Just over two years ago, I heard an album called Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros and it was one of those releases that hit me so deeply that it caused a 'shift' in my musical sensibilities. If you're a person who's deeply passionate about music, you probably know what I'm talking about (it doesn't necessarily have to apply to this release). One of those feelings that makes the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it's one of those feelings you get when you realize that for all the music that has ever been made, there still remains the possibility that deeply moving pieces can still be created. Hell, it's one of those things that goes beyond the music itself, and into some weird space beyond that, because when you hear that music that caused such a 'shift,' everything seems just a little bit more clear.
That may seem a little bit overblown, but there are very few albums that give me such a feeling, and I wanted to convey the feelings I was having so that it would be possible to understand just how much I was looking forward to this new release from the group. Along with one or possibly two other bands, Sigur Ros had grabbed ahold of me literally to the point that I would anticipate anything that they created, so it got to the point that when I heard they were going to be reworking much of the live material they'd been playing for the past couple years into their next album, I instantly deleted every live track I had by the group and patiently waited...
() is the result of just about 2 years worth of touring and honing songs, and after hearing all the pre-release talk, it's easy to blow it off as one bill ball of pretension. After all, instead of naming any of the or giving any mention at all of the group, the album artwork is printed on fancy, semi-transparent paper with blurry photos that the group has taken. The pages were supposedly left blank so that each listener could write their own interpretations of the lyrics in the booklet (this time, the entire release is sung in Hopelandish, aka gibberish). There are no song titles, no liner notes, and the name of the band only appears in two places on the entire package.
Whereas some groups might have found themselves honing and honing tracks until they were completely tight and devoid of dead space, Sigur Ros seems to have gone nearly the opposite route with (). The 8 untitled tracks stretch out to over 70 minutes in time, and every single one takes it's time in getting to the destination, sometimes resulting in a huge crescendo while others which simply rise and fall like the ripples on a calm sea. Track 1 opens the disc with one of the best tracks on the disc, building with piano and warm organs as vocals by Jonski rise in the mix and strings provide a lovely build. Likewise, Track 3 ebbs and flows with a rich low-end organ and pretty piano melody while only very subtle vocals float by alongside bowed guitar.
Track 4 moves along with gallant percussion and guitars, rising into another amazing song on the first half of the album, and between it and the 5th track, there is 30 second space of silence, before things get a bit darker and heavier. Track 5 sets the mood early, with an absolutely languid pace, drifting along for nearly 10 minutes with only one small window of very subtle release. From there out, the tracks very slightly pick up the pace, (but still move along almost dirgelike), all unfolding ever-so-slowly in rich waves. Whereas the first half was nearly devoid of percussion and swept along with warm organs and piano, the second half rumbles with percussion, guitars, and bass. Track 8 embraces all of these things in one of the best tracks that the group has done to date, building to an urgent climax that puts a thunderous exclamation mark on the end of the release.
One thing about this album is that it's definitely not as accessible as the groups first release. It has way less hooks and it has a much more foreboding feel overall. It's not menacing by any means, but compared to the downright effervescent "Olsen Olsen" from Agaetis Byrjun, it's definiteley more introspective. It's one of those releases that takes awhile to seep in completely, and while there are a great deal of amazing songs, it doesn't move me quite as much as their last disc. That isn't to say it's bad, or even a letdown, as it's still one of the better things I've heard this year. That, and maybe it's still wrapping it's gauzy wings around me.