Sigur Ros – Valtari Sigur Ros – Valtari

Sigur Ros - Valtari

My relationship with Sigur Ros is not unlike a passionate yet tumultuous love affair. At times I feel elated and completely encased in sleepless dream. At other times, my pillow collects hours of tears and muffled sobbing. It was not always like this. I completely missed the band’s supposed pinnacle in the early 2000’s with the release of Ágætis byrjun. It was not until much later when I happened upon the video for “Glosli” from Takk… It was in a university computer lab and thanks be to our lord no one was there for my tears were surely staining the keyboard.

Sigur Ros tunnels deep inside listeners to mine their rawest emotions. Feelings of nostalgia, fear, and grandeur all coalesce in elongated and swelling crescendos. The band’s music sits on the intersection between two great periods of post rock. While still paying tribute to early acts like Bark Psychosis and Talk Talk, Sigur Ros plunges into the future with a sound that has been described as angelic and heavenly. Alright to be honest it was me describing those words. Sigur Ros has traversed the inception and death of contemporary post rock intended to play until the world explodes. This longevity is contrasted against their current instability.

For the past couple of years, Sigur Ros has been entangled in familiar dire straights. The release of the live record Inni in 2011 was a stop gap intended staunch a period of inactivity that followed the hilariously long titled Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The future of the band was uncertain as their next record was intended for a 2010 release. With the supposed death of Sigur Ros, many fans were caught in a joyless limbo. How would life continue without these Icelandic giants? Would the sun ever rise again? Would the darkness of eternity eventually swallow the universe? Will we never again get to hear the familiar wail of Jónsi Þór Birgisson? Fortunately, for the universe, Sigur Ros has returned. Accompanied with great surprise, the band announced the completion of Valtari, the sixth fabled release from this host of angels. Again my words.

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust was a break in tradition for a band who had hinged their career on dense cinematic soundscapes. Með suð was concrete and sober compared to their hazy and epic past. Rather than return to the format which brought them fame, the band does another switch with a 52 minute exploration on the intangible and the ethereal. If this is truly the universe of Sigur Ros, I believe we have reached its Pillars of Creation. Far from anything solid and material, Valtari intends to sing a lullaby from the mouths of a thousand gas giants. Again, my fantasies.

Sigur Ros releasing an entire album of abstract ambiance should not be met with surprise. The band has always woven deep layers of atmosphere and cosmic radiance within each of their albums. Last year’s Inni was devoid of consonance as it presented a very raw and noisy performance backed by a gritty black and white concert film. Valtari does the opposite obscuring almost all of the band save for one voice downing in the ocean of eternity. I’ll stop once I finish feeling these emotions.

It is hard to review Valtari because it is impossible not to feel powerful serenity during its listening. Tracks like “Ekki múkk” and “Ég anda” are exquisite songs which make use of space and depth. “Varúð” allows listeners to travel in time and glimpse at the band building crashing cascades. In fact, things go beautifully up until the closing moments of “Dauðalogn.” Like the last dying moments of a red supergiant, “Dauðalogn” is the bands supernova before transforming into a black hole of utter nonsense.

Alright to be fair, it is not nonsense. How about the term “mired abstraction?” The three closing tracks on Valtari break into formless space marked by only toy instruments, wandering piano, and wordless voices. If the band has intended to recreate the feeling of the primordial beginnings of the universe with wandering clouds of electrons, they have succeeded. The album’s self titled song also presents a problem as it sees the complete absence of any melody or form. While I am glad the band has saved this experiment for the end it still divides my emotional and intellectual reasoning as I do not know whether it is good or utter nonsense.

Valtari is a solid entry a long book not yet finished on the band. The time when Sigur Ros could bring me to a joyful oblivion with post rock structures has faded. This is a new sound which may or may not be explored further. What is certain, however, is Valtari, for the most part, is resonating. The album succeeds in its most basic task of connecting with the listener. For this, I am glad and for a brief moment I can wade in the afterglow of eternity — untouched by time and space.

1. Ég Anda
2. Ekki Múkk
3. Varúð
4. Rembihnútur
5. Dauðalogn
6. Varðeldur
7. Valtari
8. Fjögur Pianó

Sigur Ros - Valtari, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2012-05-03T10:53:38-07:00 rating 3.8 out of 5

5 Responses about “Sigur Ros – Valtari”

  • Charles says:

    You didn’t miss much. I saw the band then, fell asleep and then left early. I’ve seen them a handful of times since and now, when I do, I weep openly.

  • Mariano says:

    I’m from Argentina I can follow you up with all these feelings. This band can show to the people that love is possible in this world. Hope to see those guys around here. One of my dreams is this book of life. Regards from Argentina!

  • Mike says:

    Valtari is a disappointing record for the fans I think. The rock is gone, and so is he structure and energy. Artistic masturbation.

  • Ill agree on the rock aspect and even the structure as it is now more formless space. I still feel the energy and creativity is there but nowhere near the Takk, (), and Ágætis byrjun. I am glad they did not try to replicate the old sound like they did with half of Með suð. If new Sigur Ros is ust an ambient band for the future, Ill be fine with innovation as it is something they have progressed to.

  • Oli says:

    Great review, it sums up what I feel about this album rather well. The track ‘valtari’ itself feels like a solid but vaguely forgettable b-side. I do feel that daudlogn is among their most beautiful tracks, and am sure that I’ll be enjoying the album as a whole for a long time.