4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Human music beamed in from a distant galaxy,
This review is from: Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun (Audio CD)
Hearing Sigur Ros for the first time , as most of us did when hearing Agaetis byrjun, is akin, i imagine , to not just hearing music beamed down from another planet but hearing music beamed across from the far side of a far distant galaxy. The sort of thing Star Trek "Voyager" might have heard on their sojourn through the delta quadrant.( the cover , featuring a ballpoint pen drawing by a friend of the band further ratifies the music's alien ambience) The nearest comparison, and i realise that i am being far from being original here, are The Cocteau Twins , though even their celestial otherworldliness does,nt really compare to the Icelandic quartet.
Agaetis byrjun (Icelandic for An alright start) was originally released in June 1999 and is actually the bands second album , though i was under the misconception for some considerable time that it was their debut. With reference to the Cocteau Twins comparison their actual debut "Von Brigoi" is actually more like them mixed in with ambient drifts not unlike certain Eno or Seefeel. This album though is virtually unique. The astonishing falsetto vocals of Jon Birgisson soar over his cello bowed guitars and the diffuse keyboards of Kjsrtan Sveinsson . Abyss plunging bass lines keep the whole anchored somewhere adjacent to terra firma.
Further enhancing the music's obtuse quality's are degrees of self-reference. The first track "Intro" is,nt listed on the packaging and while most of the songs are sung in Icelandic ( though , even in English they would be indecipherable i feel) "Olsen Olsen" is sung in the gibberish language Vonlenska- which the band used for the entire follow up album ( ). The band also pull off sly technical tricks like making the strings in "Staralfur" palindromic or the fact that "Avalon" is in fact the aforementioned tracked played at a quarter of it,s speed.
Putting all this clever muso mumbo jumbo to one side though the real glory of Sigur Ros is the breathtaking emotional clout of the songs. "Svefn-g- englar" ( It translates as sleepwalkers) is consummately spine tingling -the sort of track i never ever tire of hearing . "Staraflur" has lump in the throat panoramic strings while on "Flugufrelsarinn" ( The Fly Freer) they are more sombre and elegiac like a Morricone soundtrack.
Agaetis byrjun remains Sigur Ros,s finest achievement, certainly better than the sombre ( ) and while "Takk" was a return to form it never matches the grace and insidious alien textures of this album. Whatever planet, galaxy , cosmos Agaetis byrnum is beamed from it remains a vital thrilling human experience.