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Sigur Rós Valtari


Sigur Rós have returned, and it has been a long time coming. Back in 2010, rumours circulated that the Icelandic band would be releasing an unnamed follow-up to 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. But the album was not released. Instead, vocalist and guitarist Jónsi announced that he was going to spend more time on his solo project, leaving hopes of new material looking thin. Fortunately, this hiatus has been short lived and Sigur Rós return with Valtari, their sixth studio project.

It seems that early rumours that the band have moved towards a more ambient sound are true. The music has taken on an even more minimal feel than previous recordings. There is a more prominent electronic element to the mix, with field recordings and reverbed chips and chirps flooding the background. The rhythm section is still occasionally present, accompanying soaring vocals and rich textures without ever moving to the fore.

There are a number of stand-out moments which I could discuss in detail here, but what struck me most is that this release is more suited to being heard as one long piece of music than as individual tracks. In fact, it is more monochrome than other Sigur Rós records, because there is much less variety than before. Songs don't really build up to a crescendo in the way they used to, which is slightly disappointing because Valtari sometimes lacks the grit that a solid bit of percussion can offer.

But as usual, the band weave a rich tapestry of sounds that is well worth listening to. Jónsi's style as a vocalist and guitarist, playing his instrument with a bow while singing lyricless melodies, has a tremendously wide sound which adds depth and hypnotic melody. Organs and pianos accompany with saturated harmonies to create what is still undoubtedly one of the most recognisable sounds in so-called post-rock music. It's epic, and only seldomly crosses over into cheese.

I still feel genuine emotion in this music and that gives me reason enough to like it. While Sigur Rós have progressed towards a different style of composition, it is undoubtedly the Sigur Rós we know and love, making Valtari a most worthwhile listen.

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