Sigur Ros - ( )

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Fat Cat Records/Pias
Catalog Number: FATCD22
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:50:00

Sometimes being "arty" is translated as being different from anyone else. In the case of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros this even means being VERY different from anyone else! After the band's splashy US debut Agaetis Byrjun (the band released the album Von on the tiny Smekkleysa Records before but not in the States) last year, the band's long epics have been welcomed the world over as being the perfect blend of Radiohead meets Clannad, adding a fair amount of 4AD atmospherics as well. The band's music, which is interspersed with strings, bowed electric guitar and the wailing falsetto voice of Jonsi Thor Birgissons, forms a complete contrast to the loud overwhelming sounds which populate MTV and the charts alike. Like Magma, Sigur Ros has invented it's own language called "Hopelandish," bringing hope and faith to the polluted and dying world. By delivering clean music and leaving behind every form of ongoing melody or bombastic arrangement it's as if the purity of the Icelandic landscape has been pressed onto CD.

Whilst it is now clear that the wording "symphonic rock" or "progressive rock" will do any upcoming band more harm than good, our Icelandic friends have found another way to grab the attention of the media. Their latest album has no title and nor have the eight songs on the album. Released as the sign ( ) it's as if the band leaves everything open for your own interpretation. They even let the listener decide what the lyrics should be whilst the fans' interpretations that prove most popular will in the end become the band's "official lyrics." Therefore the enclosed booklet only contains blank pages so as to allow the owner to write down her/his own lyrics, thus turning the album into a very personal experience.

Having no titles to refer to no doubt reviewing this disc is a true nightmare for all reviewers. Thank god the music makes it all worthwhile, so although I'll have to refer to the tracks as number one, two, three and so on, I'll try to describe every single note of music as accurately as I can. The first song on the disc has a subtle piano running throughout, whilst in the beginning the harmonies don't sound very pure at all. There are no drums and the song itself swells as the repetitive pattern and the vocals become louder. Whilst the song might sound totally inaccessible at first, after a couple of hearings you even start to sing along to the main melody, indeed inventing your own lyrics as you go along. The second track follows in the same footsteps this time adding subtle drums to the wailing vocals and atmospheric guitar chords. The third track is a repetitive instrumental swelling in intensity and dynamics to an almost explosive level.

Drums and echoing guitars introduce the fourth track whilst spooky high pitched vocals can be heard way in the back of the mix, as if little gnomes have taken over. Acoustic percussion and slightly distorted church organ add a solemn feel to the song which, although repetitive, does have a commercial possibility. Towards the end as all music dies down and only the vocal remains it becomes even more pastoral. Again this is one of the rare occasions where you tend to sing along although no definite lyrics exist. The pastoral feel combined with eerie sidesteps forms the main ingredient for the fifth track which sees drummer Orri approach his drumkit in a very jazzy way using brushes. Again the tension builds and builds this time with some fierce organ crawling from behind the music. Tribal drums form the beating heart for the sixth track whilst guitar chords creep in widening the scope of the song. Again the bowed guitar delivers the signature tune for Sigur Ros on top of which Thom Yorke-like vocals courtesy of Jonsi step in. It almost results in alternative western music suited for a 21st century remake of For A Few Dollars More with the drums being the steady pace of the horses in the desolated valleys sometimes being frightened when a snake appears from behind a joshua tree.

The lengthy seventh track takes you back to the Obscured By Clouds period with the drums delivering a very slow rhythm at first but gradually building up the tension in unison with Jonsi's powerful and dramatic vocals. In fact, his vocals kind of float on top of long stretched guitar chords and droning keyboards culminating in musical lava melting its way through your speakers. For the final track, drummer Orri Pall Dyrason approaches his drumkit with brushes once again in order to add a jazzy feel to the experimenting sounds of the guitar. Again the backbone is of a rather repetitive nature and I wouldn't be at all surprised if one day Robert Fripp steps on the podium with these guys as this music is really up his street. The drums take over, almost delivering a tribe like feel, building and building on the same pattern until the music contains so much energy it almost explodes!

Having toured as a support for Godspeed You Black Emperor and Radiohead themselves, and having some of their music used for the Tom Cruise film Vanilla Sky, no doubt the story for Sigur Ros is just beginning. Working together with Björk might well be a possibility. And how about a real concerto with symphonic orchestra? Symphonic Nirvana? Or as the band rehearses in an empty swimming pool, why not record an album there whilst the empty pool is being filled with water again? Sadly this idea could only be recorded once! Welcome Kid B! Now have you booked that flight to Reykjavik yet?

   (6:39) /    (7:34) /    (6:33) /    (7:33) /    (9:57) /    (8:49) /    (13:00) /    (11:45)

Jonsi Por Birgisson - vocals, guitars
Georg Holm - bass
Orri Pall Dyrason - drums
Kjartan Sveinsson - keyboards

Von (1997)
Von Brigdi (Recycle Bin) (1998)
Ágætis Byrjun (1999)
Steindór Andersen/Rimur (ep) (2001)
( ) (2002)
Takk (2005)
Sæglópur (ep) (2006)
Hvarf/Heim (2007)
Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (2008)

Genre: Rock

Origin IS

Added: November 17th 2002
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 748
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]