Sigur Ros – Valtari – album review

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 Rós’ eighteenth year in existence and this week sees the release of their sixth studio album ”ËœValtari’. It has been an unusual career for Jónsi and his cohorts, one which has seen them ascend to stadium gig status with the release of ”ËœTakk’ 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 ”Ëœ( )’ (2002), ”˜Ãgætis byrjun’ (1999) and ”ËœVon’ (1997)). Suddenly, it was commonplace to hear Sigur Rós 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 ”ËœTakk’ 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 Rós, 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 ”ËœMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’ and in 2010 Jónsi released a spectacular, upbeat solo effort entitled ”ËœGo’. 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 “Ég anda” before we hear Jónsi, but as soon as we do the captivation and magic returns. The ascending piano at the end of “Ekki Múkk” 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 ”ËœTakk’ from start to finish again.

”ËœValtari’ 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.

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more from Colin on LTW here, on his website or follow him on Twitter.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. […] over our lives and some of us are still not tired of our Deserters Songs (Mercury Rev) album, or Sigur Ros back catalogs and will never apologise for such […]

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