Sigur Ros - Valtari (2xLP Vinyl)

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Sixth studio album by the critically-acclaimed Icelandic post-rock band. Debuting at #8 in the UK Albums Chart, the record has been described by bassist Georg Holm as being slightly more electronic-sounding than their previous releases.

 


There’s a certain kind of happiness that one feels around the euphoria of receiving Sigur Rós’ sixth full length studio album Valtari on brand new vinyl four days before its North American release date which also happens to be the last day of school. The day I received an e-mail from XL Recordings prompting me that they were offering a 10% discount on the new Sigur Rós album if I preorder it via XL’s website. I was actually planning to preorder it for quite some time, but never got around to it, so I felt this was a great opportunity to go ahead and snatch this deal. Little did I know Valtari was going to be this breathtaking. When I use that italicized “this” I mean it, yeah I listened to the leak, but the quality was not anything worth aural admission. Of course someone who is as obsessed with music as I am, becoming an audiophile is nothing short of obvious. So the intake of music of this stature needs to be heard on vinyl.

Though post-rock is something of a notorious genre in this day and age of modern music, its heyday was clearly the late mid ‘90s to early ‘00s. That’s when the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, and of course Sigur Rós produced emotionally-driven, grand pieces of music in all unique ways. One band out of that bunch has survived and mostly evolved into a marvel of the whole world, not just their Icelandic homeland, that group is Sigur Rós who have found such love in so many different realms of people across the world. Last year’s Inniwas like a greatest hits box set except it was live recordings of their greatest compositions in their 17 year career. Sigur Rós intuition is spectacular, they’re private enough to be respected and still do some of the world’s greatest concerts, Inni was a staple to that perspective showcasing their tremendous ability to transfer their studio work onto the big stage of arena rock.

Now onto the album at hand: Valtari. To be blunt, Valtari is simply mesmerizing, cathartic, and arguably one of Sigur Rós’ greatest works to date. It has that minimal piano depression of ( ), the climatic buildups of Takk... and of course that lovable voice of lead man Jónsi that has grown into its own especially on their last LP Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. Yes Valtari is a 54 minute rollercoaster, or should I say “steamroller” as that is what “valtari” translate to in English, of pure dreamy escapism. That “escape” takes you to exactly what the album artwork portrays; a hazy abyss of sea and intangible depths. Sigur Rós has always had the knack of picking album artwork that suits the album’s contents; the alien fetus of Ágætis byrjun pointed towards something foreign and mysterious yet like all new life: beautiful, and the unforgettable frolicking nudists on the cover of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust were perfect examples of Sigur Rós’ jumpy, rhythmic pop.

Though Valtari is mostly a minimalistic record and is almost a complete 180 in style compared back to 2008’s more pop-heavy Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, its contents are just gorgeous and have an almost immediate impact. Those ghostly moans towards the tail end of “Varðeldur” are so emotionally driven that you forgot this is the same band that made that fun-loving “Gobbledigook.” Perhaps the most ethereal moment of Valtari is the title track which rotates around on a gorgeous bell part that circles around layers and layers of strings and instrumental beauty. One of the most ironic parts about Valtari’s creation is the comment made by bassist Georg Holm on Sigur Rós’ website saying, “I can honestly say that it’s [Valtari] the only Sigur Rós record I have listened to for pleasure in my own house.” How could he not listen to “Festival” or even the entirety of Ágætis byrjun without some kind of pleasure?

Other highlights of Valtari include true “steamroller” “Varúð” with its bellowing build-up and probably the most traditional of Sigur Rós songs “Eikki Múkk” with one of Jónsi’s most visceral performances on an LP in years. Eight songs probably is hardly enough for a Sigur Rós record, especially since Valtari doesn’t even clock in over an hour, but what Sigur Rós offers within that 54 minutes is pure beauty. I had a feeling Sigur Rós would come out of their hiatus with something as magical as Valtari, but I didn’t imagine it to be one of my favorite albums of 2012 so far, but that’s what Sigur Rós always does to you; surprises you with something unlike any artist in the world can do. I wrote in last year’s review of Mogwai’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will that post-rock was dying, oh am I ever wrong, and even with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s supposed return I have a new found faith in post-rock. Thank you, Sigur Rós.

By: Rotations By Second




A1 Ég Anda
A2 Ekki Múkk
B1 Varúð
B2 Rembihnútur
C1 Dauðalogn
C2 Varðeldur
D1 Valtari
D2 Fjögur Píanó



Sticker on front cover contains the words "Sigur rós HEAVY WEIGHT DOUBLE VINYL valtari".

Locations:
• Recorded at Sundlaugin by Birgir Jón Birgisson, assisted by Elizabeth Carlsson
• Recorded at Greenhouse Studios by Valgeir Sigurõsson, assisted by Paul Evans
• Recorded at Air Studios by Birgir Jón Birgisson and Ken Thomas

Personnel:
• Tracks C1 and C2 feature The Sixteen by kind permission of Harry Christophers [...].