Sigur Ros could very well be Iceland’s modern-day Pink Floyd. They cannot exactly be easily classified (post-rock is probably the wisest choice) because of their plethora of sounds heard on each of their albums; each album so different from the other. It is easy to say Sigur Ros sounds dreamy or atmospheric but they have a surreal edge; there is something more or something more grand than music itself that is special about Sigur Ros. Their music could be the perfect soundtrack to life’s greatest achievements as well as its unfortunate moments. Like Pink Floyd’s records, you never really know what to expect when it is put on the record player for the first time. When a Sigur Ros record is first played, there is nothing too surprising in the sense that fans know what to expect… and yet it still mesmerizes them every time.
With the release of their London concert Inni last year, there was a lot of anticipation that surrounded “Valtari.” That anticipation came with a bit of pressure, as fans patiently awaited what Sigur Ros would come up with next. On first listen, there may be a lot of fans who could be left wanting more with “Voltari” (probably something a little catchier). “Valtari” is too complex to indulge in just one sitting. The album would have been a perfect follow-up to 2002’s (), because it sounds like it belongs directly after that era. The albums in between were marvelous but there was more of a clear-cut and polished pop sound on them. This album is incredibly sombre and dark, but in a beautiful kind of way. So for the fans who wanted something a little more loud and cheerful like Takk… or Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, they will simply have to take more time to dissect “Valtari.” The record should be classified as classical or ambient post-rock, as the percussion and the orchestral departments are out in full force.
“Ekki Múkk” should be a trial track to those optimistic about the record. The track is a slow, melancholic and ambitious piece that combines the vintage Sigur Ros sound with the achievements the band has made in their music up until today. A warning must be fired to those expecting a joyous and upbeat record; the heavy parts are not really present either. Instead this is a product of musicians that have pushed the envelope and developed their sound, delivering a thought-provoking album that dazzles and could make Sigur Ros the most ambitious band in music today.
The songs do sound slightly similar at first glance (or listen) but it takes a couple of spins to notice that Valtari is like one big classical composition or performance. The beginning of the record is similar to the sound and pace heard on the band’s 1999 release, Ágætis byrjun. The opening track ‘‘Ég anda’’ could not have been a better choice to embark on this journey with. The patented, heavy-drumming can be heard‘’Varúo’’ and the track brings a slight change of pace but not for long. ‘‘Rembihnútur’’ will remind pundits of Takk…, especially the singles “Hoppípolla” and “Sæglópur“. The title track is a gorgeous one that has those weird and familiar sounds that Sigur Ros jots in to spice things up. ‘‘Dauðalogn’’ is exceptionally slow and sorrowful but is one of the most delightful and peacefully-indulging song in the band’s entire repertoire.
No band with a made-up language and such a distinct sound has generated a world-wide appeal like Sigur Ros. Nobody can duplicate them and maybe there is a band somewhere who sounds close to them but someone can identify Sigur Ros rather quickly when they hear them. It does take a few listens to grasp entirely what is going on and how the sound is reminiscent of their roots but at the same time it feels fresh and as always, experimental. It may not be what is anticipated according to some expectations but there are some unforgettable and glorious moments that should not be overlooked.
Alex Giardini | Our Vinyl Contributor