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Sigur Rós 

Hvarf/Heim XL

Wednesday, Dec 12 2007
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In its first year, Von — the 1997 debut disc from Sigur Rós — moved a whopping 313 copies. A decade and nearly a half-dozen releases later, the ethereal Icelandic quartet has sold considerably more albums, and has become mightily revered along the way. Hitting the 10-year mark is good cause for looking back, and the band does so in a particularly interesting way with Hvarf/Heim, two EPs stitched together into a sublime 11-song, 72-minute work. Hvarf houses three previously unreleased tracks and two brand-new studio recordings of Von songs; "Í Gær" twinkles like a star, then explodes like one; and the revamped versions of "Von" and "Hafsol" blow away the originals with loads more drama and bombast. Heim, meanwhile, is especially lovely. It comprises six stripped-down, career-spanning tracks recorded live at various Icelandic locations that lacked electricity. No surprise, really, that Sigur Rós can create such splendor with just acoustic guitars, piano, strings, a pipe organ, and frontman Jónsi Birgisson's otherworldly falsetto. The group has always delivered some of its most striking, moving music in the quiet moments. While a new studio album is reportedly on the horizon, this is far from merely a stopgap curiosity. For Sigur Rós fans and those seeking an introduction to the band, Hvarf/Heim is essential listening.

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Michael Alan Goldberg

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