Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Valtari by Sigur Rós

Reviewed by Ben Wallis

Following a hiatus of four years, Iceland’s biggest export since Nordic-patterned jumpers, post-rock giants Sigur Rós return with their sixth studio album, Valtari, meaning ‘Steamroller’. With singer Jónsi Birgisson dismissing their previous work as “Too joyous, too festive!” and saying, “It's time for us to take a left turn and do something more experimental, it feels like a new beginning." While Valtari does not mark a fully new direction for the band, it is certainly a departure from the more radio-friendly songs of Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust and Takk and the upbeat piano riffs that made Hoppípolla the soundtrack to so many TV montages and BBC’s Planet Earth. Instead we have a more introverted affair that is closer to the band’s earlier more post-rock oriented albums of ( ) and Ágætis Byrjun.

The album opens with the tense sound of 'Ég Anda', a track that is familiar territory for Sigur Rós, who enjoy taking their time, often with spectacular results; it is a good three minutes before the elegant falsetto of Jónsi Birgisson emerges, accompanied by a warm bass line. The album’s highlight is the third track,

'Varúð', with its triumphant crescendo in the chorus driven by choral vocals and strings; it is perhaps the best example to date of Sigur Rós’ ethereal beauty. The album is sung in a combination of Icelandic and the made-up gibberish noises, mimicking the sounds of Icelandic, that often feature in the band’s music, despite this being unintelligible to 99% of the world’s population; this is what gives the music its unique, emotive charm. The album drifts away into the realms of ambience, with the last three tracks being entirely instrumental, which leaves a little to be desired and feels somewhat underwhelming if you aren’t willing to sit back and listen.

With this effort, Sigur Rós will please their fans, but will win few new ones. It polarizes opinion; those who enjoy the ambient minimalism of the band will be delighted with this effort, but some listeners may find it lacking in substance. Valtari is a challenging piece of music, but a rewarding one; give it an hour, some patience, and a peaceful view--- preferably, an Icelandic one.

Star Rating: * * * *

Download the Album here: (Amazon MP3) http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007XC4KU4/ref=sr_1_album_22_rd?ie=UTF8&child=B007XC4LIA&qid=1338272566&sr=1-22

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