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By James Cerche
17th June 2013

Iceland: there's something in the water up there. Between Sigur Rós, Björk and the score of other successful, creative (and often painfully attractive) types coming from the region, they're doing something right. I remember the first time I heard 'Festival' from 2008s 'Með Suð í Eyrum Við Ppilum Endalaust'. It was a dreary overcast day in South East Melbourne while I drove to university; it started, and I resumed breathing nine minutes later. Hauntingly passionate and serenely evocative with a distinctive voice that soared in an incomprehensible tongue that seemed to transcend language with all the quality and emotion it held. This was a nine minute odyssey that left me stunned and transported. The sweeping cinematic scope of the orchestration coupled with the vulnerability and intimacy of Jónsi Birgisson's vocals make for one hell of an experience. Being only familiar with their 2006 and 2008 efforts ('Takk...' and 'Með Suð í Eyrum Við Ppilum Endalaust' respectively), which tend towards the gentle, it was with great excitement that I heard of the darker focus intended on the band's seventh and current release, 'Kviekur' (meaning 'Candlewick').


And hell is it dark. The distorted feedback that welcomes album opener 'Brennisteinn' ('Brimstone') feels like the sky itself is being rent asunder and hell is spilling forth to claim us while Jónsi does his thing amidst the carnage. Gosh darn, is it something. It's still beautiful, but there is a rumbling thunder throughout the record that is both terrible and perfect. Sigur Rós manage to serve up everything you know and love them for whilst delving into some terrifying new sonic heavens and hells. Sometimes guitars howl and the drums thunder, crashing like storms upon rocks. Sometimes strings slide, horns sound and bells rattle like jars full of rain on the side of a mountain. Sometimes all at once. This is music where you can find a trance. There are peaks and ebbs and bows in every phrase and every movement within the vast symphony of the 43 minute record. The vocals are still focal with that ethereal signature style being employed, and controlled aggression in the drumming and percussion help to focus the sounds and keep the album from dawdling. The band also makes use of driving bass under much of the record, while distortion, electronic and otherwise cuts into the sonic palette to outstanding effect.

Hell is it dark.

'Kveikur' burns with energy that is dark, positive, moody, elated and ultimately inspirational and cleansing. It's a spectacular piece of music, and I defy people to not be touched by it. This can be cried to, loved to, studied to and celebrated to. You probably wouldn't put it on a party (that's what 'Yeezus' is for). Do yourself a great big emotional favour and add 'Kviekur' to the soundtrack of your life.

BAND: Sigur Rós
MEMBERS: Jonsi Birgisson
Georg Holm
Orri Dyrason
FORMED: 1994
FROM: Reykjavik, Iceland
SOUND: Alternative/ambient/classical
FACEBOOK: sigurros
TWITTER: @sigurros
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