Saturday, 19 May 2012

Album review: SIGUR RÔS - Valtari

Highlights: Ekki múkk, Dauðalogn, Varðeldur

Apparently happiness doesn’t sell.

Whatever you might think of these guys, cynical grin is inevitable. The cheerful vibes of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust didn’t stick, and we’re back in the sophisticated gloom of the band’s pre-2008 period. Surely no one will have a problem with that; the jolly acoustic rhythms did sound rather effective, but it’s the self-conscious, long-winded soundscapes of beautiful, cold Icelandic sadness you want from this band.

Obviously, when approaching a Sigur Ros album you don’t ask yourself ‘will this be beautiful?’. That is never in doubt. No, it’s all about  how pretentious / transcendental / slow / dirgy / appealing /  boring this beautiful will be. And with Valtari Sigur Ros recorded what might well be the band’s least immediate album of all.  

Valtari is beautiful in a meditative, extremely understated sort of way. Only through patience and calm will these eight songs start revealing Jonsi’s leisured falsetto hooks and meat beneath this epic, sweeping instrumental minimalism. The atmosphere is slow yet seductive, and in the end it’s the singular Sigur Ros atmosphere that will drag you into the beauty of this music.  

Sometimes, however, no amount of patience and determination will help you discern any sort of substance in these songs. Which brings me to that long-gone day when I saw a girl in a record store looking for Sigur Ros records she didn’t yet have. There weren’t any, but the girl was desperate to spend some money on music (no longer a common thing, by the way). She turned to the record store owner, the record store owner turned to me. “The girl likes Sigur Ros, what should she get?” I was nosing around the post-punk section, and without thinking twice I pointed the girl in the direction of some early Siouxsie & The Banshees stuff. The girl took her pink-coloured wallet out. She probably hated me when she came home and played the record, but I’ve never really felt sorry for whatever it was that I did.

Valtari is a genuinely good Sigur Ros album.


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