The Sigur Rós crusade started in 1994 in Reykjavik with messers, Jónsi Birgisson, Georg Hólm and Águst Ævar Gunnarsson. From the outset, the band have consistently imposed a unique style of atmospheric sounds and ambient music that would make the ideal soundtrack for a journey to the center of earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or even the soundtrack to A Space Odyssey.
Kveikur, their tenth album, shows a slight change of direction for the band. The album is overall much tougher, darker and even more violent, than their previous work.
The first song, ‘Brennisteinn’, sets the tone: lots of bass, metallic sounds, and syncopation, with Jón’s voice culminating on top of everything which gives an unbalanced and quirky feeling of unease. ‘Hrafntinna’, sounds like a tribal song for a ritual of initiation, with the same bass drum and cymbals, and accompanying an unidentified wind instrument that I presume you can only hear in symphonic orchestras.
Orchestration is perfectly coupled with experimentation, with more effects and more texture. Kveikur, for me is an upgrade on previous works. We can tell that there are new techniques, new instruments, new technologies used. Rhythm and melodies are also more structured, but still keeping that same atmospheric sound that made them who they are now.
A highlight of the album is ‘Isjaki’, which is a bit more rocky and along the lines of Blue Foundationor Massive Attack. It’s probably the only song from the album where you could make a comparison. The rest is absolutely original and beyond anything that has already been done.
Another great thing with this album, and Sigur Rós in general is that, when all the biggest bands and artists of the world get enslaved by the English language (Phoenix, AIR, Björk, and so on), their act is always in their mother tongue and even in the language they invented, Volenska . Unfortunately, it is difficult to get this translated, but I guess this is what makes it so fantastic, a bit like Elfic in The Lord of the Rings. If you want to try to sing along, ‘Isjaki’ check out the YouTube video below.
Kveikur is definitely an album to add to your collection. It would be a lie to say that this opus is made to cheer you up. It’s entirely in minor, and made to get you lost in your inner self. But at the same time, it’s absolutely perfect to have some time out. It’s an amazing piece of art and no other band will ever produce anything similar.
Sigur Rós are growing old and we like it.