Yesterday, Thursday 17th May, Sigur Rós premiered their new album over the Internet. Being Sigur Rós though, it wasn’t the usual Internet stream. Instead, as each of the time zones hit 7pm they were treated to ‘Valtari hour’.
The new Sigur Rós album, then, track by track:
1. Ég Anda – Building to a crescendo, this starting track has a gentle piano refrain and the sound of a playful stream. Jonsí appears some three minutes in, both in person and with looping. Finishes with ‘end of the world’ beats and feedback.
2. Ekki Múkk – Still sounds more ‘Jonsí and Alex’, than Sigur Rós. For some time, it hardly moves, concentrating on eerie squeals, a rich texture and vinyl crackles before breaking into a Jonsí vocal to warm your heart over a simple piano.
3. Varúð – This builds with some urgency, and feels widescreen. Amiina-style strings and a choir ebb and flow before the second thrust, which brings everything together, and the listener to tears.
4. Rembihnútur – As someone on Twitter put it ‘David Attenborough will need another series for this’. The most ‘Takk ‘sounding track, complete with repeated ‘come up for air’ breathing noises. Delicious.
5. Dauðalogn – A slow burning, choir-heavy piece. Sounds like it was recorded in a gothic cathedral somewhere. Makes absolute sense to be premiered on The Vampire Diaries. Features top-form Jonsí vocals. Enjoy them, as he doesn’t appear much from here on in.
6. Varðeldur – Sounds suspiciously like the Lúppulagið vocals have been recycled here, over a piano refrain. Still gorgeous though. Even the toy piano makes an appearance. Sigur Rós are back.
7. Valtari – Ominous start. Builds to yet more unease and anxiety, with only a respite for a xylophone. No sign of Jonsí to help calm our nerves. Sounds like a score from a horror film.
8. Fjögur Píanó – Meaning four pianos, it starts as a piano piece, albeit a slightly discordant lullaby one. After some four minutes lush strings appear, and a violin in the distance. All makes sense. Still no sign of Jonsí though.
In conclusion, Valtari is a return to form. Any rumours of an ‘indefinate hiatus’, members leaving the band, or albums being scrapped can be scotched. Valtari moves Sigur Rós forward whilst still retaining their classic, ethereal sound. Its truly a work of beauty. I can’t wait to see them at Iceland Airwaves.
The listening party format worked, and was clearly a success in every part of the world. Social Media lit up with Valtari hour. Sigur Rós are back.