Sigur Rós - Valtari

The first single for Sigur Rós’ Valtari, “Ekki Múkk,” arrived with the fanfare and warm reception expected of that dramatic moment — after all, it was the first new recording under the Sigur Rós banner since 2008′s Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust. “Ekki Múkk,” though, isn’t much like the Icelandic group’s best known songs — the types of songs that score Wes Anderson movies — rather, it’s a spare, glistening track, majestically arranged yet spacious, never rushing to any kind of conclusion, thrilling or otherwise. It closes quietly. If you weren’t paying attention, you might forget that “Ekki Múkk,” in all its downstated detail, was even there.

So, much like the record in question yesterday, Valtari is a laid-back affair perhaps at odds with the media-fed importance and fan expectation of that event, a return of a beloved artist in an unexpected, maybe even jarring, form. It opens with the warm sunrise of “Ég Anda,” a track awash in twinkling atmosphere and lush string interplay, in which Jónsi never strains to force a melody or a hook. At the point in which “Ég Anda” fades into “Ekki Múkk,” it’s perceivable that Valtari is best understood as a suite of songs, a record that’s not shifting in and out of instrumental arrangements or changeups in tone, but weaving in and out of movements that only once or twice (the breakdown of “Var,” for instance) swell to a level of ballast comparable to their most famous climaxes. But even then, it’s more of a static-y, plotted-out approach. The twittering music box chimes of “Rembihnútur” recall their collaborative Merce Cunningham score “Split Sides” before the song opens up into a “Glósóli”-like march. The meditative “Dauðalogn” recalls the orchestral rush of “Starálfur” and also the stark rawness of Jónsi Birgisson’s “Heysátan” vocal. Valtari, as a body, is densely-scored and light on any kind of thundering percussion, pleasantly formless in spots, smartly subtle. Valtari works in wisps of their best and best-known work, musical liner notes that may fire up forgotten memories tied to their music.

Valtari shirks the accessible directions that something like Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust and Jónsi’s solo album Go (as well as his We Bought A Zoo soundtrack contributions) might have protracted, instead diving deeper into textures unexplored since the early days of the band. If I have to conjure up some kind of appropriate imagery to describe the vibe of Valtari — and Ohmygod I hate doing this, but since the record’s intentional lack of immediacy is daunting to evaluate I think I’m going to have to force myself to force myself — Valtari is like chasing possibly-imagined wood sprites through a forest in a barely remembered dream compared to the ship-bow-bending whale sex of something like ()’s “Popplagið.” And, no disrespect to whale sex, but Valtari is bolder for it.

Valtari is out 5/29 on XL. Check out their upcoming tour dates here.

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Comments (23)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. Could have saved yourself a few hundred words and just categorized it into one of the three descriptions that all Sigur Rós albums can be categorized in:

    - Album to sob yourself dry to while hiding underneath your bed covers as you become aware of your loneliness
    - Album to take a delightful nap to, and then you wake up all sweaty and have a taste for something sweet
    - Album to listen to upon realizing you are in the presence of a wonderful human being. Clothing optional.

    • Which Sigur Ros albums fit in these categories?! (actual question, your descriptions were amazing and made me interested in getting whatever albums fit them…!)

  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  4. I cannot wait. Now I just have to see them live again.

  5. Surprised the song Varúð wasn’t mentioned. I love it: the choir, the plinky piano hits. All of it.

  6. Best sentence ever?

    Valtari is like chasing possibly-imagined wood sprites through a forest in a barely remembered dream compared to the ship-bow-bending whale sex of something like ()‘s “Popplagið.” And, no disrespect to whale sex, but Valtari is bolder for it.

  7. I just hope it isn’t as dull as Takk… that was just too much! I like their other recordings though, they sometimes slapped you (in a very slowly and orgasm-like way) in the face, so that you could keep some kind of focus in the lovely trance they had put you in.

  8. So does anyone want to actually talk about this? Or did no one listen to the leak? Some general talking points:

    This is probably my third favorite Sigur Ros album, behind Agaetis and (). It might surpass () once I hear a better version.

    So far my favorites are Ekki mukk, Varud, and Vardeldur. Even if the last one is just a new version of Luppulagid.

    Your turn.

  9. the last time i’ve played Fijotavik in the middle of the atlantic ocean a couple of sperm whales came to my direction and sailed along the boat. this new record seems the whales will come again :)

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