Sigur Ros

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Von , 6.5/10
Agaetis Byrjun , 7.5/10
( ) (2002), 7/10
Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Du (2004), 4/10
Takk (2005), 6/10
Hvarf/ Heim (2007), 5/10
Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (2008), 5.5/10
Jonsi: Go (2010), 5.5/10
Valtari (2012), 5/10
Kveikur (2013), 5.5/10
Route One (2017), 4/10
22 Degrees Lunar Halo (2019), 4.5/10
Variations on Darkness (2019), 5/10
Liminal Sleep (2019), 4.5/10

Sigur Ros formed in 1994 in Iceland and became a chamber-pop sensation a few years later when their first album spawned an unlikely number-one hit. Their preferred format is lengthy suites that leverage on the celestial vocals of Jon Thor Birgisson and on orchestral drones. Very little happens in these "songs", but the mood is unusually mystical for a rock band, something that borders on Pink Floyd's A Saucerful Of Secrets, PIL's Albatros, Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht, Arvo Part's chamber music, Raphael's new age music, My Bloody Valentine's shoegazing technique and Tibetan mantras.

Von (Smekkleysa, 1997 - One Little Indian, 2004) was an album of conventional psychedelic rock that already emphasized the most haunting qualities of the sound of Pink Floyd, Gong, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine.
Tracks: Sigur Ros, Dogun, Hun Jurd, Myrkur, Hafsol, Von, Syndir Guds , Rukrym.

Von Brigdi (1998) is a remix album.

Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat, 1999) is a remarkable exercise in revitalizing shoegazing and dream-pop, with delicate and stunning merry-go-rounds of sounds such as Svefn-g-englar (ten minutes) and Ny Batteri. The poetry and the cinematic skills of the band are evident in the symphonic poems Staralfur and Vidar Vel Tl Loftarasa. A childish, ebullient tone permeates Olsen Olsen . Each of the other tracks (Flugufrelsarinn, Hjartad Hamast, Agaetis Byrjun) straddles the border between impressionism and expressionism, between Monet and Munch. The band is immature in its studio arrangements, but is clever enough to tame those unbalances with a languid stance borrowed from Codeine's slo-core:

Angels of the Universe (Fat Cat, 2001) is a soundtrack composed by Psychic TV collaborator Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson.

( ) (MCA, 2002) is a bit over-indulgent but fully consistent with Agaetis Byrjun, basically an extension/expansion of that work's shoegazing philosophy. Perhaps the band is falling under the influence of the masters of self-indulgence, Godspeed You Black Emperor. After all, a few of the tracks brood for several minutes before rising in thunderous crescendos. And, yet, Sigur Ros' best moments remain the least melodramatic: 1, a tender piano-based psalm that unfolds via increasingly louder bursts of drones; 3, a tinkling repetitive piano pattern accompanied by a progressively stronger cello melody; 5, a 10-minute dilated madrigal delivered by the distant wail of a female voice over slow-motion beat and drone until it disappears in a whispered organ melody; 7 (or Death), 13 minutes of cataleptic suspense and understated raga, halfway between Lycia and Lydia Lunch. They evoke the image of frail organisms crawling on spectral landscapes, of flowers budding as the sun rises at dawn. The ghostly voices that swirl above the delicate guitar notes of 2 and eventually coalesce into a two-voice psalm (first soaring and then decaying) add a supernatural quality to their cinematic watercolors. There are moments of such intensity and spirituality that could have been on Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra. Unfortunately the vocals are not quite up to the standards of the music and sometimes (4) end up simply ruining the atmosphere. And the rhythmic progression is neither the most original of strategies nor the most effective to emphasize the emotional content of such fragile songs. Elsewhere, the band dangerously ventures into the realm of artificial sound-making (as preached by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead's OK Computer), a strategy that yields interesting but ultimately sterile exercises of ambience-sculpting such as 6, the most vibrant track, heavily populated with Pink Floyd-style jamming that submerges the fairy-queen vocals, and the closing 12-minute 8, the noisiest and most confused track.

The three-song EP Ba Ba/ Ti Ki/ Di Do (Geffen, 2004), that collects music for a ballet, is a massive disappointment.

Takk (EMI, 2005) is another delicate fusion of chromatic art and atmospheric art. Their light form of suspense evokes magical landscapes. At the same time, the multitude of events that pervade each song gives the proceedings an organic feeling that makes the music sound warmer, more humane and even more lively.
Takk opens the album with a waterfall of soaring electronic drones. Later on the album, the ten-minute Milano still mimicks that idea, although recasting it for piano and violin with loud drumming, an hymn-like structure and therefore a stronger spiritual element (a` la Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra). Ditto for Svo Hljott, despite the prolusion of drums. The six-minute tinkling carillon-like organ of Glosoli blends with a swampy exotic rhythm and psychedelic dilated vocals. The effect is tender and nostalgic, until the music is swallowed into a colossal surf of guitar distortion. The nine-minute Se Lest concocts folk music of the afterlife via a gamelan-like percussive pattern, operatic chanting and orchestral explosions (although almore reminiscent of Kitaro's new-age music). Its coda is a collage of jazz and classical variations on its theme. The parade of celestial vignettes picks up rhythm only with the seven-minute shoegazing crescendo of Saglopur. The rest is relatively static and uneventful. Sigur Ros gives it a try at selling its style as pseudo-danceable (the feverishly syncopated Gong) and vaguely hummable (the singalong Hoppipolla, one of their melodic peaks), but clearly this is not their dimension. The Morricone-like operatic daydreaming and orchestral languor of Andvari is a more credible implementation of a "light" version of their sound.

The double-disc Hvarf/ Heim (XL, 2007) offers acoustic versions of some electric songs and electric versions of some acoustic songs. It's a classy way to rip off fans with a collection of rarities and leftovers.

Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust/ With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly (Beggars XL, 2008) largely dispensed with the ethereal arrangements that had made the band famous. The catchy and Animal Collective-esque Gobbldigook (African drums + fractured guitar strumming + Brazilian-style falsetto litany) and Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur (tinkling piano and martial drums + poppy vocals + soaring trumpet fanfare) are earthlier creatures. Too many of the other songs, though, try to be regular songs without the substance of a real song: the sleepy lullabye )Godan Daginn, the gentle aria with solemn orchestral outbursts of Vid Spilum Endalaust, the oneiric melody with piano carillon of Med Sud I Eyrum, the falsetto elegy with synthesized strings and piano of Fljotavik. Sparse arrangements and often rhythm-less structures for weak improbable melodies inspired by folk songs.
Each of the two lengthy pieces is a mixed blessing. The nine-minute Festival is redundant (the ecstatic chanting like in a religious hymn, almost a cappella for four minutes), achieving its emotional zenith in the second part (a crescendo of drums and organ that leads to an angelic choir). The nine-minute Ara Batur is bombasting, employing even the London Oratory Boys' Choir and the London Sinfonietta to score an idea that could have delivered with much humbler means: a slow piano ballad in which the vocals paint a magical soundscape while they spin their cryptic tale until they morph into a choral apotheosis with finally loud symphonic counterpoint (the two most poignant minutes of the album). Both are fascinating experiments, but not fully satisfying. About half of the album is hard to digest. The other half has a charm that is different from the past.
This is a work of charming and mostly mournful atmospheres and simple ideas, but what is missing is the spark that would make it memorable.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Elio Manco)

I Sigur Ros si sono formati nel 1994 in Islanda e fecero sensazione qualche anno dopo quando il loro primo album raggiunse un improbabile successo da n.1. La loro preferenza è orientata verso lunghe suites che fanno leva sulla voce celestiale di Jon Thor Birgisson e su spunti orchestrali. Nei loro brani non vi sono particolari perfezionismi o virtuosismi , ma lo stato d'animo e' stranamente mistico per una rock-band, qualcosa che e' ai confini con A Saucerful of secrets dei Pink Floyd, Albatros dei PIL , e Irrlicht di Klaus Schulze, la musica da camera degli Arvo Part, la musica new age dei Raphael, la tecnica shoegazing dei My Bloody Valentine, e certi mantra tibetani.

Von (Smekkleysa, 1997) è un album di rock psychedelico convenzionale.I Brani sono: Sigur Ros, Dogun, Hun Jurd, Myrkur, Hafsol, Von, Syndir Guds , Rukrym.

Von Brigdi (1998) è un album di remix.

Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat, 1999) è un eccezionale lavoro di rivitalizzante shoegazing e dream-pop, con delicati e sbalorditivi caroselli di sonorità come Svefn-g-englar (dieci minuti) e Ny Batteri. La poesia e l’abilità cinematografica della band si evidenziano nei poemi sinfonici Staralfur eVidar Vel Tl Loftarasa. Mentre toni infantili ed entusiasti permeano in Olsen Olsen. Le restanti tracce (Flugufrelsarinn, Hjartad Hamast, Agaetis Byrjun) cavalcano il confine tra impressionismo ed espressionismo, tra Monet e Munch.

Angels of the Universe (Fat Cat, 2001) è una colonna Sonora di vecchio materiale.

( ) (MCA, 2002) è un pò troppo indulgente ma pienamente consistente come Agaetis Byrjun. Forse la band è caduta sotto l’influenza dei maestri dell’ auto indulgenza, Godspeed You Black Emperor. Dopo tutto, molti dei brani iniziano in sordina prima di esplodere in un crescendo apocalittico. Ed ancora, i più bei momenti dei Sigur Ros rimangono i più piccoli melodrammatici: 1, 4 e 7 (o Death) richiama l'immagine di organismi fragili che strisciano su paesaggi spettrali. Negli altri casi la band si avventura pericolosamente nel reame delle sonorità create artificialmente (come predicato da Dark Side of the Moon dei Pink Floyd ed OK Computer di Radiohead), ed i risultati sono meno sinceri e meno toccanti (2, la lunga 5 10 minuti , e la 12 minuti 8).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Diego Ferri)

L' EP di tre pezzi Ba Ba/ Ti Ki/ Di Do (Geffen, 2004), che raccoglie musica per un balletto, e' stato una delusione unanime.

Takk (EMI, 2005),e' un 'altra fusione delicata di arte atmosferica e arte cromatica. La loro forma di suspence leggera evoca panorami magici. Nel contempo, la moltitudine di eventi sonori che permea il lavoro arricchisce l'andamento dei pezzi di un feeling naturalmente orchestrale che fa suonare la musica piu' calda, piu' umana e anche piu' vitale. Takk inizia con una cascata di bordoni elettronici crescenti. La seguente Milano, continua a mimare questa idea, adattandola a suoni di piano e di violino tramite un drumming a tutto volume; una struttura a inno la arricchisce nell'elemento spirituale (a` la Hosianna Mantra dei Popol Vuh). Lo stesso per Svo Hljott, a parte le batterie. L'organo carillonesco di Glosoli si scioglie dentro un ritmo fangosamente esotico e voci dilatate psichedeliche. L'effetto e' di tenerezza e nostalgia, ma poi la musica viene ingoiata da un ondata colossale di distorsioni di chitarra. Se, di nove minuti, rimescola musica folk dell'aldila' tramite un pattern percussivo stile Gamelan, un cantato stile operistico e esplosioni orchestrali (anche se reminiscenti della musica New-Age di Kitaro). Il finale e' un collage di variazioni stile classico e jazz del tema. La sfilata di vignette celestiali prende ritmo solo con il crescendo shoegaze di Saglopur. Il resto dell'album e' relativamente statico e monotono. I Sigur Ros fanno anche un tentativo di rendere il loro stile pseudo-ballabile con Gong, febbrilmente sincopata, oppure cantabile, nel caso di Hoppipolla - ma chiaramente queste dimensioni non si addicono alla band. L'onirismo operatico a la Ennio Morricone e il languore orchestrale di Andvari e' piu' credibile come sviluppo di una versione "light" del loro sound.

Il disco doppio Hvarf/ Heim (XL, 2007) contiene versioni acustiche di pezzi elettrici e versioni elettriche di pezzi acustici. Si tratta di un modo classico di abbindolare i fans con una raccolta di rarita' e B-sides.

Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust/ With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly (Beggars XL, 2008) e' piena degli arrangiamenti eterei che hanno reso famosa la band. La orecchiabile Gobbldigook e l'atmosferica Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur sono creature piu' terrene. Tuttavia, molti degli altri pezzi cercano una identita' di canzone senza pero' avere la sostanza di una vera canzone. Entrambi i pezzi piu' lunghi hanno aspetti un po' indecisi: Festival e' ridondante, e raggiunge lo zenith emozionale soltanto nella seconda parte. Ara Batur e' troppo pomposa, e scomoda addirittura la London Sinfonietta e il London Oratory Boys' Choir per trasmettere un feeling che sarebbe stato comunicato altrettanto efficacemente con mezzi piu'umili. Entrambi sono affascinanti esperimenti, ma non soddisfano appieno. Una buona meta' dell'album e' dura da digerire, e l'altra meta' ha un fascino diverso da quello dei lavori precedenti.

Sigur Ros' Jon Thor "Jonsi" Birgisson and his boyfriend Alex Somers released Riceboy Sleeps (2009), credited to Jonsi & Alex, a purely atmospheric (and mostly instrumental) fresco, like an ambient (guitar-less and drum-less) remix of Sigur Ros' early albums.

Inni (2011) is a double live CD and DVD.

Jonsi embraced an intimate form of synth-pop on his solo Go (XL, 2010), particularly the fragile marching flute fanfare of Go Do. The pounding frenzy of Animal Arithmetic sounds out of character, while, on the other hand, the ethereal piano ballad Tornado and the abstract yowling drift of Grow Till Tall sound like unfinished sketches.
Jonsi also composed the soundtrack for the film We Bought a Zoo (2011).

Sigur Ros' Valtari (XL Recordings, 2012), possibly their most subdued album yet, was another disappointment; not because of the concept (originally a collaboration with a choir), but because of the lack of clever ideas. The instrumental Valtari is a notable exception, and the orchestral and choral Varuo/Children is the exception to the rule, one of their best implementations yet. The eight-minute romantic piano sonata Fjogur Piano is reminiscent of new-age music of the 1980s.

Kveikur (2013), the first album without keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, veered towards an almost bombastic sound and assigned a more prominent role to the rhythm section of Georg Holm and Orri Pall Dyrason. Kveikur sounds like a lyrical version of Steve Albini's industrial rock, and Rafstraumur is positively hysterical by their standards. The eight-minute Brennisteinn lays a bridge between soft Pink Floyd-ian apotheosis and Kate Bush-ian hypnosis. Isjaki is the poppy ditty du jour, a joyful version of Cocteau Twins' dream-pop.

Route One (2017) is a condensed version of a 24-hour computer-generated soundtrack to a drive around Iceland; probably one of the most boring ambient albums ever made.

Sigur Ros' frontman Jonsi collaborated with Alex Somers and Paul Corley to create the endless playlist of ambient compositions (mostly recycled from past material) documented on a dedicated website and on the mixtape Liminal (2018).

22 Degrees Lunar Halo (2019) is the soundtrack to a dance piece by Taiwanese choreographer Tsung-lung Cheng and basically consists of a collage of remixes of old Sigur Ros songs.

Similarly, Variations on Darkness (2019) contains two suites of old and unreleased material for a performance of a dance company. The 21-minute The Hungry Ghosts/ We Live in an Old Chaos of the Sun achieves moments of great pathos as it morphs from ethereal angelic ambient music to demonic noisy dance music. The 23-minute The Silence of Animals/ The Truth is it Wanted to Cave is a more trivial collage of drones and loops.

Liminal Sleep (2019) contains nine lengthy droning pieces titled Sleep.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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