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Sigur Rós - ( ) CD (album) cover

( )

Sigur Rós

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.98 | 353 ratings

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Open-Mind
4 stars Difficult follow-up time here. With their time-stretched minimalist rock symphonies, they are still inhabiting the same sound world as Ágćtis Byrjun. Or outer cosmic dimension, or whatever hyperbole reviewers of Sigur Rós are supposed to use. Though they still manage to build up a considerable amount of power in their control of dynamics and space, it will never have the same impact as its predecessor. Maybe I'm being revisionist in my opinion of this album. If the material here had been released in the place of Ágćtis Byrjun, it would probably have seemed more incredibly original.

Even out of the historical context, there seems to be much less emotional variety here than on Ágćtis Byrjun. The energy of this album isn't enhanced by Jonsi Birgisson using the same lyrics, or set of syllables, throughout, giving a lugubrious and static effect that's often depressing. While Sigur Ros are fantastic at using controlled instrumental repetition to build up tension, the constant refrain of "You sigh all on the fire" (or some such) just conveys futility. Not that there's anything wrong with depression and gloominess in music, this is just a health warning.

The album's eight tracks do actually have titles, from their previous live incarnations. They just were omitted from the sleeve, along with any credits or words, in a display of stubborn coolness. But they can't stop me pronouncing the album's title "brackets". The two sides, separated by twenty seconds' silence, convey light and dark to me. The first half is shorter and easier to digest, starting with the stately piano chords of "Vaka" followed by the deliberately shy guitar chimes of "Fyrsta". The emotional peak comes with the instrumental third piece, where a repeated piano figure is urged with some lush organ-like harmonies to a stately climax. It's by no means a new sound (think Brian Eno's "Another Green World" album) but they do it better than anyone these days. The chilled "Njosnavellinn" comes across as positively cheerful among the dirges.

A grey-brown fuzz of bowed guitar and grinding organ swathes the darker second side, extending to an epic 43 minutes of spacious melancholy. The abstract sound painting, and Jonsi's unconstrained vocal lines are as beautiful and physically exhilarating as ever. But the timing of the buildups to the big climaxes does get predictable after a while. Everything seems to follow the pattern of two or three repeats, then a big fattening up. But by the monumental drum crescendo of the final "Pop Song" I can just love them for what they are, and let myself be washed along with the sound.

Open-Mind | 4/5 |

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