Sigur Ros opens up

Aaron Turney

Common sense would say that a country with a climate like Iceland, where the capital of Reyjavik reaches a high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit in July, would be a breeding ground for music that would echo the cold and dreary weather.

After all, the same climate in Norway birthed the black metal scene launched by Venom and Mayhem two decades ago.

But Sigur Rós, named for singer Jonsi Birgisson’s little sister, has found a way to recycle the cold climate of his capital city into a soundscape to showcase its beauty.

The band’s name, which translates to Victory Rose, is a proper label for their elegant version of post-rock. There are only a handful of bands capable of creating lush landscapes with their music.

Whether it’s Mogwai, with their blend of ominousness, or Godspeed You Black Emperor with their apocalyptic tendencies, both have been the leaders of post-rock innovation for more than a decade.

However, Sigur Rós has created and fine-tuned a style that sets them apart from the rest of the post-rock crowd. Usually refraining from full-on sonic onslaught, they create layer upon layer of vocals, pianos and strings to draw the listener into a peaceful state of mind.

Moreover, the members of Sigur Rós are classically trained musicians. Earlier work such as Ág’tis Byrjun showcase their technical skills.

Their new record, “Takk,” is more concerned with creating a larger sound. The struggle to create a large sound was solved by innovation. The recording of “Takk” took place in an indoor swimming pool that was converted into a studio.

The lush reverb and echoes lend well to Birgisson’s soaring voice that floats atop the mix of piano, strings and rhythm sections like a bird flying above a slew of cirrus clouds.

Birgisson’s singing style also is complemented by the choice of language. He alternates between Icelandic and Hopelandic, a combination of syllables that creates the vocal melody, but has no concrete meaning.

“( ),” which is the title of the band’s 2002 album, is not a record to put on when stuck in the car late at night, fighting off drowsiness.

By the same extent, “Takk” is not either, but tracks like “Glósóli”, while following the standard post-rock formula of building to crescendo, does pack much more power.

The band’s drummer Orri Drason was underused on “( ),” he played lightly, using brushes instead of sticks.

On “Takk,” he’s able to create a large range of dynamics, because the band has wisely written a group of songs that allows him more creativity.

“Gong”, which has been played at live shows for more than a year, is already a crowd favorite.

From its haunting violin opening, to the trance and jungle-like beats that follow, it’s one of many refreshing moments on the album, that could’ve been ruined by a consistent 4/4 or waltz-time signature.

Whether the title has any hints about the band’s future plans (takk means thanks), hopefully the ellipsis means that there will be more output from Sigur Rós in the future.