Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sigur Rós
Ágætis Byrjun

You know that feeling when you wake up and can’t remember which day it is? Well, take pity on Sigur Rós. They may still be a relatively new name in the UK but have actually been going since 1994, and are now having to do all that new band stuff again despite already having two albums under their collective belt. Originally released in Iceland last year as the follow up to 1997’s ‘Von’ debut, ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ is our first proper introduction to their somnolent charms. Almost appropriate then that the title should translate as a new beginning.

Ranging from eerie warblings in a vein similar to early Verve, to prolonged drone-rock outbursts, ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ provides ample justification of their current status as the biggest band in Iceland. ‘Svefn-G-Englar’ is still as affecting as when you first heard it a year ago, while ‘Flugufrelsarinn’ gently grows out of silence, as it slowly rises up and starts to lap over you like the tide, leaving the languid ‘Olsen Olsen’ sounding almost urgent and aggressive in comparison, despite the haunting melodies that lull you into a sense of spiritual reverie.

The nature of these songs means that it makes little difference that you haven’t got the slightest clue what on earth singer Jonsí Birgisson is on about. Even if you could speak Icelandic, you still wouldn’t have a hope because the little rascal has conspired to invent his own language. But it may be for this very reason that Sigur Rós sound so captivating. While the majority of the post-rock types currently littering your record collections leave you wishing that the lazy buggers would get round to writing some words, your complete incomprehension of the lyrics allows you to concentrate on the tranquil mood created by the music without being distracted by what Jonsí is actually singing.

A recent BBC program invited a number of intellectuals and Terry Christian to debate whether rock’n’roll was going to become the religion of the new millennium. If it is indeed to be this way, then you may want to consider joining the church of Sigur Rós.