Music Reviews
4:28 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Sigur Ros Navigates Unknown Terrain On 'Kveikur'

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 6:10 pm

Sigur Ros delights in shifting the listener's perspective — even its anthems elude the conventional rock plod. With KveikuR, the band's majestic (if usually mellow) vistas and naturescapes acquire a distinctly harsh edge. The textures are darker, the harmonies are more dissonant and the band's graceful, soaring melodies seem to rise out of a dense sonic murk.

Not everything is tense: Perhaps recognizing that a full album of this stuff might grow tedious, Sigur Ros offers a few bright pop moments — including "Isjaki," which has a Human League-style hook.

On most of this record, there are no obvious points of entry, no directional indicators. Sigur Ros creates sound that washes over and envelops its listeners. There's mystery in it, kind of like navigating unknown terrain at night. Recognizing that not everything will be instantly discernible, you sort of have to relax and let your senses adjust to the surroundings — which, it turns out, are invariably riveting.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This music is from the latest album from the Icelandic band, Sigur Ros. They're known for atmospheric moods and expansive soundscapes. Their seventh album is called "Kveikur" and critic Tom Moon has a review.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: It's always been tricky to find the focal point in the music of Sigur Ros.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Where to focus? On these swirling, droning pools of sound in the foreground or the pulse that's making a slow, menacing approach from way in the back? Even when singer Jonsi gets going, he doesn't always claim center stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Sigur Ros delights in shifting the listener's perspective. Even its anthems avoid the conventional rock plod. With this album, the band's majestic, if usually mellow, vistas acquire a distinctly harsh edge. The textures are darker, the harmonies more dissonant. The band's graceful, soaring melodies seem to rise out of a dense sonic murk.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Not everything is tense. Perhaps recognizing that a full album of this stuff might grow tedious, Sigur Ros offers a few bright pop moments, including this one, which has a Human League-style hook, sung, of course, in Icelandic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: But that track is an exception. On most of this record, there are no obvious points of entry, no directional indicators. Sigur Ros creates sound with mystery in it. It's kind of like navigating unknown terrain at night. Recognizing that not everything will be instantly discernible, you sort of have to relax and let your senses adjust to the surroundings, which, it turns out, are invariably riveting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: That's our critic Tom Moon reviewing the new album from Sigur Ros. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.