Sigur Ros remain in a wonderful universe of their own.
Tim Nelson 2008-06-19
Whether or not Sigur Ros' fifth album will be the commercial breakthrough some are hoping for is, in many ways, a moot point. It's a thing of beauty and that's all we really need to know. But what else to make of an album that has already been variously deemed an uncharacteristic blast of Icelandic sun and music to die in a blizzard by? Perhaps the clue lies in the title of the first track, Gobbledigook. For those unfamiliar with Icelandic, the lyrics sound, as ever, utterly mysterious, and like the best glossolalia, this music is open to a variety of interpretations.
What you hear in these eleven tracks conjures eclectic feelings; a salmon spawning upstream; a grandmother climbing a mountain; a schoolchild in a dream classroom; sleepy, awake, like a grail knight, weightless, ascending, bursting, relieved, dead, happy. And it will no doubt be different for each listener, perhaps even each listen. The last song is actually sung in English, but by this point that sounds as strange as anything else.
More a development than a departure, the album blends a lighter, more dynamic approach with out-there creative impulses. Produced by Flood and assisted by a string quartet and brass section (as well as, on Ara Batur, the London Sinfionietta and the London Oratory Boys Choir), the album was recorded in its entirety this year: impressive speed, reflected in the joyous, unfettered arrangements and the sheer plasticity of the music.
Possibly, if Sigur Ros had intended to take over the world, they might have translated their album title into its English version: “With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly”. Possibly not. No matter; this music to live - and die - by; as good on the bus or the school run as it would be watching the Northern Lights. Sigur Ros remain in a wonderful universe of their own.