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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Sigur Ros – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (‘With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly’)

Sigur Rós have turned over a new leaf with their fifth album Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (‘With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly’). The record’s sound is comparatively stripped alongside its predecessors, a transformation the band claim is influenced by a series of acoustic performances they held throughout their native Iceland in 2006, as documented in their film Heima.

It can be said that the sonic language of Sigur Rós is one truly unique in the realm of music. Their desire to deliver the true essence of their craft has seen the band’s music earn a reputation of being breathtakingly existential, and too beautiful to be described with justice in any human tongue.

Indeed, the idea of communication resonates throughout Með Suð, the opening track even being titled ‘Gobbledigook’, which from its first bar betrays that Sigur Rós have been re-evaluating their approach to music. It is a song featuring a sporadic acoustic guitar riff favouring the offbeat and rivalling pounding war-rhythm percussion. This foundation layered with hissing hand claps and Jon Birgissons sweet, shrill vocals creates an illusion that the different instrumental parts truly are speaking gobbledigook to each other in the search for some sort of cohesion.

Strikingly, ‘Gobbledigook’ is missing Sigur Rós’ trademark backdrop of whining fluid noise (created by the use of a cello-bow on electric guitar) that has so shaped the entire ambience of the bands sound, making the music naked and youthful in comparison with their earlier work. This revelation is consistent throughout the album, and when the bow-guitar technique is used, such as during the reflective ‘Festival’ it is done so in moderation. Every note is now heard with crystal perfection and it is as though after four albums a dense fog has lifted from Sigur Rós’ music, and it can now be viewed with a clarity not previously possible. The sound has become grounded, at times following a strict verse-chorus structure. The songs no longer follow their own will but are more controlled, plotted, and nursed.

Still, being Sigur Rós, the album cannot save itself at times from grandiose indulgence; the nine minute ‘Ára bátur’ climaxing in a finale featuring a boys’ choir and a 67-piece orchestra. Although the music is as absurdly beautiful as ever, the construction of such a thick sound is not exactly continuous with the rest of the album. However it would only take one listen of Með Suð for it to be apparent to any Sigur Rós fan that the band is undergoing development, making discontinuity somewhat excusable.

Perhaps then we can view their musical progression in a linear fashion, and state that debut Von (1997) through to fourth LP Takk (2005) were a progressive first chapter in Sigur Rós ‘ musical journey. With that experience in hand, Með Suð it seems is the first page of another.

Let there be no two ways about it, this is a gorgeous album. And although it may not be as musically accomplished as Takk it is delightful to see Sigur Rós reach this point. In its fifty-five minutes Með Suð captures such a carefree and euphoric enchantment at not only in the disappearing beauty in the world, but that their music is a justifiable representation of it. With the still churning melodies of their untitled album and Ágætis Byrjun and the roaring passion of Takk behind them, Sigur Rós it seems have finally decided they’ve smashed down enough walls and are looking in a new direction; a turning point in their musical career.


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