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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover

ÁGĆTIS BYRJUN

Sigur Rós

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.14 | 551 ratings

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Xonty
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. "Hjartaő 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. "Viőrar 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: ***** Hjartađ hamast: ***** Viđrar vel til loftárása: ***** Olsen Olsen: **** Ágćtis byrjun: **** Avalon: ***

Xonty | 4/5 |

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