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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover

ÁGĆTIS BYRJUN

Sigur Rós

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.14 | 546 ratings

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Open-Mind
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. "Hjartađ hamast", begins with splashes of percussion and harmonica, recalling Talk Talk's "Spirit of Eden", before building to an anthemic chorus. With "Viđrar 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.

Open-Mind | 5/5 |

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