Review: Sigur Rós – Valtari
Published on May 29th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Sigur Rós have always sounded like they shall eventually ascend to the cosmos, but on their sixth studio album Valtari they appear to have ascended somewhere a little closer to home and a darn sight less awe-inspiring.
Let’s get this straight – the Icelanders are amongst the great musical phenomena of their age, dropping LPs such as 1999’s Ágætis byrjun and 2005’s Takk… that transcended their own transcendentalism by enjoying worldwide success based more on enthused word of mouth than any kind of marketing campaign or wacky gimmick, unless you’re cold-hearted enough to count playing guitar with a violin bow and singing in a half-made-up language as such.
2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust didn’t quite reach the heights of those aforementioned master works, but it found Sigur Rós sounding more like a band playing in a room with frequently noteworthy results. On Valtari, the band go for a choral, predominantly beat-less kind of splendour, and while it sounds as impressive as you might expect – big, open planes of shimmering beauty, no less – it does sound inescapably ‘as you might expect’.
Not since 2002’s ( ) have Sigur Rós sounded this, well, ‘monged’, but this time it sounds all too in awe of itself without presenting anything new to those who have followed the group thus far. I must have listened to Valtari six, seven or eight times now and there’s still nothing particularly of note to say about any of its eight tracks other than that they are transcendent and shimmering, two adjectives that have already been used in this review.
It sounds magnificent, it really does, but a band this talented should be pushing themselves to create something new. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust was a step in the right direction, a logical detour from a sound perfected by Takk…, but Valtari is unfortunately a bit of a snooze fest for the already initiated – and, furthermore, the uninitiated would do well to start elsewhere.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Valtari is out now on Parlophone. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit sigur-ros.co.uk