't want to stop listening. The lyrics are great too, if you have the translations, but they're not so important with that excellent voice and music. Excellent, my favorite album from the last two decades.
Report this review (#34512)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a very good album coming from a band who decided to enforce their own originality...Icelandic in nature and some fine vocal/musical interlay. This in my opinion is their strongest offering, the other albums being somewhat self indulgent. There have been comparisons made between this band and Pink Floyd, especially this album. I have to counter that by saying that there is nothing comparable to Floyd here from Sigur Ros. Give them credit for originality sure but apart from the psychedelic era of PF, PF never went errant in the form of pompous meanderings where Sigur Ros do occassionally. Worth checking out though especially this album.
Report this review (#34514)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yes, this is a very good, laidback chiller album, with moody, emotional music. You can survive through it even in a bad hangover, listen it on the background or meditate through it intensively. The rhythms are slow and soft, and the instruments have smooth, pleasant tones. The mishmash language they sing is also soft and beautiful, so it doesn't matter even if you wouldn't understand the lyrics. Vocals work as an instrument, in the way I understand Jon Anderson tried to do in the golden days of Yes. Buy it, and try even if you're not into prog music!
Report this review (#34516)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I got interested in Sigur Rós a couple of years back after reading praising reviews of this album in a Finnish rock magazine Soundi. I think I downloaded a couple of tracks to find out what's going on, but I wasn't blown away. Still I was curious so I took a chance and bought it. I remember the first time I listened to this, it was at night, lights out, lying in my bed with eyes closed all the time. I was sucked in immediately. Never before had I heard anything this beautiful and spacy, images and landscapes created by the music were rolling in my head for those great 70 minutes.

Up to that point I was listening mostly to stuff between metal and punk, so Sigur Rós was a completely new world. But as wonderful as that first (musical) trip with with Sigur Rós was, I was only scratching the surface. In the following two years up to this day I've grown to love this album more and more with every listen, which by the way are very frequent. I've also managed to convert some metal-listening friends into Sigur Rós fans with this album.

Naming any special tracks is very difficult, but at the moment I'd say Svefn-G-Englar, Flugufrelsarinn, Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) and Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa stand out a bit. As a whole this is one of the very very few albums that I regard as being perfect from the first second to the last. I wouldn't change a thing. VERY highly recommended! Buy it and fall in love with it!

Report this review (#34518)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars What is that? I really like modern sounds, but only when they are tools to create nice SONG, like Air or Portishead. I can find nice themes here, but they last for about twenty seconds and then melt in ambient sauce. Some people consider these four Iceland Elves as the next Cocteau Twins. In which way? What is more, they are neither space nor psychedelic. This is just more complicated chill-out.
Report this review (#34519)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album will go really well with "( )". They are both great albums to own and they go together well. I feel like "( )" is sigur ros' sad, downer album, whilst this album is the uplifting happy album. Depending on what mood your after, they will both serve you well.

The intro on this album is a little sum up of sounds on the way. The second track is an odd one, althought it doesn't progress much and lasts 10 minutes i find it very listenable. It has a captivating spacey atmosphere and the vocals are positive and lifting. The track ends with a cool dark side of the moon-esque heartbeat that adds to the atmosphere of this piece. This piece is very warm and fills you with a good feeling. It may require patience as it is a bit long winding but this is one of my fave pieces by Sigur Ros.

Track 3 however, is definitely my favourite of all their tracks. It has an amazing orchestral score to it and the vocals are at their best. When the violins and vocals pick up it sounds amazing! A truely spectacular moment, followed by a really amazing guitar to link it together as it then starts to build back up. A brilliant piece of music.

This album has some looming basslines and the guitars are played with violin bows to get that effect. The sound they get is very reminiscent of "The Dead Flag Blues", from Godspeed You Black Emperor's debut, this is most noticable on the second track of this album.

Other amazing tracks are the title track which offers some amazing melodic string work and atmosphere. "Bamm Bamm Bamm" is very different to the others, adding more upbeat work to the album. tracks 4 and 5 deserve honourable mentions as these continue to build up one incredible album. "Agaetis Byrjun" is definetly in my list of landmark post rock albums along with "F#A#oo" and "Skinny Fists" by GYBE!, as well as "Born Into Trouble..." by A SILVER MT ZION.

The whole album follows a warm and spectacular journey with great vocal and orchestral work. It doesn't matter if you can't understand Hopelandic because the tones of the vocals themselves is what make their music work best. I highly recommend any fans of post rock, experimental music to check these out. If you aren't into this genre its still worth getting as it would appeal to fans of symphonic rock. This will leave any listener with a warm feeling as it really is something incredibly unique and touching. Try and get your hands on this album and its follow up album, "( )".

Report this review (#34520)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sigur Rós plays a strange sort of psychedelic New Age-y minimalist rock that was a natural extension of some of the more creative moments of the mid-90s Britpop "movement". Obviously influenced by Pink Floyd, they cover the same ground (at various different times) as contemporaries Air, Portishead, The Verve and Spiritualized, although Sigur Rós is probably the least song based of the lot.

Most of the tracks on Ágætis Byrjun run from between 7-10 mins, and there is a strong, sweeping feel that can overwhelm you when you are listening to the album. The lack of vocal hooks and luxuries such as instrumental solos may make it hard to differentiate between the various tracks, and the fact that Jónsi Birgisson's high-pitched vocals are sung in a made-up language called Hopelandish (not that I think singing in their native Icelandic would have made Sigur Rós any more accessible) doesn't help either. But somehow it doesn't seem to matter.

Ágætis Byrjun is widely considered to be the best album Sigur Rós made and there are lots of beautiful melancholy moments lurking around this seamless work. I particularly like the string-heavy Starálfur and the strangely euphoric Olsen Olsen (replete with choir!) as well as the darker pieces Flugufrelsarinn and Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) , but none of the tracks are weak. Still, I must say that while I know many people who love this album, Sigur Rós' music isn't exactly what I look for in a prog band. ... 62% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#34521)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When i first heard their music i was completely blown away! It was my first year attending art school...i had just moved into a new city & it was my first time out on my own. I felt like a newly hatched bird so tiny and helpless ( but at the same time i was also excited as hell) to spread my wings and fly to a whole new world. The first few months where very difficutt , i'm a very shy person and don't make friends easily.the only person i did know at the time was my roomate jesse. He was sort of a ''beatnick'' of sorts, he turned me on to the hauntingly beautiful peoms of joni mitchel's music on vinyl, the techno elegentence of the band air, not to mention the awsome smell of burning insence mixing with the night sky. *on that same night he changed my life forever... He played singur ros'es '' agaetis byrjun.''i had heard a lot of out- of- the ordinary music in my short life time, i myself am out - of- the ordinary chick so naturaly i'm drawn to any/ and allthings ''weird'' or unuseall. Nothing however could prepare me for hearing this band for the first time. I'm still, even years later unable to comprehend how thier sound was able to sooth me so much, it didn't matter that i could'nt translate most of the lyrics because it was the most beautiful & uniuqe music i had ever heard. For me, when i'm overwhelmed with how crazy life can get i feel like my whole body is wound up so tight evenually just goes completely numb. Not only did sigur's music penitrate my'' outer shell'' it also found it's way deep inside my subconious....i know how crazy this sounds but seriuosly - it was like it was chasing away everthing that had hurt me or made me feel anything less then a complete person. My body felt more alive that night then i only felt since i was a child. I did'nt realize intill that momemt how much of me was'nt whole. It's true my life has seen it's share of heartbreak and tragites but i never expected one album to have that much of an effect on m e.... But man oh- man! I'm so glad it did!! Music really is the universal healer i 'm walking proof of that. Thank you jesse you crazy beatnick
Report this review (#34523)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I listened to this album more and more, I came to the undeniable conclusion that this is a five-star masterpiece album. From the first time I put on Svefn-g-englar, I knew this was certainly something different. A parallel I made at first was to Pink Floyd, but on further listening, I realized that they couldn't be compared. Sigur Ros has their completely own, unique style, and comparing them to any group, any person, is unjust. This album is something that must be heard to be believed, because words do not express the feelings one derives from merely listening to this album.

Beauty like you've never imagined before. However, it isn't beauty like you may hear in songs like I Talk To The Wind or Epitaph from King Crimson's debut. Its beauty in a completely different way, while delivering just as strong a punch.

From the moment I put on the first song (just accepted as (Intro), seeing as it wasn't given a name), I fade into another world. It succeeds in doing an extraordinary thing, something that not many pieces of music can do. It makes me forget everything. It takes me somewhere else. Somewhere where things of this material world do not matter. It's a wonderful place.

Some people have said that this would be the kind of music played as they marched into the Gates of Heaven. Definitely understandable. Listenings to this album will show you this. Again, I can not put into words properly everything I want to express.

Also, this band is classified under Experimental/Post-rock. I do not disagree with this categorization. However, this might put an idea in your head about the band. You might be comparing them to bands like Radiohead and The Mars Volta, which are also in this genre. Forget all comparisons, forget everything you may be thinking. This is completely different from those bands. Completely. I do not argue the classification because there is no other place to put them. They are truly experimental, seeing as no one else has ever done or achieved anything like this before.

Some standouts: Every song. Ha, yes, I'm serious. I can't single out a song or two or three as weaker than the rest. I could name every song and rant and rave about it for extremely long periods of time. Simply put, this album is an 70 minutes of incredible, shattering the rules of music, much like The Mars Volta has done, only in a much, much different way.

I challenge every single person reading this, male or female, black or white, young or old, stupid or smart, to give this album a listen. And then another. And another. And then see what you think. I have no remorse, doubt, or problems with giving this a masterpiece rating. 5/5.

Report this review (#44641)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I made the mistajke (sorry, mistake) of trying to listen to this album in the car - it's lost in it, however good - or bad - your car's sound system may be. You need to take the time to listen through headphones to appreciate the soundscapes these guys produce. Very atmospheric music; layers of instruments but over quite simple themes. Some, like Svefn-G- Englar, are haunting melodies that stay in the memory. All credit to Sigur Ros for creating a distinctive sound, but I do feel it is more ambient, than progressive. It is different to listen to, yes; not easy to categorise, yes; but it only takes a couple of plays to get the idea - there's not much hidden complexity in here. Not that there's anything wrong with that - just that for this listener, I'd prefer something a little more substantial.

I can understand some of the references in other reviews to their music sounding like Pink Floyd as there are certain sounds - timbres - that are like 'Floyd, but little similarity to the structures of their songs. Of course we all reach for similarities to what has gone before - doesn't the conclusion of Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa sound like part of the orchestral climax to "A Day in the Life"? The other band I was reminded of was - honest - their Scandanavian cousins, A-Ha - no, really, - the vocals, and some of the song structures have similarities.

Production qualities are 1st class, and as an aside, I do think the CD packaging is excellent - simple, stylish, oozes quality.

3 stars is not meant as faint praise; this is a good, just not great, album; certainly well worth a listen.

Report this review (#45302)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Judging from the number of reviews posted about them here at Prog Archives, I'm obviously not the first person to fall so completely under the spell of this otherworldly Icelandic band. And there are plenty of other, already well-established fans who could tell you a lot more about them than I ever could. A week ago I barely recognized their name; as recent as yesterday I had not heard a note of their music. But now I offer, for your amusement and/or instruction, my first impression of SIGUR RÓS, gleaned from one initial spin of what looks like their most popular album to date.

I still can't tell you a thing about the track list or personnel: the CD I borrowed (from a very forward-thinking but typically cash-challenged Erie County library system) is missing its booklet. So all I have to work with is a Xerox reproduction of the spooky cover art (the embryonic winged infant looking like a cross between Stanley Kubrick's 2001 star child and the twisted thing in David Lynch's "Eraserhead"), and of course the music itself.

And what music it is. Brooding, melancholy post-rock dirges, with sheets of processed guitars churning like slowly cooling magma underneath a lot of subtle, ENO-influenced ambient synthesizers, and with a restrained but powerful rhythm section adding a measure of heat to the sub-arctic chill of each song.

One beautiful moment follows another for a generous 71+ minutes, and the whole thing moves like a slowly advancing glacier of psychedelic Scandinavian sound, saturated in reverb and conjuring images of Iceland's stark, uncompromising natural beauty. That feeling is only enhanced by the breathy, evocative vocals, to the groups lasting credit sung in their native tongue (no Anglo-American cultural imperialism at work here).

The extensive studio manipulation is reminiscent of RADIOHEAD's weirder sonic excursions off the mainstream rock 'n' roll path. The opening introduction (which I now understand is simply titled "Intro") in particular is a pitch-perfect, affectionate plagiarism of "Everything in its Right Place", backwards singing and all. Elsewhere the album hints at the stately Prog adagios of Landberk circa "Indian Summer" (I'm thinking here mostly of the simple but always elegant drum work), and at darker local influences too obscure to identify.

The music demands a patient set of ears, and works best when listened to in its entirety, late at night alone in a darkened room (headphones are optional).

It's always a thrill to discover uncharted musical territory for the first time. And after only one brief exposure to a single album, I'm ready to pack my bags and begin exploring the SIGUR RÓS sound more deeply.

Report this review (#49738)
Posted Sunday, October 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
4 stars Another incredible album by the folks known as sigur ros. This is a more upbeat album than ( ) and again, largely instrumental. I have the same complaint as ( ), the buildups last a little to long, tending to transition to nothing in particular at times and the climaxs (this is post rock after all) are short lived. The vocals are just as lovely as ever and a made up language. What they mean we may never know but hopefully they aren't evil. The musicain ship is top notch and quite unique as well. No one else sounds like these guys...or should I say, Sigur ros doesn't sound like anything that came before them in the world of music. A 4.25 effort.
Report this review (#64604)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After careful consideration, this album is definitely recommended to all progressive rock fans. Sigur Ros are the poster boys for the post-rock movement, and this album is their crowning acheivement. The music is more diverse than their previeous efforts, but still true to their sound. What sound is that? If I were to review this album in one word, that word would be "lush". Thick orchestration, diverse instrumentation, plenty of atmosphere, an overall very rich sound. Don't look for anything technical, but musical innovation abounds. Also, the vocals come from one of the most unique singers in modern rock music. His voice is perfectly emotive, so much so that you need not understand a single word of icelandic to know exactly what he's trying to get across. While the record is ambient in nature, the melodies are so beautiful and strong that they still manage to hold attention firmly. At times it is difficult to believe that the sounds are being made by a rock band. The stand-out tracks on this album include #3, 4, and 8 (I'll refrain from trying to type out the actual icelandic titles). So, this is without doubt for me a five star album that should be experienced by one and all, regardless of their pre-disposition toward post-rock or ambient music.
Report this review (#84162)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.1 Stars: Creative minimalist beauty

This is an album very difficult to describe as I don't think I've ever heard anything like this. This album is ambiental and minimalist (as in using repetition) and barely rocks. You might call it new age, but it is different from that. One example is the lack of synthesizers. Here, the music is played by symphonies, extremely reverbed electric guitars played with a cello bow, and standard rock instruments. The tone of the music is generally bright and happy and can really uplift you even if you don't understand the icelandic lyrics. Just like the way Radiohead depresses you instrumentally with "Kid A", this album instrumentally lifts you up because the band knows how to make the music emotional.

The reverbed guitar is introduced in the first epic "Stefn-g-englar" and is used in many other songs such as "Hjartao". The vocals are very unusual and makes me wonder if the singer is a man or a woman. They certainly work in this album for me, though I might understand if someone does not like the vocalist since some of the vocal approaches can be a bit overwhelming and repetitive ("It's Youuuu" in Svefn-g-Englar).

I don't think the intro has much to offer besides a preparation of the next track called Svefn-g-Englar which is a song that represents the band's sound. All of the elements discussed above are present here, though the song ends into an surprisingly unecessary electronica beat. Star Alfur is the happiest song of the album and also probably the band's most accessible track in their career. It features gorgeous orchestration that fits perfectly into the poppy sound of the song. There are also some unusual elements such as a distorted acoustic guitar (?), and stop-start part that introduces the initial melody with symphonic percussion. Due to the genius use of the Orchestra and the brilliant melodies, I think that this is one of the most beautiful modern songs I've ever heard. Flugufrelsarinn uses the laid back atmosphere and soaring reverb guitars from "Svefn", though I believe this song is stronger because it avoids having an irritating vocal hook like Stefn's "It's you" and is not as repetitive. Ný Battery starts as a subdued horn arrangement and mysterious bass line until it crushes you with a simplistic, yet perfect drum line. Hjartaõ Hamast is the next main highlight of the album: an uptempo song driven by a masterful ascending riff. The choruses of this song are extremely powerful with the soaring guitars going louder than metal. Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa uses a great melancholic piano melody and builds from there. A very minimalist piece, but very effective overall and one of the highlights of the album. Olsen Olsen begins as a laidback song and ends with bombast and euphoria. Ágaetis Byrjun is probably the least memorable track of the album, yet still stands as a good song with excellent piano work. Avalon is the outro, just like the intro serves as the beginning of the album.

I highly recommend this album as it is something very different. Voted as the best album from Iceland in the 20th century, there is a lot to like about this album.

Highlights: Star Alfur, Hjartao Hamast, Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa.

Let Downs: None, though the music after Viorar Vel is not as strong as the rest

My Grade : B

Report this review (#88005)
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Ágætis Byrjun"is yet another otherworldly album from one of the leaders in Post-Rock. The feeling of otherworldliness is stronger here than in any other album from Sigur Rós, I guess its because the use of strings is more prominent in "Ágætis Byrjun" than any Sigur Rós album yet. The presence of the strings, guitar played with a cello bow as well as the misty keyboard sounds and twinkling percussion here and there conjures a floating, beautiful atmosphere which few bands can produce. It is for this reason that "Ágætis Byrjun"is such an efficient, moving album and to this day remains Sigur Rós' defining album.

The musical feeling of "Ágætis Byrjun "captures the spirit of some of "Tales From Topographic Ocean" (by Yes) for me, while not being quite as good. Also the fact that all the vocals on "Ágætis Byrjun" are sung in Icelandic adds another element of otherworldliness, as I am left wondering what the lyrics mean. The vocals are usually repetitious with the same words being repeated several times, with instrumental interludes. Basically all of Sigur Rós' stuff follows this pattern; I have to admit that it does sometimes get rather annoying.

The most rewarding material on "Ágætis Byrjun" is "Starálfur","Svefn-G- Engla"r, "Ágaetis Byrjun","Avalon" all of which display the same characterizes. That said the true stand out for me is "Starálfur"which was used in Wes Andersons' fantastic film "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" at the climax of the movie. None of the material on "Ágætis Byrjun"is disappointing, what I love about this band is that when they release an album, everything on it is at a high standard. Even 'Von' wasn't too bad, it just didn't have as full a sound as following albums and the compositions where a bit weak.

"Ágætis Byrjun"has been voted the best 20th cent. album by an Icelandic band, that is a great achievement. I don't know much about Icelandic music but I do know that "Ágætis Byrjun"is some good quality music. The album reached a top charting of 52 in the UK (far below Takk) and set the scene for the band's following works. From the Thunderous soundscapes to the mellow string instrumental sections "Ágætis Byrjun" is highly enjoyable. The one thing I don't understand are the angel-fetus creatures on the cover and in the CD booklet, what are they supposed to be?

"Ágætis Byrjun" is a very rewarding album if listened to under proper circumstances. One day when your alone, and you have a good pair of headphones handy take a good long listen and soak in all the goodness of this album. A very good album and truly deserving to be considered among the most amazing Post-Rock albums ever. I'd recommend "Ágætis Byrjun"to any fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or anything similar. I'd also like to say to everyone that "Ágætis Byrjun" is a very interesting listen and.come on, try something different.

Report this review (#91106)
Posted Friday, September 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The title of this album apparently means "A good beginning" and this really is the record that made them famous. So much emotion and atmosphere on this recording. Very powerful.

"Intro" is spacey with vocals then it turns very atmospheric and blends into "Svefn-G-Englar" where the sound is so mighty that it almost vibrates. Guitar 1 1/2 minutes in is monstrous. Vocals after 2 minutes. Drums are more prominant after 6 minutes then violin. "Staralfur" opens softly and builds with piano and strings. Vocals before a minute. Pure emotion 2 1/2 minutes in. Some brief acoustic guitar and reserved vocals then back to previous melody. Classical music 4 1/2 minutes in. Themes are repeated and then it gets experimental after 6 minutes. "Flugu Frelsarinn" sounds so good with that powerful undercurrent. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. Great track ! "Ny Batteri" is minimalistic with horns coming and going until we start to get a melody around 2 minutes.Vocals follow.This is very laid back but I really like it. Lots of atmosphere. It kicks into a higher gear before 5 1/2 minutes with drums. Horns are back a minute later as it calms back down.

"Hjartao Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)" opens with piano and harmonica. This is SIGUR ROS ? A fuller sound before a minute followed by vocals. Some back up vocals on this one as well. An interesting song. I like the experimentation 6 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa" opens with feedback and other sounds. Piano after a minute and it builds. Strings after 3 minutes and it gets spacey. Vocals 5 minutes in. It settles after 7 minutes then builds to an emotional and powerful soundscape 8 minutes in. Some dissonance late. "Olsen Olsen" opens with vocal melodies that sound far off. Drums and a fairly deep soundscape take over. Vocal melodies are back. This all sounds so amazing. So rich and full. "Agaetis Byrjun" is uplifting to start. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. "Avalon" is 4 minutes of spacey sounds.

I personally feel that SIGUR ROS improved upon this album with "( )" and "Takk" but this is the foundation, and many feel this is their best. It's hard to argue against that.

Report this review (#93212)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Considered, by many rock reviews, as one of the most acomplished rock albuns ever made, i can not agree more with it. The album is completely different, taking the listener to new boundaries, transporting to the dreamy-pop atmospheres of nowhere, or perhaps, to the freezing celestial nature of Iceland, home country of the band.

This could be made possible by the extreme intelligence of the band on using their respective instruments. The combination of Kjartan Sveinsson inspirate dreamy creations, with the Jónsi Birgisson cutting-tearing guitar, not forgetting to mention the celestial aspect of his voice, and the surreal bass lines of Georg Holm, allied with varied orchestration all through the album, from violins, percussion to saxo, all of them seem to be made to elicit the complete magnitude of the magical and surreal aspects of music. Here and there, if we want to be perfectionists, whe can find ocasionally some immature studio arrangements, but not enough to touch the symphonic magnificiency of the album. Particularly high point of this album is the musical moment from track 6 to 8, with no weak points, showing an almost "above-human" sensibility.

When everyone questions where rock can take us more, if there is much more space to discover, Sigur Rós proved everyone with this album that new boundaries for rock are possible, even more heartbreaking and intriguing. Evolution is at the corner, rock is not dead!

Report this review (#103318)
Posted Saturday, December 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ágætis Byrjun joyful, powerfull and triumphant with overtones of sadness and loneliness.The songs are progressive and each is a colorful picture of beautiful surroundings. In their music Sigur Ros portrayers beautiful og dramatic submarine landscape with the Jónsi Birgisson singing on a mix of Icelandic and his own fantasy language who he calls Hopelandic. Just hear for yourself the sounds of what could possibly be one of the important bands of the upcoming decade. The album is beautiful and is essential!
Report this review (#103779)
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars As it is so much more than the sum of its notes and rhythms, a plain description of the music wouldn't do this album justice. They have created a smooth, expansive soundscape that is startlingly original. Conventional rock song forms seem to have been subverted, instead we have a stretched out, slowed down mass of music to wash over and surround us. It might have been called "shoegazing" music a few years ago, but it feels suffused with warmth and optimism, unlike the mop-headed indie bands of the early 90's.The fuzzy guitar sound is apparently made by drawing a bow across the strings. We also have some unnaturally high singing by Jónsi Birgisson, whose voice is as acrobatic, yet controlled, as Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser's. The otherworldly atmosphere is also helped by the lyrics, sung in a mixture of Icelandic and their own made-up language.

"Svefn-g-Englar" is ten minutes of bliss which doesn't do very much, but I still don't want it to finish. It begins with the most recognisable sonar ping since Pink Floyd's "Echoes". Then there's that voice. The swooping falsetto is at its most exhilarating in the refrain here. (think "Song to the Siren"?) "Staralfur", has a slushy string backing, and an effective stuttering, stripped-down acoustic refrain. "Flugufelsarinn" seems conventional by comparison, but maintains the dynamic. "Ný batterí" is colourfully arranged, with very Scandinavian, backwards sounding jazz horns. "Hjartað hamast", begins with splashes of percussion and harmonica, recalling Talk Talk's "Spirit of Eden", before building to an anthemic chorus. With "Viðrar vel til loftárása" we are in the realms of Pink Floyd, with a lazy beat and Gilmouresque guitar swoops. "Olsen Olsen" has a catchy unison refrain that's swapped around the instruments inventively. The gentle acoustic title track and pure ambient "Avalon" reduce the tension and bring the album to a satisfying conclusion.

Although some might find it too inactive and drawn out, this gets full marks from me for originality and plain beauty.

Report this review (#108201)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think that, through the portal of post rock (and modern avant prog), I have finally found my way out of the seventies. I've tried modern genres like neo prog (too commercial for my tastes), prog metal (not ever much cared for metal, and being prog doesn't help it), and retro prog (the most disgustingly derivative and soulless prog I know - Anglagard excepted), and not one has inspired me even the least bit. RIO/Avant prog has been looking like a potential source of good modern prog as well, and combined with prost rock, it looks I might finally break free of the shackles of the seventies. And when I say shackles, I mean shackles. So mired have I been in the seventies that when I heard of Sigur Ros's then new Takk album, my first thought was, "I wonder how it will compare to their old stuff," forgetting completely that they don't yet have any "old stuff," at least not in the way I meant.

Moving on to Sigur Ros, and more specifically Agaetis Byrjun, brings up the (at this point inevitable) mention of Mogwai's Happy Songs For Happy People. Not because these albums are related by anything other than prog sub-genre, but because Happy Songs For Happy people was gateway into the land of post-rock, and so, for the time being, all the post-rock albums I review will be measured by how they compare to Happy Songs For Happy People. This does not mean that I am looking for a Happy Songs For Happy People clone. far from it, in fact. What I mean by this is that I am looking for albums that will make me feel with the intensity that Happy Songs For Happy People. And Sigur Ros's Agaetis Byrjun lives up easily to those expectations.

I don't get the same feelings that I get from Mogwai, but I do get feelings. Whereas Mogwai made me feel a mad rush of emotions pervading every inch of my body, Sigur Ros has almost the opposite effect. Agaetis Byrjun is such a work of beauty that it makes me feel calm and at ease, perfectly relaxed and in a mood to simply do nothing. Agaetis Byrjun makes me just as calm as Happy Songs For Happy People gets me riled up, if not even more so. I want to say more, given the strength of the feelings, but there's not much else to add in that regard. If you are ever getting hyper, this is an album that will calm you into tranquility.

I've said it already, but it deserves saying again: Sigur Ros's Agaetis Byrjun is a work of absolutely stunning beauty. Some of it is beauty in the sense of what most people automatically conceive of beauty, but the most truly beautiful parts of this album are those that, at first listen, seem anything but beautiful. Two good examples of this are the climax of Ny Batteri (one of the greatest I know in my relatively limited post-rock experience) and the almost avant-garde Hjartao Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm). Every pore of this album oozes beauty, often right in the forefront, but also often lurking in the background for the listener to find. Wherever it is, however, the beauty is always there. And, trust me on this one, it's worth your while to find it.

Sigur Ros's Agaetis Byrjun is one of the best post-rock albums I know, and up with CAN's Future Days as one of the most beautiful albums I know. This album is perfect at making the listener feel, and indeed, this feeling is so peaceful that after I listen to this album, I don't want to disrupt my newfound peace by listening to anything else. Ultimately, it is my favorite post-rock album, and certainly one of the greatest albums ever released (it earns serious consideration for my top ten albums ever), a masterpiece.

Report this review (#110661)
Posted Sunday, February 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
James Lee
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 Ágætis 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.

Ágætis 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 "Hjartaõ 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.

Ágætis 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.

Report this review (#115452)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Emo is not emotional. This is.

In the band's finest offering so far, Agaetis Byrjun is a compelling album with soft textures, atmospheric qualities, and despite its tortoise like speed, proves that slow and steady really does win the race. This is an astounding achievement in the field, and despite the lack of followable vocals, proves that the bands ability to craft a variety of gripping soundscapes makes it a leader of the genre.

What makes the music so great is its ability to capture the human spirit, the emotions deep within us, all while using a minimalistic approach is quite inspiring. There is actually very little "rock" here. Do not expect any blues-based riffage or awe-inspiring melodies. The keys here are texture and atmosphere, timbre, to create the sound and the experience. Sigur Ros's Agaetis Byrjun is as much a listening experience as it is a visual one. The star track for me is the 2nd one, which I would not even attempt to pronounce for fear of humility.

Many would like to claim the prog has lost its passion, that its soulless technical music. I would like to offer this piece as a counter to these claims, that prog has never been about technical virtuosity, though it has always been more present in prog than in contemporary rock. Prog is about substance over style, about art over image. Agaetis Byrjun is a triumph in this regard.

Report this review (#117665)
Posted Sunday, April 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'll just come right out and say that this is my favorite post rock album. It's so incredibly flawless that there's really nothing I can say.

Vidrar vel til loftarasa=brilliance. Never have I heard a song that is that emotional. My goodness. I cried the twentieth time I heard it. That song in itself would give an album five stars. But the rest of the songs are so incredible that it doesn't matter. Hjartad hamast has the coolest bassline ever. Svefn-g-englar is the best typical post rock song ever, although it's hard to call it typical. Staralfur makes me love the piano even more than I already do, and the utilization of strings on there is too much. Olsen Olsen is pure joy.

I know this is really disoriented, but there's just too much to say about this album for me to get it organized. If you haven't heard it yet, hang your head in shame. But not for too long, because when you're done with that you need to walk directly to the record store. Do not pass Go. There is no room for disappointment with this record.

Report this review (#121214)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Quintessential Post Rock Album?

Many bands stumble upon the question "Can we be experimental and innovative while providing listeners with something beautiful and melodic?" This album answers this question with a resounding "Yes."With their second studio release, Sigur Ros took their place at the forefront of the post-rock scene by attracting many new listeners and enticing those familiar with this genre. Agaetis Byrjun showcases the atmospheric and melodic qualities that the band possesses. The result is haunting and artistic, somber and uplifitng. With their charming. sweeping soundscapes, Sigur Ros is a powerhouse of beauty and emotion that can certainly please the ears of many people.

After a short, atmospheric introduction, "Svefn-G-Englar" starts and immediately shows the qualities of music that is other- worldly yet accessible. In fact, it gained quite a bit of popularity from the Vanilla Sky Soundtrack. Over ten minutes, the song winds through memorable instrumental interludes and soaring Icelandic vocals. Of course, one does not listen to the band for poetic lyrics, so the fact that it is another language does not keep people from other countries away. I feel that it adds to the mystery and melody, showing that music does not have to be concrete. Sigur Ros's music is anything but concrete being that due to heavy reliance on strings and E-bows, it has a very flowing and sprithe quality that allows it to surpass convention. "Staralfur" is a bit more normal in its composition, building itself around a very pretty piano line in addition to a normal vocal pattern. The song is a great intro for new listeners becuase it is very similar to the band's other works in its atmosphere and freeflowingness, yet is more accessible. "Flugufrelsarinn" is more energetic because it showcases more passionate vocals that don't seem to be as blended with the atmosphere in addition to more prominent drums and bass. The last repetition chorus seems to be a sonic explosion of sorts and is certainly a highlight. The next song, "Ny Batteri" is more standard post rock. The horns at the beginning in addition to the soft bass and vocals are a great way to start this piece. Soon, you find yourself drifting away in the atmospheric quality of the song complemented by the horn section, only to encounter a sudden encounterto loud and (relatively) fast drums and the build-up certainly pays off. The next piece, "Hjarto Hamast" has a bit of a jazzy swing to it at first. It has several pauses from the main melody for very orchestra-like parts which greatly enhance the song. It really is a very emotion- filled track. "Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa" is a more slow, brooding track, possibly the most depressing on the album. It stars with great piano and bass interplay, and really soars with addtion of strings. Eventually, the strings lead the song in to a driving sonic force that is lush but full of life, acting somewhat to counter the slow and melancholic start. The track overall is expertly orchestrated. "Olsen Olsen" gives the album a bit of Hopelandic, the bands made up language. Again, it is a very characteristic post-rock song, but one that has a great atmosphere with blurred instruments and vocals (except the guitar). Whatever effects they use, it gives the album a very outer-worldly element and it is well exectuted on this track. Excellent piece that sort of drifts around and builds to another track where the horns (and even some choral orchestration) are a highlight. The title track is one of the catchiest and most melodic. It has a variety of instruments, mainly acoustic guitar that create the lush sound. Closing the album is "Avalon," which isn't really a major track, but more of an outro.

What this album has to offer is a very unique type of work which is unmatched in beauty, melody, character, and orchestration. It really portrays what the post-rock genre has to offer better than any other album I've heard. If you like atmosphere, musicianship, and emotion in your prog, than this album is a must-have in your collection. Certainly a masterpiece because this is a pinnacle for this genre and it really can surprise people who thought that prog died a long time ago or that ambience destroyed hope for creativity and melody. I wholeheartedly recommend this album, it can give you a new perspective on modern music.

Report this review (#128293)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Agaetis Byrjun is shiny diamond of modern prog!

I wonder how they managed to make such an strong work, without even a minute of undeveloped music. Every song is much different from others, but they still manage to naturally flow like one piece of inspiration, like one moment in time. It begins with happy voices and peacefull keyboards and than turns to excellent epic, second track, with Jonsi's voice so much beautifull, slow but not melancholic, calmed, but not boring. There is some voice of submarine, like in Echoes song of Pink Floyd, but that is the only comparation I could make to any other musician from any other musical period. Sigur Ros are so much innovative and original! Third song is beautiful, celebration piece with wonderfull orchestration (performed by eight musicians). Ny Batteri has sweet horns and some innovations of drum kit, as well as some studio developments of texture, mystical heavier horns, and is somehow more sad, but still so beautiful, with one of the most beautiful bass melodies I have ever heard. Bamm Bamm Bamm is unique one in Sigur Ros music, it gives you feeling of leaving a physical body and getting totally free. Voice is magical here, emotions are present, but not to complicate the song, and not to make it hard to listen. Emotions can not be described here by words, and even I do not understand a single word here, but this band makes universal language for everyone, and it is language of human spirit. Viđrar vel til loftárasa is the most beautiful here, is so slow and warm, in the same time spiritualy intense. Climax in this song was one of the strongest musical experiences I had in my life. It made me feel like I fly over bed where I was lying. Even my muscles felt like going up against gravity... Olsenolsen is so happy song, with Jonsi singing in falsetto, and how it sounds! It has horns and choir and it celebrates life (at least I see it so). Also there are some cool background sounds at the end of this track, possibly from some citzy streets or from some celebration event. Agaetis Byrjun is the last song, so warm and gentle, it will make you sleep sweetly after this beautiful musical dream. This album helped me grow stronger, helped me cross hard parts of road more easily, helped me believe in beauty in this, our world. Good Start!

Report this review (#129804)
Posted Sunday, July 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Intro an atmospheric, vocal dominated specey piece. Promissing. 5 stars

Svefn-G-Englar Wonderful keyboards work on this one, with ethereal guitar work. The melody is beautiful and the high pitched vocals really fit in. 5 stars

Starálfur A lovely, romantic piece with brass added. (or is it sampled on the keyboards?). Still, the second half sounds a bitt cheesy to me, as it is overemphasized by the brass sound. 4. stars

Flugufrelsarinn A nice, somewhat melancholic sounding track with emphasis on vocals. The melody is good, even if more casual than the previous numbers. 3 stars

Ný batterí Another fine, melancholic track May seem a bit repetitive in places when compared to the previous numbers, but around the fifth minute and the track packs some more energy. 5 stars

Hjartao hammast (Bamm bamm bamm) Wow. Sigur Rós goes bluesy. There is some harmonica in the beginning, and then a wall of sound comes, mostly courtesy of the guitar.The sound Birgisson mostly whispers and his voice sounds tortured, when compared to the ethereal high pitched chorus. 5 stars

Viorar vel til loftarasa A more keyboards dominated piece. Melodic and slow, with a melancholic edge. At times, the weeping guitar lines resemble Gilmour´s work on Echoes. Some wonderful instrumental passages are here as well,with the use of orchestra . 5 stars

Olsen olsen Again a melodic, slow piece. Birgisson´s vocals are especially great on this one. And to add a new flavour, there is some flute playing as well. Hypnotizing. There are even some classical influences on this one, which becomes especially clear after the orchestra joins in. 5 stars

Ágaetis byrjun The most casual track on the album. Dominated by keyboards and high pitched vocals from Birgisson. 3.5 stars

Avalon An atmspheric number with a majestic feel to it and a good conclusion to the record. 5 stars

Overal rating: 5 STARS


Report this review (#132738)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Etheral

A truly great ambient experimental work which is balanced and beautifully paced. A superb and unique sound with a fabulous mix of distinctive vocal, tempered mellow bass, brushes on the drums, and synth with plenty of strings.

Balancing and softening the experimental aspect to the music is the retention of familiar rhythms through subtle bass (Ny Batteri) and drums (Flugufrelsarinn) which serve to ease the listener gently into the amazing world of Sigur Ros.

There are suprises: hjartad hamast has a simple repeating bass riff over which there is a doleful whispered vocal. Vidrar returns to the bleak ambient sound before keyboard and bass combine in a pleasant romantic vein backed by strings.

it's hard to imagine my collection without this album: thoroughly recommended for all.

Report this review (#140807)
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Probobly the most atmospheric album i've ever heard, this beautiful album by Sigur Ros is one for late, sleepless nights when you just need to stop thinkin about life and escape to an impossibly vivid "otherworld."

Agaetis Byrjun was my first album by this rather minimalistic group, and prior to purchasing it i never really heard any of the music from them.

The songs here are soundscapes to your most vivid, wild dreams beyond imagining. The smooth flow is remarkable, each track is somewhat lengthy, and they all build on each other in unique ways.

A lot of different sounds are present on this album, and as the album progresses different instruments and techniques are used to make the experience thrilling the entire time.

An excellent, relaxing album that really allows the listener to exand their personal psyche and escape the pressures of the day in exchange for the mysterious and beautiful.

Report this review (#142394)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars If music could be seen, Agaetis Byrjun would be like heaven. Icelandic band Sigur Ros belong to a different sphere of existence. They have done things that are truly amazing. The texture of music that I found on Agaetis Byrjun drew me into a landscape of visions and dreams. At the end of my journey with the intergalactic, I was deep in tears that I didn't even realize. Nothing in the language can define their music, its just a feeling of deep emotion that circumscribes. I don't even know what the songs are all about, but I have never experienced anything like this in my life. The language is something that I dont know so I dont know what they want to convey through the lyrics. But I dont think thats important at all because they communicate on a level of emotions rather than lingostic or instrumental.

My heart goes all out for all the people who haven't experienced what I have. You might take years of listening and understanding of post-rock and progressive to and then an entry into the realm of Sigur Ros. You will feel graduated after getting into this higher form of music. But unfortunately, Sigur Ros is not everyone and they will remain intellectually inaccessible to most. Anybody who likes to challenge his own emotional existence can try Sigur Ros. Start with Agaetis Byrjun, then Takk and finally ( ).....

I found God's spirit shining brightly in Agaetis Byrjyn....Truly Hypnotic!

Report this review (#151299)
Posted Saturday, November 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another very strong album from one of the best bands around. The grace and power in Svefn-G-Englar is beautiful, Starálfur is very intimate and my favourite is Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) which means the beat of the heart. There are a couple of spots on the album that don't quite get there, nothing serious, but that just brings it back from being a 5-star CD. The four stars though are very well deserved. You really do need to listen a few times though to get it (which is just like it was for me all those years ago listening to Genesis in the 1970s). Another very good album from a truly excellent band. In fact, I first listened to them four months ago and now I have everything they've put out. That's the first time I've done that with a band in many years.

Report this review (#152795)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars Incomparably beautiful music from what is, in my opinion, the finest post-rock band around, featuring a lush symphony of unique, elegant sounds which spoil the senses in a one-of-a-kind experience. There is so much to enjoy-- much of which will no doubt vary from person to person, given the intimate nature of the music-- that it belabors the point of describing it, suffice to say that each listener will be transported to an airy, powerful, sometimes dark and brooding world of their mind's own fabrication.

The ambiguity, both in gender and in meaning, of Birgisson's seraphic voice is utterly memorable, as is the unique sound of his guitar. There is nothing quite like the textures and emotive power of Sigor Ros' music, and Agaetis Byrjun is the perfect place to discover them.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 5 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#156868)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Call it a blasphemy, a blindness or whatever, but I see little difference between SR's debut and AB. They even follow the same scheme (intro ambiences for 15 minutes or so - couple of songs - long ambience in the middle - couple of songs again, including the eponymous one). Yep, they've matured in songwriting. Yeah, there are some nice melodies and enjoyable tunes, but for me AB says nothing really - apart from almost excellent ( ) and enjoyable ''Takk...''. But hey, could the eponymous track be a bit shorter? I'd definitely enjoy it better. Anyway, while ''Von'' represented dark side of SR and had 1.5 from me (rounded to 2), AB gets 2.5 for its lighter side ...but again rounded to 2 due to massive disappointment - I thought this is really a Masterpiece, but I got the same stuff again, a little re-worked and improved though. If you're a SR newbie, begin with ''Heima'' DVD or ( ) to know SR from a better side
Report this review (#157301)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sigur ros is one of those bands that sadly falls into the category of great band, but doesnt have the masterpiece album, like Isis, or porcupine tree. Obviously, I'm in the minority of of people who think that, considering the album is the #1 album of our post rock/math rock sub genre. My belief on the idea behind the music of Sigur ros is that they take the imperfections of the many instruments they play, and the falsetto Icelandic vocals, and make it into something beautiful, and they do an extraordinary job of it. The music of sigur ros is, and will always be some of the most beautiful of our time, this album is no exception, but I feel that unlike ( ), They put the most beautiful/easy listening songs at the front, and the more experimental stuff towards the end, on a 70 minute long album, that is almost impossible to make a five star album with.

With the famed Svefn-G-Englar opening after the intro song, you are set up for quite the treat. With it's mesmerizing e-bowed guitar and almost anthemic chorus, the song could almost be considered an epic. Don't be fooled though, that's not what the albums comprised of, soon to come, are beautiful string songs, up toned horn songs, and even quirky bluesy songs. Through all this though, the album is dominated by a melancholic feel, and a sleepy atmosphere. At first listen, the album is quite a chore to get through completely without either falling asleep, or just needing to break up the monotony with another disc. It will break into you over time though, even if it doesnt come full circle, songs like staralfur and Olsen Olsen are sure to be absolute musts in your post rock archiving.

I really do enjoy this album, but like I said, it's song placement led to it's three star making. The last four songs all carry the same mood/atmosphere, and song structure, though they are great songs, placing them all in one big clump in an hour+ album is not the way to make THE post rock masterpiece. If you are more of a song person rather than album person, you will love this album, no questions asked, every song has one part that makes you lean back open jawed in amazement. I'm an album person though, and as far as album making goes, execution of song place is key, Aegetis Byrjurn didn't quite execute.

3 stars

Report this review (#158295)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I strongly doubt about a true progressive link between post-rock and prog music, but since the genre is here, I'll value this release as it is: a masterpiece of post rock.

But still I doubt something else: is Sigur Ros really a post-rock band? I think not entirely, not as Mogwai, GY!BE or Explosions in the Sky; not as bland as that post rock, though not as direct as Alternative Rock (IMO the closest thing to post rock); that's what fits with Sigur Ros' music, and with this release too.

Agaetis Birjun (translated "A good start") is one of the quintessential albums of modern music, prog or not. Elegant yet not cheesy, bland yet not tedious, the whole album is all an experience, from the dreamy Svefn-g-englar to the incredibly beautiful Viðrar vel til Loftárása, marked all along the album with Jonsi's atmospheric guitar sound. Staràlfur is probably the most accomplished song ever made in the alternative scene. Agaetis Birjun still demonstrates people that there's no need of complexity in the music; it's all about creativity; being creative, it's not hard to reach beauty and, again, prog or not. Five stars.

Report this review (#160812)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow, what a beautiful CD. The first time I heard it I wasn't overly impressed, but now it has grown on me and it is one of few records that me and my dad (a classical fan) can share in enjoyment.

So... as for the songs. The intro just gives us a taster of what's to come and the album really kicks off with 'Svefn-G-Englar', a very beautiful epic, with hints of Floyd. Quite repetitive, but good for it. 'Staralfur' is my favourite, and the closest to being a 'song' in the traditional sense. It has an amazing atmosphere, and is extremely emotional. The way it seamlessly intersperses chamber music with the band's tradmark post rock sound is incredible. I saw a live performance of this on TV and the emotion on the singer/guitarists face was incredible. 'Flugufrelsarinn' starts with noises of the sea, which gradually get more frantic. This then fades out and some organ(?) chords are heard which introduces us to this song. This song brings back the spacier Floydian sound, but is more symphonic than 'Svefn-G-Englar'. There are also hints of world music that unfold. Then 'Ny Batteri' starts with brass instruments. At first it is very minimalistic and sounds improvised. Then other instruments enter the fold, adding more structure, and a very somber mood. This mood is enhanced by the mournful vocals. When the drums come in a new layer is added to the mood, and then everything stops leaving one note hanging in the air, and then everything comes in again, faster, but still solemn. This song fades out. Next up is 'Hjartao Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)' which enters with a bass line reminding one of a seventies cop show. There are then ambient synths on top of this, and the singing takes on a very dark tone, with some female voices answering. The song then morphs into a more symphonic, yet still dark sound with layered vocals before returning to the original sound, with some great synths. The song ends spectularly and leads us to 'Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa'. A piano fades in very gradually. As other instruments enter, it sounds very hopeful, like the coming of Spring, after the bleak winter of the last few songs. Actually now I think of it the album has got quite a seasonal structure. Nayway this song also has a very new age feel to it. To put it simply it is a very bright song, yet wreathed in mystery. It gets very frantic towards the end. 'Olsen Olsen' begins with a very mysterious tone, and th singer sings in his highest range yet in this very celtic feeling song. It even has a flite or whistle solo which sounds very Irish (Very odd for an Icelandic band). The mood of this song changes a lot, from cheerful to mournful and back again. At one point it sounds like the kind of music you would experience in a musical such as The Sound of Music, and ends in a jazz-like jam and some children talking followed by a reprise of the earlier flute solo. The end fades straight into 'Agaetis Byrjun' which starts with a sound that seems to sum up the album so far, with piano, drums acoustic guitar, and others. The vocals are pretty stereotypical of the album so far. It's hard to tell if this is a happy or sad mood, and maybe it's supposed to be like that. There is silence before the final track, 'Avalon' begins. This song is very different to anything heard previously. There are lots of electronic sounds mixed with brass and strings. There are some strange sound effects in this solely instrumental piece, which rounds off the album as strangely as it begun.

So this is a very unique unusual albums, and my review doesn't even begin to describe the exciting twisting turns in this record. Anyone who likes intensely emotional music and has an open mind should enjoy this.

4 stars

Report this review (#161701)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars As beautiful as (). Definitely one of the most beautiful and evocative, and inventive albums ever made. Sigur Ros' masterpiece (along with () ). I especially love the two longest tracks (10 minute for each of them), and the sleeve, very mysterious, is magnificent. Really, a brilliant and magnificent release !
Report this review (#163573)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very incredible album. Emotionally involving yet highly instrumental. The vocals that Sigur Ros does use are used more so in an instrumental sense. A post-rock theme of using the voice as an instrument. hauntingly beautifuly yet lacking in some way. For parts of the album it seems to repeat itself and blend together. not perfect but highly recommended.
Report this review (#165622)
Posted Friday, April 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars

This is maybe the best album we'll hear until the stars fall from the sky...Sigur Rós is actually the most surprising, interesting and even original band I've heard since I bought Rubber Soul, so it's really saying much at least for me.

This album might be the plateau from where Sigur Rós threw their true magic, Von was a good album but it had a lot of childish elements surrounding it, it was noisy and really dark instead of beautiful...then AB enters and gives us the experience of our lives. This album is just amazing and full of every single positive word I can think of right now...

So anyway, almost everything is covered within critics, reviews, shows, etc. about this album, everything has been said before, so I just want to add that this album changed my vision of contemporary music since the very day I heard it....just magnificent in one word.

Report this review (#166020)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars As I should say in a tiny phrase, Really incomplete wave and atmosphere of music. At first the sleeve of the album knocked me out (to tell the truth, this is the second album that I saw the front face and at once bought without listening to the content). The monotone sleeve gave me massive imagination and feeling...And once I put this album on the turntable, it made me feel like turning together. What feeling!? Mysterious transmigration of the soul and body The album always brings me such a feeling. The atmosphere is fuzzy and floating, and caught me tightly and rigidly. This unexperienced sound and beat, after the play finished, might let us weep calmly, and might let us replay the album again and again...
Report this review (#191183)
Posted Monday, December 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I when I heard this for the first time I was actually into some very generic rock music, but this, this is something else! I had never heard something like this, I looked at this like music to fall asleep but is so much more than that, it is music to seek into your soul, music to fly; this absolutely wonderful.

The mashed up and strangely beautiful intro opens for "Svefn-g-englar", with a slow build up with soaring guitar from the bowed guitar, this song is one of the most beautiful and epic of the album, this song is for me the image of the album, transcendental, minimalistic, epic, echo-y, dynamic and enormous. While the previous track showed a lot of ambient work, the follower, "Starálfur" is the most singe-like song in the album, in all its nature is more like the tracks on future album "Takk...", it has beautiful classic strings arrangements and acoustic guitar.

"Flugufrelsarinn" is my favorite track, it is glorious and beautiful, it builds up really slow until the chorus, until it feels really right to just throw your body away towards the air, just true splendor. Other highlights are "Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása" which contains one of the most beautiful melodies I ever heard, "Olsen Olsen" which is sublime from the pulsing bass to the epic piccolo ending and acoustic brilliance of "Ágætis byrjun".

This is definitely not for everyone, put if you put a little heart and soul when listening to this you will be rewarded with an amazing voyage, this will talk to you.

Report this review (#201201)
Posted Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Six months ago, I was stuck in a rut. I couldn't find new music. I was listining to the same stuff and no matter what I found, I just couldnt get into it. One day I was on e-music and was going through their top 100 albums as voted by users. Then I saw a blue album cover with a blue fetus on it and saw that it was compared to RADIOHEAD, so I thought hey why not? At first I hated it. I had never listened to post rock before, and it sounded like enya-esk alternitive music. After about three listens I realized how BEAUTIFUL and DIFFERENT and NEW that it was. This album was a doorway to a whole different style of music that is now my favorite genre. I gave this album to my friend who sits next to me in AP Environmental, and now its his favorite band. I brought him away from Viva la Vida and Nirvana and the likes, and now he is listening to Explosions in the sky and Mogwai and GYBE. Anyway...

The Magnum Opus of the Post Rock gallary hanging right next to LYSFLATH. A stroke of genius. From the first ping of Svefn-G-Englar to the last note on Ágaetis Byrjun is 72 minutes of musical bliss. This album takes you to a different place. They are different from any other post rock band with Jonsi's voice and their string quartet (or quintet etc.) not to mention the cello bow. Totally refreshing and shows that prog is not dead. I cant tell you the best tracks on the album because nearly every track is as strong as another. If I were to pick one track that isnt up to par with the rest it would have to be Flugufrelsarinn. Its not a bad song at all, its just that every other song is better (in my opinion)! The production is nearly flawless, except for the fact that it is just slightly too bassy. I cant play it too loud on my surround sound system or else the walls start to vibrate. The intro and Avalon serve their purpose, it pulls you in, and the other slowly releases you, and make the album flow perfectly.

Jonsi's voice is better than ever. The range is everywhere, from high and beautiful on Svefn-G- Englar, to mid-range and wispery on Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) and artsy and etherial on Olsen Olsen. The guitar and bow are a great addition to the atmosphere on nearly every track. This is what sets Sigur Ros appart from every other band. The keyboards are perfectly fitting. Kjartan Sveinsson takes the classic keys like the hammond, the rhodes and the piano and uses them instead of a synth for a real and raw tone. His performaces on Svefn-G-Englar and Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa are my favorite. Georg Holm and Ágúst both keep it simple and add to the atmosphere. The strings are compleatly authentic and adds more than if it were synthesiser. Dynamics throughout the album play a huge key to the mood in each song. The musicallity trully shows on this album.

I feel like I am really rambling here, so im going to seriously try to wrap this up. If you compleatly hate happy and/or relaxing experimental rock, than you should probobly stay away from this album. But if you dont, and you are looking for something new, or if you have never heard any post rock before, this is the album to start with. I almost guarentee that you will like at least two or three of the tracks. Definetally a masterpiece. 4.5+/5

Report this review (#201302)
Posted Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ágætis Byrjun is the second full-length studio album by Islandic experimental/ post rock act Sigur Ros ( not counting the remix album Von Brigði (1998)). Listening to the first two albums by the band has not been an easy experience for me. The repetitive ambient sound experiments on Von (1997) and the remixes of those experiments on Von Brigði) really didn´t strike a note with me. Ágætis Byrjun is fortunately a very different album compared to its predecessors and my interest was immediately ignited when I listened to the first song after the intro.

The music on Ágætis Byrjun is ambient, atmospheric, melancholic and above all beautiful. As opposed to the ambient soundscapes of their debut album this album features more regular drums and therefore it has more of a rock ( very soft, ambient rock) feeling to it. I´m often reminded of the melancholy of Radiohead which is probably due to Jónsi Birgisson´s vocal style which at times isn´t far from Thom Yorke´s ditto ( especially in the songs Starálfur, Flugufrelsarinn and Ágætis Byrjun). Most of the time his style is more high pitched and atmospheric though. Another influence is probably Talk Talk. Listen to the first couple of minutes of minimalistic organic sounds in Ný Batterí for reference. I´m also reminded of the somewhat monotenous alternative rock/ noise rock of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but it´s mostly because of the moods in the music and the walls of noisy yet melodic sound that Sigur Ros produce in some songs on Ágætis Byrjun. The album is overall very consistent and the 71:51 minutes go by like a dream. It´s very seldom any album can entertain me for that long. Songs like Svefn-G-Englar, Ný Batterí, Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) and Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa are simply wonderful to my ears. Olsen Olsen is also special to me with its symphonic ending. In addition to normal rock instrumentation there´s also lots of strings on the album which gives the music an great organic touch.

The musicianship is excellent. Jónsi Birgisson´s vocals are extremely emotional and even though I understand little of the Icelandic lyrics it´s easy to embrace the melancholic mood in the music. The music is generally not technically complicated, but creating beautiful and meaningful soundscapes that someone like me ( who is normally way too busy to enjoy slow and ambient music) can appreciate is quite the achivement.

The production is excellent. Warm when it needs to be but also crystal clear and cold when that is needed. The sound suits the music very well.

Ágætis Byrjun is my first positive meeting with Sigur Ros music but I´m certainly gonna search out the rest of their discography after listening to this album. This one´s a winner in my book and close to a 5 star rating. 4 stars will do for now, but I might return with a re-evalution some time in the future because Ágætis Byrjun seems to keep growing on me for every new listen. Highly recommendable to fans of melancholic atmospheric music.

Report this review (#205865)
Posted Monday, March 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sorry but i tryed this album many times now and yust find it very boring and unintresting, and the made up langue dont sounds very good. The songs are long but noghing intresting is goin on, Why everyone is bashing KC's Moonchild yet seem to love this i dont understand. Or maybe i shuld ask myself why i love tracks like Moonchild but find this so dull? well i bought this album with and open mind and after all the good i hade heard about it i realy tough i whuld love it, one of my bigest dissapointments of recent years. Im not saying its overrated its yust not my tast i gues, which is wierd since i usualy like most music in a way or another, i will keep the album and hope i one day see the light but i think not. 2 stars for fans only.
Report this review (#228481)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Play a Floyd fan track #7, "Vidrar vel til loftarasa," and for nearly 5 minutes you'll be able to easily fool him/her into believing it's an (amazing!) outtake from DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, - from the atmospheric sound effects, to the Wright-like piano, to the Gilmour-like guitar. That is, until Birgisson's falsetto voice comes in, and his titanic-sized guitar "solo" follows. (In post- rock, post-Sonic Youth fashion, the guitar isn't used for soloing but rather for shifting dynamics and atmosphere.)

This is an album one must listen to over and over to fully appreciate. Most of the songs are pretty long, and take their time to reach their destination. However, unlike the following album, ( ), the songs are pretty varied, and the music is never dull. In the vinyl age, nearly every Sigur Ros recording would be a double-album.

The CD begins with sonic pings a la Floyd's "Echoes," and segues into the mammoth "Svefn- g-englar." A brilliant beginning to a brilliant album. It's so hard to pick favorite moments, but these include the strange dynamics of (the U2-like) "Staralfur," the changing tempos of "Ny batteri," the seismic tide that threatens to wash out of your speakers in "Hjartad hamast," the strangely tranquil "Olsen olsen" that ends in a boisterous sing-a-long, to the Eno-like soundscape of "Avalon" that closes this album.

This is an album where you'll be able to pick out influences - Floyd, Eno, My Blood Valentine's LOVELESS, and perhaps even Page's dynamic use of a violin bow on his guitar - and yet the band manages to create something startling original. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#247755)
Posted Monday, November 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars It really took a while to get into this album. Like a lot of post rock, it'll be hard to truly understand upon first, second, or third listen- much effort is needed to find the beauty in this album, but the effort is certainly worth it. On one hand, the album often offers sublime, sentimental beauty, best exemplified by the astounding Svefn-G-Englar. The core of the music consists of slow, clean drumming, Birgisson's angelic falsetto, low bass, and occasional bursts of noisy cello-bowed guitar. There is much else though- high, soulful strings on Starálfur, a jazzy intro in Hjartað Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) utilizing harmonica, tinkling bell sounds that sound like a much more childish version of those used on Radiohead's Kid A, and windy, airy ambience on the closing track, Avalon, not unlike Tangerine Dream. However, it's hard to stomach all 70 minutes of this at once- a song every now and then, that's how this record is best played. Highly recommended to fans of slow, soulful, glacial music.
Report this review (#261023)
Posted Friday, January 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I never thought that post rock from Iceland could be this uplifting while still maintaining a decent level of challenge! Ágætis Byrjun features many stand-out compositions like the wonderful 10-minute chill-out anthem Svefn-G-Englar and my personal favorite Ný Batterí which, just like UMUR pointed out in his review, starts off with a definite nod at Talk Talk's two final studio albums.

The best thing about this release is that its incredibly smooth and by that I mean it offers a great feeling of the overall theme without a single lesser or dull moment. This 70+ minute album of music just flows by and it's easy to get absorbed by the who experience.

If you haven't heard it then please do because it's not often you'll get to to hear such a solid album! My only possible reason for not going all the way and rating it as essential is quite personal. Simply put it's not an album I can pick on just any day and listen to without being in a certain relaxed state of mind to begin with. So Ágætis Byrjun gets a definite 4+ from me and I hope to hear more from this exciting band!

***** star songs: Svefn-G-Englar (10:04) Starálfur (6:46) Ný Batterí (8:10) Olsen Olsen (8:03)

**** star songs: Intro (1:36) Flugufrelsarinn (7:48) Hjartaõ Hamast (7:10) Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa (10:17) Ágaetis Byrjun (7:55) Avalon (4:02)

Report this review (#261798)
Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars There were moments in this album that made me wanna cry. Albums this original and this moving are rare nowadays. I'm not too familiar with post rock, but what I've heard so far was fantastic. AB brings you into another world, a beautiful and peaceful one(not many dark or creepy moments here), an incredibly light and ethereal album that makes the listener feel like he has just reached the gates of heaven. Therefore a happy album, different from the creepy, tense and anxious atmospheres that reign in Godspeed you! Black emperors album " F#A# infinity". I could easily say that this is one of the best albums of the nineties and one of the very best of the whole post rock genre. An essential masterpiece for anybody who loves music.
Report this review (#277909)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Without doubt Sigur Ros best work. Ambient aerial liquid down tempo sound with deep roots in Talk Talk later experimental albums. Great female vocals, with some The Cranberries echoes in its. Absolute Nordic atmosphere, only the best bands from area can build such authentically (not only in post-rock, same in Nordic jazz and fusion). Long compositions, some folksy flavours and plenty of electronics which never sound as synthetic electronics.

Too different album from what we expect from great prog albums. Easy accessible, but not always truly accepted. Simple and important as cornerstone of new sound. Post rock was exploded and burned very fast, but till now myriads of post-rock bands sound "as Sigur Ros".

And I prefer such, Nordic post-rock gene against loudly twin-guitars driven American one. Because there in Sigur Ros music you can hear all spacey Pink Floyd legacy and ambient Fripp legacy, and Nordic ECM minimalistic aerial jazz of Jan Garbarek. In fact, this Sigur Ros album is their concentrated sound which will stay in history as Nordic post-rock example. And it's not such a small thing...

Near all these importance and influences, this album is real pleasant to listen. Dreamy atmospheric one - listen it, and if you're not a big fan of post-rock, you just will need a very few more albums to know what post rock is all about.

My rating is 4+

Report this review (#296003)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Snobb's review says so much of what I feel about this album. I can think of very few albums in the last 20 years which feel and sound as if they come out of nowhere--are unlike anything else that came before them--are so unique that they stand out so starkly from the rest of music of the day. KARDA ESTRA's Eve, THE MARS VOLTA's De-loused in the Comatorium, ULVER's Shadows of the Sun, and MAUDLIN OF THE WELL's Part the Second are the few others that come to mind. Several songs on this album are to this date among the best ever made in this genre ("Svefn-G-Englar," "Flugufrelsarinn," and "Starálfur") and one in particular, "Ny Batteri," still never fails to leave me stunned in awe every time I hear it. A genre-defining album and gut-wrenching listening experience.

Five stars all the way.

Report this review (#328974)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The second album from this Icelandic band is one of the more popular post-rock albums. Next to Mogwai and GYBE, Sigur Ros are probably the most influential post-rock group. They sing in their own made up language called Hopelandic. I don't see what the point is as most non- Scandinavians probably think they are singing in Icelandic anyway. The vocals generally sound like some kind of Bjork/Thom Yorke hybrid. I can hear influence from 1990s alternative rock on this album. I haven't heard the debut yet but those influences are supposed to be even greater there. The songs are generally long and don't change much throughout their duration. Although this is a band with typical instrumentation, the presence of string and wind instruments seems to stand out a lot of the time.

The album starts with a spacey intro with lots of backwards effects. This leads directly into "Svefn-G-Englar." I guess you could desribe this as ambient-rock. I like the change after 6 minutes, very Floyd sounding. "Staralfur" sounds influential to some later post-rock. The piano part sounds like U2 and also sounds similar to some of the piano playing you would hear later with bands like Muse and Coldplay. "Ny Batteri" begins with some random noises from different instruments. Gets more atmospheric and a bassline starts. Vocals join in. Halfway some awesome sounding drums come in.

"Hjartao Hamast" has an awesome electric piano sound (Wurlitzer?) and some harmonica. Jazzy drumming and some atmospheric, feedback-y guitar. Sounds like upright bass is being used. Some great ethereal singing here, backed by symphonic strings. "Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa" reminds me of Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky," except there is strings instead and no female vocals. Gets more Radiohead sounding when the vocals enter. The ending reminds me of Sgt. Peppers. "Olsen Olsen" has a very post-rocky bassline that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mogwai or Tortoise album. More child-like ethereal vocals. Nice flute parts in this song. Some "la-la" harmony vocals. "Avalon" is a atmospheric, moody instrumental. Nice way to end the album.

I was never a big fan of this group, nothing they did ever really grabbed my attention. I haven't heard all of their albums, but I enjoy this one the most of the ones I have. I've heard better post- rock and I've heard worse post-rock. I would give this a 3.5 but can't push myself to give it 4 stars. 3 stars then.

Report this review (#417195)
Posted Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This wonderful work will bring you into a magic nordic landscape; a very nice experience not only for your ears but also for your soul. The only weak point of the album is obviously its lyrics, since you won't absolutely be able to grasp the meaning of a single word if you're not from Iceland... anyway, the music flows gently from beginning to end in this fantastic , relaxing, long journey, with moments of absolute sublimity (like in Staralfur). You'll want to listen to this work and relive the emotions that it can offer more and more times. My final rating is 5 stars without a doubt (and if one day I will be able to visit Iceland Agaetis Byrjun - whatever that means - will be the soundtrack of my journey).
Report this review (#440766)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a rare treat. It is beautiful, haunting and unworldly. I've never heard anything like it. I can't help but feel obligated to share my sentiments here. I find the slow, dreamy ethereal sounds extremely soothing and calming. The tracks are laced with lush strings, atmospheric guitars and angelic vocals.

I sincerely recommend this to anyone. The title has been roughly translated from Icelandic to "A good beginning" and the artwork also gives hints of something fresh and innocent. I have to say that some of the darkest, most emotionally charged and moving songs can be found on this album, which may or may not be difficult for some people to digest. But this music is capable of enriching your soul.

This has been among my personal favourites for the last ten years or so. I particularly love the first three tracks as well as the seventh and the eighth called "Olsen Olsen" but there are plenty more amazing moments. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#441078)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars But what a great album. Indeed "Agaete Byrjun" is a fantastic album, one of the best I've heard in recent times.

The sound here is a mix of alternative rock, progressive rock and space rock. And boy, this is a mix that works. The songs are not very progressive, but they never drag on and bored me - this is amazing, my friend!

My favorite tracks here are "Svefn-G-Englar," "Staralfur", "Vel Til Viõrar loftarasa" and "Olsen Olsen."

My only complaints are that the singer is not very good (sometimes out of tune it in falsetto) and the last track, "Avalon" is totally unnecessary.

4.5 stars!

Report this review (#473191)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is simply some of the most human music I have ever encountered.

Ágætis Byrjun was an impulse buy of mine, and probably the most fruitful impulse I have ever had. Each song delivers a sort of alien brilliance that cascades into the ear. I can't understand a lick of what they're saying, and I think that adds to the experience. The cavernous guitar that takes form on the second track, that is the best I have ever heard a guitar. I don't know if I could even call it a riff. It's beauty is in that it just comes and tells the listener that they've accepted it. I would compare the sound of it, and probably the rest of the album, to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. While Atlas Shrugged is a book, I get the same feeling reading it that I do listening to this. The symphonies throughout blow my mind. So does the simplicity of the drums. So does the soft melodious piano riffs they choose to use. There will come a day when I have more time to write a proper review, but for now, this is it.

If you truly enjoy living life, you will truly enjoy this album.

Report this review (#477984)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sigur Ros' music has always been from another planet for me. And I'm afraid I'm a bit too much down to earth to understand or appreciate this kind of music. PA's guidelines expect us to remain civilized and respectful to the bands we review so I will do my very best here. Of course I could have stayed away from this band (or even the entire sub genre to be honest) but as I stated before I feel a prog reviewer has to reveal where he or she stands with all kinds of prog. So here we go.

The short intro has nothing to offer so that's already a downside. Svefn-G-Englar was the track that gave me the shivers (but not down the spine really) first time I listened to it. Besides the fact it sounds pretty creepy I also noticed it gets repetitive halfway. The song drags on for too long and the useless fade out last minute doesn't help either. After six minutes suddenly Radiohead comes barging in it seems but since I'm not a big fan of them either it's another minus for this first (real) song. Next up is the highly praised Starálfur and I have to say it's indeed one of the better on this supposed masterpiece. The vocals are less annoying and the melody is dreamy and somewhat captivating. But also here a strange ending obviously was needed to make the song more special. Flugulfrelsarinn goes on in the same vein but sounds a lot more boring to me. Ný Batterí opens with weakish flute and other wind instruments. Creepy keysounds give the impression the trip in outer space continues. I can't get used to the vocals either. Jonsi's voice is probably meant to mesmerize the fans but I'm afraid it doesn't work with me. Well, I will not go into the whole album. The tone is set, both by Sigur Ros as by me and I fear we will not be a match at any moment in time.

Leaves the final rating as a bit of a problem. Somehow I can hear this is a bit of a special album, that is if I try to be as open minded as possible. But this band's music is so extremely far away from my musical taste and interest that two stars is the very maximum I can do (1,5). Unfortunately I have many more albums from this band because they were for sale here at that moment so I don't exclude the possibility I will review more of their albums. I hope for the band I will not and actually I hope for myself the same ...

Report this review (#486623)
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sigur Ros' second proper album (not counting the preceding remix album) finds the band hitting on their distinctive style - a blend of majestic post-rock and ethereal vocals inspired by the gorgeous work of the Cocteau Twins, which comes together to create the cold, shimmering soundscapes collected on this release. Leaning more on synthesisers and crystal-clear studio production than Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor, the other two giants of post-rock in 1999, the band create a sonic approach which at points could do with a little polishing but otherwise presents a marvellous musical voyage. Recommended for all post-rock fans and for anyone interested in beginning to explore the genre.
Report this review (#636240)
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Mesmirising haunting ambience.

This album was always at the top of my lists of a must hear Sigur Ros due to the high regard among proggers and in particular the write up in a well known music magazine. I was also drawn in by the beautiful cover art of an angelic embryo floating in a neon glow. The iconic emblematic art signifies the floating music that Sigur Ros emanate. As the album begins one is immediately transported to the Icelandic chill of the frozen tundras. The incomprehensible language adds to the mystique. The music sounds cold and distant but somehow comforting. The album title "Ágætis Byrjun" means "A good beginning", which is apt as it was the beginning of greatness for the band that went on to become major successes worldwide.

It begins with an Intro of backwards strings and synths. Then is followed by 'Svefn-G-Englar', one of the more serene tracks; virtually a one note piece with very high register spaced out vocals, along streams of violins and patient measured percussion. The dreamy synths are meandering slowly and everything slows inexorably from this track on.

The highlight of the album that resonated with me from first listen is 'Staralfur' with gorgeous chimes, violins, and tearful vocals. The melancholy that is built with stirring violins and organic atmospherics is stunning. This is highly original music designed to touch the emptions at the deepest level. It ends with cold static leading to the next song.

'Flugufrelsarinn' is a haunting soundscape adorned with ominous strings and keys. The vocals are more middle register and no less wracked in emotional longing. 'Ny Batteri' has an Oriental feel, and features slow paced horns, a relaxed feel on keyboards, with some intense moments on loud drums, that are released into pleasant calm and almost silence. The vocals are ultra high falsetto and sung in a laid back but beautiful melody.

'Hjartao Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)' utilises harmonica with piano embellishments and then the trademark vocals chime in. There is a degree of experimental work to generate unusual rather creepy atmospheres. 'Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa' begins as a distant zone of feedback loops and spacey atmospheres. The infinitely patient piano is heavenly and is joined by symphonic strings and some psychedelic vocals. It builds to a crescendo of interlacing violins and improvised melodies that overlap and become chaotic along with sporadic drumming.

'Olsen Olsen' begins with distant spacey vibes on vocals and some percussion, with a repeated guitar phrase and ambience at the low end flows along. The majestic ending with multitracked choirs and uplifting melodies is very unusual in comparison to the ambience previously.

'Agaetis Byrjun' has a powerful scape of uplifting beauty with piano augmentations and some scraping sounds with a moderate percussion. The chimes add to the dreaminess, and then high falsetto vocals mixed to the front glaze over the freezing landscape. 'Avalon' is a trip into space with keyboards and winding ribbons of cello sounds. The exploration of ambient textures is striking and it builds until some experimental twangs are heard to end the journey.

This is certainly one of the best Sigur Ros albums and may take some out of their comfort zone such is the starkness of the extreme ambient music. It takes a degree of patience to endure the full 70 minute journey but makes nice dreamy relaxing music at the end of a busy day to kick back to. It is a full immersive atmospheric journey that has the power to relax the senses. The band built up a very solid fanbase from this album to present day.

Report this review (#769587)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.


Report this review (#777332)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Ágaetis byrjun" is the quintessential post-rock album. Ignore "Skinny Fists" and "F# A# infinity", this is the real deal. I can't quite bring myself to call this a 5-star album. Despite its overall excellence in consistency and adventurousness, it's not quite progressive in enough ways for it to be essential to a prog rock collection. Anyway, by employing so many fantastic techniques and effects, the band create a beautiful atmosphere with a distinctive timbre and sound to their music without going over the edge with technology. All in all a very minimal album, but it allows lots of room for that sharp, fresh Icelandic breeze to slap you on the cheek. Sounds better in a colder room too, matching that outstanding album cover - perfectly aligns with the music as a minimal 2-coloured piece of artwork (the blue and white), further emphasising the music as some sort of isolated newborn indicated by the oversized head and almost disfigurations on the body, also matching the appropriate title of Sigur Ros' first real work: "A good beginning".

"Intro" begins to sort of get you into the mood of the album, with some clever backmasked effects on the title track. Nothing amazing, as it's only about a minute long, but definitely sets the scene and builds some suspense for the next track. "Svefn-g-englar" is easily my favourite track in the whole post-rock scene. Absolutely magnificent and the music itself dripping on each resounding "bing" with pure emotion. Brilliant melodies and the lyrics too, when translated ("I burst out and peace is in the air, bathed in new light"). The atmosphere from the recording is just phenomenal, enclosing in on you and making it extremely personal. Not much more to say but a perfect opener (excluding the intro). "Starálfur" has a bit of a peculiar intro, but grows out into another incredible piece, this time introducing some basic violin lines to the mix. Underlined by a watery keyboard effect, plus some more hypnotic chord progressions and harmonies, it creates another otherworldly track. "Flugufrelsarinn" is generally a bit harsher vocally, and therefore not as sweet or relatable as the previous 2 songs, but brings in some necessary variation to the album. The guitar's feedback effects though were already in "Svefn-g-englar", so it does get a little strenuous to sit through. Nonetheless a great track, with some subtle climaxes put to great use.

"Ný batterí" enters with some trumpets that sort of remind me of the indie album "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" released a year earlier. The piece progresses into quite a tense, almost pastoral song, with some intriguing melodies. It treads very lightly until that superbly shattering drum kit enters halfway, transforming the track into a much heavier one, with such a strong vocal delivery, comparable with that of "Serge Fiori" of Harmonium. The whole piece is one of the highlights of the album for me, and so different from everything I've heard, all coming together at the end with a powerful structure. "Hjartaõ hamast" then unexpectedly introduces a jazz keyboard and blues harmonica into the world of post-rock, layered on with even more of Birgisson's symphonic guitar notes, projecting right through your ears, teamed with a sensitive voice right next to the microphone. Reaching more gorgeous climaxes, creates another sensational track. "Viõrar vel til loftárasa" gives you lots of time to indulge yourself in the song, without cluttering your thoughts. Georg's bass and Kjartan's keyboards work hand in hand here. Gradually, each member comes in and complements the others excellently, as the 10 minute epic reaches another indescribable pinnacle of musical genius! :P

"Olsen Olsen" is quite interesting but doesn't quite offer as much as the previous tracks. Definitely a commendable track and very necessary to the album itself, but sort of lacks that extraordinary flavour carried by the other tracks. Fantastic moments though, with lovely flute solos and vocal harmonies, and the coda is just brilliant, as all of the previous instruments pop up and create a very unusual orchestra of eccentric tones. The title track then follows with even more attractive guitar and keyboard tunes, with a great acoustic guitar slide which they bring out into the mix seemingly perfectly. I guess I've said it all already really - remarkable melodies, harmonies, chord progressions all filled with intricate emotions, producing a consistent signature sound. "Avalon" ends the album, with more experimental post-rock techniques. Quite an invert majestic texture is emitted, as the instrumental ends on an oppressed fanfare with the occasional guitar thump. Certainly a... thought-provking end to such a mellifluous album, but just an anti-climax really.

B/A: A dearly treasured album of my collection, combining all sorts of musical elements to fabricate a delicately intricate sound that you really can't resist like any other post-rock album. Teetering right on the brink of 5-stardom :P

(Intro): **** Svefn-g-englar: ***** Starálfur: ***** Flugufrelsarinn: **** Ný batterí: ***** Hjartað hamast: ***** Viðrar vel til loftárása: ***** Olsen Olsen: **** Ágætis byrjun: **** Avalon: ***

Report this review (#984574)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sometimes prog music doesn't give you nice experiences and Sigur Rós' record Ágaetis Byrjun was such an experience. I am sorry but it was long time ago I heard such boring sounds. I am almost upset so I won't spend som much time with time review. Spaced music can be really interesting with containing wonderful soundscapes you just want to drown into but these tracks was just filled with boring slow and uninspired background sounds. I am sad there were no melodies and every instrument felt dull and turbid.

The only composition I think was worth listening was "Olsen Olsen" which had an irritating vocal part but really nice instrumentals and actually symphonic music. I like they are singing in Islandic but they don't sing in a way that pleased my senses. I wouldn't have been a pain for me to listen to this if the record wasn't so long. A short old-fasioned disc with 35 minutes had been enough for me. I should have big expectations of a prog rock band from Iceland, and a record with so good reputation, but perhaps I'm just too new to this genre.

What does this thing not a disaster is the sometimes shown nice instruments such as great strings on "Svefn-g-englar" and "Starálfur" and good brass instruments on "Ny bátterí". My voting will be two stars, but then consider it's just me. I use to have hard to acquire space rock and krautrock as well as alternative rock and indie.

Report this review (#985624)
Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars After a mostly ambient debut release SIGUR ROS evolved their sound to incorporate aspects of dream pop, chamber music, orchestral classical and post-rock and in the process ended up creating a unique new type of music that would become a huge world-wide sensation. On "Ágætis Byrjun" we get a strange eerie, ethereal flow of sounds that really makes me think of the vast Icelandic landscapes with lifeless volcanic lava flows and drifting glaciers frosting the mountainous terrain. A music that originates from the steaming pots of boiling earthen cauldrons that flow on in a geological time frame and one that requires a calm and serene and even meditative state of mind to encompass.

This music isn't quite rock although it has aspects of post-rock. We don't get any seriously energetic drum playing until track five on 'N' batter' and it rarely shows up afterwards. It isn't quite classical, yet it is superbly orchestrated and violin, piano and bowed guitar playing are aplenty throughout the album. It feels closer to dream pop, but the compositions are too complex to be considered pop, so this could be in fact a new category of something like dream symphonic post-rock or something of the sort.

The lyrics are sung in both their native Icelandic as well as their artificial language Vonlenska which is similar to the nonsensical language used by the Cocteau Twins created to de-emphasize any lyrical meanings and simply use the voice as yet another instrument. No matter which language is used the result is an alienating yet peaceful declaration of some kind of musical celebration. At times it feels like this music may have even been inspired by whale songs and at other times the progressive electronic meanderings of groups like Tangerine Dream.

The album begins with a backmasking effect followed by a kind of volcanic rumbling setting the stage for a kind of slow and dripping percussion sound accompanied by an organ. This is an invitation for a the addition of more instruments to find a niche on this musical landscape and slowly they creep in and out with the angelic falsetto vocals of Jónsi Birgisson finally hitting the stage to lead the eerie orchestration through the sonic wilderness that sounds fragile and haunting. The whole thing reminds me of how life on Earth evolves. How it springs forth from a certain origin and then separates, adapts and finally thriving in a hitherto unexploited niche. SIGUR ROS does just that in their music where certain instruments take advantage of certain musical niches in the larger musical ecosystem that hadn't yet been discovered in popular music.

This is an album that took me a while to warm up to. Being attracted firstly to fast, heavy and eclectic music, I had to divorce myself from any musical expectations and just sit back and be patient and let the music steer me while I let SIGUR ROS do the driving which is never about rushing from point A to point B but rather savoring all the distances in between and in the process able to flesh out possibilities on the sonicscape that are more often than not ignored by other styles of music that put the emphasize elsewhere. After taking the time to adapt to this strange spectral soundscape I am astounded that the music perfectly resembles the cold, harsh and somewhat detached feel of the vast Icelandic landscapes and even more surprised that the beauty of the music like that of the cold and desolate parts of the planet contain untold beauty that is not immediately apparent yet accessible for anyone to enjoy after a slight expectational adjustment.

Report this review (#1139198)
Posted Thursday, February 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Agaetis Byrjun' - Sigur Ros (81/100)

I think I've come a long way in my appreciation for Sigur Rós. Sometime during high school, I came across a copy of Takk... available for loan in a public library. For all of the great things I'd heard about the Icelandic darlings, I was pretty quickly repulsed by the all-too precious tone and childlike vibe that seemed to have worked its way into every lilting moment of music on that album. I barely made it through a single listen before setting them down for good, passing Sigur Rós off as some sort of moody Alvin and the Chipmunks-type deal. Years (and some eye-opening experience with ( )) later, I've dived into Ágætis byrjun with a more enlightened set of ears. It's probably still too precious, too cutesy, and too childlike for my usual tastes, but the reasons why the album has earned such an honoured place with so many fans have not gone over my head. Ágætis byrjun skirt the uncommon boundary between rock and ambient music; the sweeping textures are vast and effective, and the songwriting underneath is most often inspired. I might still prefer the brooding atmosphere of ( ) over this, but the fact remains: Ágætis byrjun serves everything a listener could possibly want out of a Sigur Rós record.

Even relative to other post-rock, Ágætis byrjun feels incredibly ambient in the way Sigur Rós have arranged and realized it. Most post-rock bands (I'm thinking go-to staples like Godspeed and Explosions in the Sky) revel in this sort of soaring atmosphere, but there's almost always a sense of rock repertoire in the music. With Ágætis byrjun, I would hesitate to say there's even much in the way of guitar riffs. Most of the distinctive sound is brought in waves of texture, delivered by a guitar played with a bow- the sort of unconventional approach Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page would take out during extended live solos as an intriguing novelty. With Ágætis byrjun especially, Sigur Rós have taken the potential of a bowed guitar to its natural conclusion. Beyond a doubt, it's the most innovative aspect Sigur Rós have in their arsenal. The bowed guitar flourishes are larger-than-life, but lack any sort of threatening edge or the grit of traditional riffs. In many cases, I'd cite non-threatening instrumentation as a bad thing. For Sigur Rós, they wear it as an asset. And it works.

As is often the case for the brighter side of ambient music, the atmosphere here is one of soaring. Cheery, hopeful, redemptive feelings are awash in the midst of the indistinct guitar textures, the light string sections and pleasantly dreamy atmospherics. It's interesting (though, for many, redundant) to note that singer Jonsi vocalizes in an invented language called Vonlenska (Hopelandic, for us anglophones). Relative to the surge of positive emotions on Ágætis byrjun, it's quite a thing that the so-called lyrics are about nothing at all. I may be digressing a bit, but it says something about the nature of music when such vivid mental images are conjured when listening to songs with no set or determined meanings. Moreover, at least from my own experience as a listener, it's quite rare to hear a band take such ambitious lengths to portraying the positive side of emotion. Very often, it's the darker feelings that evoke strong artistry. Is it because happiness is seen as unworthy or shallow in the eye of the artist? I'm not sure, but to date, there haven't been many albums I've heard that, at their best moments, convey the sort of positive warmth that Sigur Rós have evoked on Ágætis byrjun.

It feels important, however, to stress that these grand feelings are drawn from moments, rather than Ágætis byrjun as a whole. There isn't filler here per se, but the album's distinctly ambient leaning can make the 70-odd minute length strain a listener's attention. For whatever reason, the album's latter act never really grips me, at least in the same way the first few tracks did. Is it because there is a true dip in quality? I don't think so. Most likely, it's because the magic of Sigur Rós' atmosphere begins to wear off when the somnolent ambiance is pushed past the hour mark. I don't think that's a failure as a listener either; added surprises (like the quaint woodwinds melody on "Olsen Olsen") would have served to alleviate he increasingly lackadaisical impression. Even so, there are songs here that would have sparked my attention no matter where they were on the album. "Starálfur" is an instantly lovely track, alight with piano and strings. "Olsen Olsen" is another nice one, with a similarly light and cheery feel to it. "Flugufrelsarinn" is not a world away from the rest of the album's general cheer and warmth, but compared to "Starálfur" before it, it has a more mysterious, even foreboding atmosphere to it. Sigur Rós are best with arrangement and texture, but they've proven themselves to be capable songwriters as well.

I'm not sure why I've left the most negative thing about Ágætis byrjun and Sigur Rós as a whole until the last, but I also figure my general distaste for Jonsi's vocals are the most controversial(?) thing I have to say about the album. Looking back to the initial disgust I had towards Takk..., veyr little of it had to do with the instrumentation. Every doubt I had was pointed at Jonsi's voice, which was (and still) almost insufferably elfish and precious. Compounded with the Hopelandic lyrical angle, Jonsi's vocals aren't for everyone, and they're certainly not for me. With that said, it's rare to come across a vocalist in any genre who seems to embody their own originality so well. Jonsi's voice doesn't fill me with the joy in which others have felt, but his voice is instantly and irrefutably 'him'. No other singer is quite like Jonsi, which is certainly saying something to the band's credit.

With Ágætis byrjun, Sigur Rós more or less established themselves as the musical equivalent to filmmaker Wes Anderson. It's a regression to a childlike innocence and wonder most of us felt at some point, and ultimately grew past. I've heard this childlike atmosphere in music before (I much prefer the way maudlin of the Well does it) but in that and so many other things, Sigur Rós have, in their own little way, found a slight slice of perfection. It does not have the dramatic intensity of ( ), nor do I find my heart infiltrated by it the way I'd expect from a considered masterpiece or favourite album, but Ágætis byrjun has altogether earned its place in the post-rock canon. Beautiful, it is.

Report this review (#1288422)
Posted Monday, October 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
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 " Hjartað 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.

"Viðrar 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.

Report this review (#1939276)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 | Review Permalink

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