Sigur Ros – Valtari (XL Recordings)
CD / LP / DL
Available 29 May 2012
Sigur Ros return with their signature sound but also give the listener something new with latest album, Valtari.
This year marks Sigur RÃÂ³s’ eighteenth year in existence and this week sees the release of their sixth studio album ”ËValtari’. It has been an unusual career for JÃÂ³nsi and his cohorts, one which has seen them ascend to stadium gig status with the release of ”ËTakk’ in 2005. There was something about that album which held universal appeal and propelled the band into the realms of superstardom.
Celebrity fans lauded them and major record chains started playing them in-store (something which rarely happened with the predecessors ”Ë( )’ (2002), ”ËÃÂgÃÂ¦tis byrjun’ (1999) and ”ËVon’ (1997)). Suddenly, it was commonplace to hear Sigur RÃÂ³s playing over nature documentaries, advertisements for rugby matches, football games and even Top Gear. They became the TV producer’s lazy definition of something which was grandiose, epic and meaningful.
It was the impressive and complex musical structures which comprised ”ËTakk’ that made it so appealing to a wider audience. It was, however, inevitable that with so much exposure there would also be an air of fatigue created alongside. The critics seemed to somewhat turn on Sigur RÃÂ³s, as many do when a band expands beyond the knowledge and admiration of a certain few. Even I, who personally have been a fan for 12 years now, felt that their ubiquity with advertising was becoming cumbersome to the integrity and strength which the music possessed.
Then things went a little bit quiet for a while. We were allowed ourselves a chance to have some time apart. The band even departed from their signature sound even further in 2008’s ”ËMeÃÂ° suÃÂ° ÃÂ eyrum viÃÂ° spilum endalaust’ and in 2010 JÃÂ³nsi released a spectacular, upbeat solo effort entitled ”ËGo’. Chronologically, this brings us to Valtari.
The new album is nothing short of sublime. It reverts to the subtlety of the earlier releases without retreading old ground. It has a unique and special beauty to it which reveals more with each repeated listen. It takes almost two full minutes on album opener “Ãâ°g anda” before we hear JÃÂ³nsi, but as soon as we do the captivation and magic returns. The ascending piano at the end of “Ekki MÃÂºkk”Â is fantastically arresting and despite the overall light approach and the album containing very sparse use of their rhythm section, it commands the attention of the listener in a very unusual way. It cleverly avoids the predictability of remaking ”ËTakk’ from start to finish again.
”ËValtari’ is a worthy purchase which has an awful lot to offer the listener. There is the sense of a band developing within themselves whilst simultaneously maintaining a very distinct and inimitable sound. You might not be hearing any of the tracks on any adverts in the near future, but in this reviewer’s humble opinion, that’s the best compliment an album can get in this day and age.