The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 6th

Diversions

Music Review: Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros
Kveikur
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Indie rock

When taken out of context, many of the sounds that populate Kveikur, the latest album from Icelandic post rockers Sigur Ros (and the first without founding member Kjartan Sveinsson), are extremely challenging and off-putting. Long string squeals, ominous tribal drum beats and interruptions of static come in and out throughout each track. Yet the trick of Kveikur — and the one that Sigur Ros has always done well — is to synthesize many seemingly different (and often ugly) parts into one unified and quite beautiful whole. The risk-taking involved in this manner of music making is what makes Kveikur the best Sigur Ros record since, at the very least, 2005’s Takk…

The English translations for each of the song titles on Kveikur — which all have Icelandic meanings — all somewhat relate to elements or nature: “Brennisteinn” is “Brimstone,” “Isjaki” is “Iceburg,” and the title track translates to “Candlewick.” This elemental focus is most definitely not lost in the sound of the record, as the songs are barer and sparser than they have been since the band’s breakout album (1999’s stellar Agætis byrjun). But the sparse sound allows for new focus to be put back into singer Jonsi’s dramatic and expansive vocal flourishes, which, when executed perfectly at the climax of certain songs, provide powerful emotional conclusions.

Unfortunately the short length of many of the tracks (except the lead off “Brennisteinn”) leaves many of these fantastic builds feel a bit forced, though songs like the title track and “Ísjaki” use this brevity to their advantage to push harder and more aggressive sounds. And while the record on the whole is far more aggressive than perhaps any other Sigur Ros release, the best moments all come in the contemplative come downs, as all the good revelations do.

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