I was lying in bed the other night waiting to fall asleep, and the Sigur Ros () album was playing softly as it often does at these times. The first three songs of the album always seem to me to convey a sense of deep, unutterable yearning (I can see the movie soundtrack producers lining up already). A gentle tension starts to build when track 3 introduces that repeating (but not repetitive) sequence of notes on the piano; they ascend and descend over and over again, and even though the notes are always the same you get the feel of wafting slowly upwards, maybe following a loosely spiralling path, and when the piano finally comes in several octaves higher with the same sequence of notes I find myself imagining fireworks underwater, clarity found, and quiet contentment.
[Posterity music-geekness note: Strange. I was writing this, and also remembering how, at the time, my anticipation of that pivotal moment was affecting my ability to enjoy the music as it happened. This also happens with Orbital’s In Sides album, when I’m waiting for The Box Part 1 to segue into The Box Part 2.]
First impressions of the new Sigur Ros: it feels sparser to me than Agaetis Byrjun. More pared down, less of a feeling of majesty. It doesn’t transport me the way that album did. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the restraint – the more I listen to Agaetis Byrjun the more the vocals seem over-emoted, and what I used to think was wonderful flow sometimes feels a bit samey these days (though to be fair, intensive listening probably contributed to that too). This one’s got guitars and buildups the first didn’t have, and somewhere in track 8 I was reminded of Mogwai at its best, which is always a good thing for music to remind me of.
I don’t give a toss about the whole Hopelandic thing (the Cocteau Twins have been there done that), and find their doing a John Cage with this CD booklet a bit pretentious, but at the end of the day they still make extraordinarily evocative music, and I can’t wait to see them in February.
[For reviews I agree with see Pitchfork and Almost Cool. The first four paragraphs of the neumu review, on the other hand, are a veritable showcase of Sigur Ros review cliches.]