Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Sigur Rós 

( )

Wednesday, Nov 20 2002
In the Oct. 3 issue of Rolling Stone, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin named Sigur Rós' 1999 effort, Ágætis Byrjún, to his current top 10 album list, summing up the music with a simple statement: "I don't understand a word, but it moves me beyond all belief."

Perhaps it was Jón Thór Birgisson's ethereal voice -- which sounds more female than male, and even then hardly human -- that stirred Martin. Or maybe it was the Icelandic quartet's eerie bowed-guitar sound and its incomprehensible lyrics, sung in Birgisson's made-up Hopelandic language. Whatever the reason, Ágætis Byrjún was a brutally effective album that sounded unlike any other that year.

Those expecting a similar effect from the band's third disc, ( ), will be disappointed. When Sigur Rós first reached American ears, the group's sonic landscape was largely unexplored, and thus capable of inducing wonderment among listeners. The band even claimed it would single-handedly change music forever. Though that goal has yet to be realized, Sigur Rós' impact can't be argued: None other than Radiohead's Thom Yorke has cited SR's music as a powerful influence.

But following the release of Kid A and the breakthroughs of such bands as Múm and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Sigur Rós' epic sound is no longer unusual. While ( ) is just as enchanting as Ágætis Byrjún, it doesn't approach the revolutionary intensity of its predecessor.

Still, the album does achieve the breathtaking feat of being sparse and massive all at once, its collage of weepy strings, organ-and-piano dialogues, and slow, skeletal drums offering both delicacy and thunder. Throughout, the band veers between fragile vocal melodies and impossibly slow instrumental interludes, reviving musical motifs much like an orchestra would. Such recurring phrases give the CD a remarkable sense of cohesion: Birgisson deconstructs the same string of syllables time and time again, as the core melodies twist into an endless array of forms.

But while ( ) is indeed a powerful work, it finds Sigur Rós repeating a now-familiar formula. If the band truly wants to change the face of music, it'll have to do some evolving of its own.

About The Author

Nancy Einhart


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"