Sigur Rós - Kveikur

Sigur Rós - Kveikur
Album Reviews

Less like accidentally walking into David Attenborough's funeral and more like some incredible, unrealised score for an immersive, imagined Icelandic crime drama.



Label: XL Recordings
Released: 17th June 2013
Reviewer: Gareth Ware
Sigur Rós, then. Surely we all know what to expect by now, right? Makers of records full of sweeping grandiosity and ten-minute epics almost tailor-made for breathtaking nature documentaries, untranslatable lyrics in a made-up language and an overall aura that will leave you wanting to run outside and hug a glacier. Or something.

Well, think again. Because for new 'un 'Kveikur' they've clearly been surfing whatever the Icelandic version of Urban Dictionary is and taken great, joyous interest in the equivalent phrase to what we, in our finest Anglo-Saxon, would deem 'growing some bollocks'. The result feels less like accidentally walking into David Attenborough's funeral and more like some incredible, unrealised score for an immersive, imagined Icelandic crime drama. Dark, brooding and near-thundering opener 'Brennisteinn' would be the scene setter, all atmospheric shots and intrigue. 'Hrafntinna' would be the cue for the crack investigation team to tensely piece together the puzzle, with the title track building to a heady conclusion befitting of the final moments, the whirlwind of images as the net closes in relentlessly ever-more rapidly.

The concept of Sigur Rós as a cinematic entity may not be the newest of notions, but to do so in such a readily imaginable (not to mention in such a thrilling and dynamic) manner, demands attention. It also at times marks the moment the band are at their – whisper it – angriest. Parts feel like a tightly-coiled spring, threatening to descend into barely-controlled fury and ferocity at any second; a throbbing, pulsing maelstrom of sounds simultaneously depicting the tensions of daytime or the nocturnal subversion of the night.

That's not to say the band have totally foregone their way with a soaring, euphoric melody. While the drums may more closely resemble artillery fire rather than percussive instruments, 'Ísjaki' retains a sense of melodic grandeur that immediately – unmistakeably - harks back to what fans of the group's earlier work might have been expecting. The same could be said of 'Stormur' and the near-choral, rapturous 'Rafstraumur' – there's that other-worldly Icelandic brilliance that's become de rigeur, but it's busier than previous efforts and there's an added sense of muscularity and purpose being liberally injected into the mix from all corners throughout.

Whereas back in the day the likes of 'Takk' could've made for a passable leftfield Mother's Day gift, the same definitely can't be said of 'Kveikur'. But is that a bad thing? The answer is an emphatic no. As wonderful as the records were - and indeed continue to be - the reinvention of Sigur Rós as clandestine creatures of the night, thunderous and full of chest-out bluster is a development that carries an intrinsic visceral thrill their output could never lay claim to. Remember the old adage that it's the quiet ones you needed to watch out for? If you needed further proof of it's validity, that reassurance has just landed.
Rating: 8/10
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