on 2 March 2007
...is two adjectives that come mind for this record. This was my first exposition to Sigur Rós. And on first listen, I was rather bemused. No really I was, the first time I listened, I am not sure I knew what to think, It didn't really make any sense, to the point where it stayed in dark deep bottoms of my CD cupboard until a few months later. Indeed I thought I had made terrible mistake, buying it, after all what attracted me that strange afternoon in HMV, was the beautiful packaging. And Indeed it is beautifully packaged, a crystal white slip case, with paranthesis cut out, covers the jewel case, which itself has just contains blank book of black and white artwork on what I can only describe is soft parchment. You could say it is represenation of what is to come, once you slip it into your cd player. The sparse emptiness of the packaging is certainly a visual metaphor, for the dark empy heavy drones that precede on the album.
Having put the CD on few months later, I finally began to appreciate these were more than ramdom drones, but evocative emotions that transcended language barriers. The album is divided into two parts seperated by a 30 second silence after track 4. It begins with "untitled 1" or "vaka" as known as its known by its working title, which starts off with a desolate piano intro. A feeling of disconnection and emptiness is what drives the both halves of the album, sparse drum beats float, while Birgissons "hopelandic" falsetto coo's lonely in a gaseous depth strings and other instruements. The second half is rather more aggressive, and definetley more heavy, with the guitars coming through more clearly particularly as the band descend into "untitled 8" (Popplagið"), which has the most unhinged and what I can only describe as the most narcotic drumming climax I have ever heard. Overall this album is definately a slow burner, and is not for the unadventurous, its not an easy album to like and probablly won't win over many new Sigur Rós fans, but it is in my view the most powerful and evocative of those in Sigur Rós' discography so far.
Its hard to really point out highlights in this album, as it is really concise and so well balanced, "untitled 4" and "untitled 8", definitely stand out, but otherwise this album is made to be, and is best heard so, all the way through.
on 26 October 2007
First of all, don't be scared that it will be depressing. It's dark, emotional and immensely powerful, is what it is. This isn't an album to share headphones for at the bus stop, or put on shuffle on your MP3 player with any other tracks. Possibly the only way to do it is listen to the whole thing, in order, in bed in the middle of the night when no one else can hear you. Or maybe on a plane. Or sitting up a tree in a forest after a long bike ride, where birdsong can add to it. They say you're meant to write your own lyrics on the ethereal pages of the booklet (be careful taking this out - it's fragile), and maybe I will one day, but at the moment I'd rather just do so in my head. Everyone on Earth should listen to this album at least once, and then they might just relax even for an hour and a bit. Track 8 is possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. The only problem I can find is that of how to recommend it to your friends - I mean, how do you say it?
on 22 February 2007
By the eve of the release of their third LP, Sigur Rós had ascertained an immensely impressive reputation in the international pop arena. Key surges in their popularity were fuelled by appearances alongside God Speed You Black Emperor and Radiohead at various festivals, generous airplay on radio and extensive soundtrack work (they featured quite heavily in Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky"). Like many bands before them, they had the world at their feet thanks to a breakthrough album and needed to prove their mettle with the music press with their next release. And, quite commendably, Sigur Rós decided to strip away the grandiose nature of their last album in favour of a starker, more intimate affair with their listeners' ears. More challenging and at times rewarding than Ágætis byrjun, () is of a darker hue than the twee and twinkle that peppered their earlier work, but still retains the significant magic to carry itself along potently.
On (), the band fully realise their concept of Hopelandic music that was briefly indulged in on their prior albums. The tone and feel of the pieces is more akin to Von's gothic religion than Ágætis' slighter melodies, though thankfully the collective musical knowledge of the group has improved tenfold since then. Here, lead man Jonsi sings exclusively in his manmade gibberish in an effort to blend the vocals into the overall texture of the songs, often coming up with bewitching results (hear "Track One" especially, which is movingly subtitled after drummer Orri's daughter "Vaka" when played live). The arrangements behind the songs are simpler, more forceful and gradually build until they reach the very pinnacle of the best slow-burn stunner pop music has to offer (hear "Track Three" or "Attachment"). However, once the album gets to the halfway point and therein inherits a darker tone, problems do arise notably within the "wall of noise" sequences, though "Track Eight" ("The Pop Song") still exhibits substance-infused stadium gig majesty. The band also retains its leftfield sensibilities by having no official song titles, credits or lyrics on any of the pieces, rather allowing the listener to branch out of their own subconscious to find out what each song means.
All of which cements that, more so than Ágætis and their follow-up Takk..., () is a fan's favourite as opposed to something for everyone to be enthralled by as only someone overtly affected by Sigur Rós and their music could empathise with the creative indulgences posited on this CD. Thankfully, they do have the talent and prowess to pull their various tricks off with emotional aplomb as well as appealing to their trademark primordial soundscapes, even if these are a little rougher around the edges than most songs in their back catalogue. () is a darker, more compromising adventure in sound for the four-piece and their fans certainly, but it also proves that versatility and willingness to take chances doesn't necessarily mean you need a new producer to oversee the progress made. What remains is a worthy addition to the ever-surprising canon of Icelandic pop/rock.
on 24 September 2005
I bought Ágætis Byrjun on the strength of a comment by some notable musician who I forget. I played it to death and loved it. So I bought some others and its () that has stayed in the car player ever since. It has just continued to grow and tastes a little different every time. It is very possibly the best album I have ever heard, contains no fillers and stays comfortably the right side of weird, unlike Von, which does get a bit much at times. After reading the other reviews, I think that to analyse the structure and meaning of it all is quite pointless. Just listen to it and take it for what it's worth. I'm sure that's what they want us to do. NO band in history does a slow build up quite like these guys and the ultimate directionless of most of the tracks is just part of the attraction. The new album, Takk, is good, but this is better. Buy it now and change your life.
on 30 October 2002
If you thought the success of 'Agaetis Byrjun' would make Sigur Ros go more 'mainstream' think again! This time, the album doesn't even really have a name (being instead represented by a pair of brackets), and none of the songs are named either. However, as with the last album, none of this really matters, because the music is absolutely beautiful. ( ) contains less diverse instruments and sounds then Agaetis, and this has probably something to do with the fact that the songs were played live before the album was released, and are therefore more suited to a live setting. However, one bonus of this more 'coherent' sound is that the album feels more like a concept album, and therefore flows together for most of it's 70 minutes. If you liked the last album, get this as well, it's sheer genius. Also check this out if you like Mogwai (and vice versa). You won't be disappointed...
on 3 November 2002
If there was a problem with Sigur Ros' 2nd album, Agaetis Buyjun, then it would probably have been the over-disneyfied strings which became a little sickening after a while, especially on tracks like Olsen Olsen. This album remedies this failing to a certain extent, although tracks 1, 3, and 4 are still a little sugary for my tastes certainly. The second half is fantastic though, with track 8, "pop song" easily the best thing they have done, with the standard sigur ros failings (dirge tempo to little effect, obvious chord progressions) erased and a totally energised, apocalyptic and frequently extremely beautiful vision put in their place. All in all, although this album makes less of an immediate impression than the previous album, it is in fact much better, with bleaker, more intense landscapes.
All looks rosy for the future, so long as the now traditional "post-rock rot" doesn't set in (see the latest Godspeed album, and the last Mogwai as well) where once invigorating and near perfect bands seem to foget to update their sounds leading to incredibly dull albums.
Perhaps the promise of more electronic influences, and the fact that many of their best songs remain unreleased (in fact the first song of theirs i heard 3 yrs ago is still yet to find its way into their recorded output) means that Sigur Ros may live to outstrip their peers.
on 9 March 2006
The title sums it up.
() isn't an album, it's a continuous flow of ear-caressing music. The tracks don't begin and end, they merge into a stream of beauty.
I bought this album after I bought Takk. Takk is a great album full of gems, Saeglopur, Glosoli, Hoppipolla to name but a few. The best things about these songs were their ability to grow into an almighty climax. However, () isn't about how songs grow and blossom into gigantic masterpieces. It's about how the album does.
It's starts off with a gentle musical massage with the opening track, and ends with the gigantic musical monster with the final track with, quite literally, the climax to end all climaxes. In between, track III's beautiful piano loop is stunning, Track IV's a real highlight and Track VII is epic. But this album isn't about tracks, it's about their amalgamation. The album, over the course of its 70min duration, gradually builds, moment by moment, track by track.
Everyone mentions their mesmerising sound, but few have touched on their ability to write tunes. Tracks I, IV and VIII are the best examples of pen and music working in perfect harmony to create perfect harmonies.
So, all in all, Sigur ros have created the ultimate album. Easily their best to date, my all-time favourite album. The album that doesn't buckle the trend, but gushes through its holes. A masterpiece, pure and simple.
on 19 January 2004
The no title, no art work packaging of this album curiously tempted me to pick it up and listen. How glad I now am that I did. What a stunning experience from the first (through to last) hypnotic notes and echoes of this beautifullly constructed work.
Only later did I recognise the cadences of Svefin-G-Englar from the film Vanilla Sky. Whilst this particular track is not on this album, many similarly evocative and haunting tracks contribute to make this fine album....
It massages, stretches and calms both mind and soul... and, having never been to Iceland but holding hope that one day I will, this music captures the vision I have of those spiritual things Icelandic that I hope to see and experience should I ever manage to get there...
But you don't have to know iceland to enjoy this album; appreciation of good, finely constructed and inventive musicianship is certainly enough, all else is a bonus.
on 12 April 2012
The first time I heard a song by Sigur Ros, I was instantly determined to get one of their albums. The song Njosnavelin or Untitled 4 as it is listed in the album, briefly featured in one of my favourite films, Vanilla Sky,'s climactic final scene. Ever since then, the song never ceases to get a smile out of me. What I did not expect was that what () has to offer could almost rival the very song I fell in love with. You know you've found a gem when the album has other songs that are just as good if not better than its already favorite lead single. The first thing you'll notice about () though is (apart from its strange affinity for brackets/parentheses) is that the songs all contain vocals that don't necessarily have any meaning, Vonlenska as it has been dubbed by frontman Jónsi, a constructed language that is up for interpretation by the listener. As odd as it may sound, in writing and upon hearing it, it doesn't subtract anything from () being a stellar album.
So 'Untitled 1' as it is aptly named, starts off the album with some ghostly bellows from the lead singer, alongside a dejected piano piece. Its all very saddening yet bright enough about what is to come, when the vocals eventually come to life, its as if someone is trying to tell you something. Although you don't know what he is saying, you somehow get the gist of it, coupled with the emotions raised by the ascending violins and trickling keyboards in the background. 'Vaka' as it was later revealed, is a decent introduction to an album and highlights what the listener is in for, by starting at a snails pace and slowly working its way up to a big finish. The child like high pitch vocal noises are a tad disturbing but all things considered, you may as well listen. 'Untitled 2 (Frysta)' however, is a slumping dazed song, that makes your eyes feel heavy. Its atmospheric dullness is only kept bearable by the slight hopefulness of the guitar work. That is until you hear similar 'lyrics' reused, one of the albums few flaws. The song drags and makes the rest of the album seem like its going to be a chore to withstand. 'Samskeyti' implores you listen on. The third track is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, if a little repetitive at times. The piano returns with an even more pleasant melody than before, slowly rising in volume and severity. This one seems to have no main vocal, but rather little murmurings going in their own direction and at its highest point, shows what the use of a bow on an electric guitar is capable of.
No.4 is worth the time to check out. 'Njosnavelin' is one of those songs that advertisers and editors put into their work, to emphasize just how incredible it is (listen to Sigur Ros' 'Hoppipolla' from the 2005 album 'Takk' for an example). Its where the vocals are at their best, full of strong poignent feeling and emotion that literally cannot be described. So this is one you need to hear for yourself - It would take a heart of steel to deny this songs beauty. It seems to have everything covered, from rhythmic percussion to harmonious vocal and the signature e-bow and crystal like synth. Woefully, the next track 'Alafoss' changes the direction yet again and becomes a polar opposite to the previous track. With its similar mood, drum beat and feedback, its a grim reminder of the 2nd song.. At least until an angry ending makes it stand out a bit more. The custom instrument named 'E-Bow' is naturally the name of the 6th song, in which it makes a bold statement in feedback fiddled fashion. Like the others, its beginnings are humbly quiet and take time to build momentum for what is an almighty clash of sound that stands out so vividly. During the 2nd interlude the classical e-bow playing is met with heavy piano and thumping drums, its none short of epic and one of the best on the album.
So far the songs have been well over 5 minutes each with the average time elapsing to about 8 minutes. Again, this makes it sound a tad boring considering the amount of time building up momentum, so its clear that you'd be better off listening in a patient or even spiritual mood. 'Dau>alai>' is again a recurring theme from before. Its the same dusty wandering-in-the-dessert-at-night sound, with almost exactly the same drum patterns and bass notes. However, this time it really stands out and practically takes you by surprise. Suddenly with a prompt change in tempo and volume, the song's chorus erupts violently into an enraged dirge that is fueled by crashing cymbals and melancholy cries. Possibly the most haunting song I've came across and at 13 minutes long, its a rare chance to take in hollowing, depressing music thats difficult to sit through, but easy to imagine all sorts of ideas that could have inspired this song. The ending of this album is something other bands should take note of - ending on an absolute high - not necessarily being overly joyous or eager, but being beyond awesome. 'Popplagi>' is the albums second pinnacle and is to me, what the end of the world would sound like. A subtly ascending apocalyptic anthem. Once again it uses the same recipe of building the song up, but nothing can prepare you for the amount of momentum and force this song creates. The bass comes to life for the first time on the album, along with devastating drums and the falsetto wails from the vocalist. Its almost scary how intense this song is, especially 9 minutes in. Its as if the drummer was in shackles throughout the album, and only now does he break through and go absolutely mental, showing off his courageous technical ability.
Despite its dull, sombre moments, the sheer brilliance of the greater tracks makes it nigh on impossible to rate this lower than 5. Besides, the songs I'm not particularly fond of, may be someone else's ideal song, which sums up the album - its not everyones cup of tea, but it's definitely top notch in my books.
This is an album which defies categorisation, as well as words. As such, it is easy to see why it remains untitled, as not even Hopelandic could conjure up words of sufficient splendour to describe this piece.
Sounding far more natural and much less 'produced' than Agaetis Byrjun allows this piece to transcend to the next level above the previous album. The natural reverb created by their home studio is far more condusive to getting an organic sound than the pedals they previously relied on, and as such the music sounds truer to itself.
If you were a fan of the first album, this will not disappoint. It carries on nicely from where AB left off and points promisingly to the future, when films will be made specifically for Sigur Ros' music.