Sigur Rós Hvarf-Heim Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

A collection of landscapes strung around a theme of revisiting or renewal.

Ruchie Farndon 2007

Sigur Rós, Icelandic pioneers with the decorative and complicated CD covers, emerged at a time when rock was spawning so many new sub-genres and tributaries that reviewers couldn't come up with labels quickly enough. 'post-rock', 'experimental', 'ambient'…you name it. Yet Sigur Rós defied them all and created a fan base that loved them for this very perversity, making them leaders, never followers. The band have deflected the trappings of success and yet remain as seminal as they were in 1995, releasing an eagerly awaited album every two to three years since. So far they have four, Hvarf-Heim being as close to a 'best of' as we’re ever likely to get.

The first disc of Hvarf-Heim (Disappeared-Home) belongs to an upcoming film release, Heima; the second offers a selection of acoustic tracks performed live on location while filming Heima in Iceland. With all the songs being unreleased numbers from previous releases, those expecting something new may be disappointed. But since their sound is so drifting, amorphous and sinuous, they may only betray their vintage to the most informed of their fans.

Their music is so intrinsically cinematic that it's surprising Sigur Rós haven't done more soundtrack work like so many of their contemporaries (Air, Daft Punk come to mind). Yet, as a piece of movie music this compilation makes more sense. It's not until the beginning of the second disc with "Samskeyti" that rock dynamics are alluded to. This is confirmed in the last few songs. Such a mood continues enjoyably until the end of the album where vocals are key to songs such as "Vaka" and "Agaetis Byrjun".

Sigur Rós' made up language is undeniably enchanting and transports the city-dwelling listener to barren landscapes of wintry wilderness.

Indeed, many of the songs feel like landscapes in themselves - some nine-minutes long - and the album feels like a journey through revisitation or renewal. It's a remarkable thing when you consider that their first studio release, Von, introduced the world to a new way of making 'rock' music. Maybe by now the world is ready…

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