Sigur Ros Valtari XL Recordings
Valtari, the first Sigur Ros album in four years, is a gorgeous relapse into post-rock atmospherics. Whereas their last offering, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (translated from Icelandic as "With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly"), was a jolt into tempo-driven reverie, this album owes more to the influence of classical compositions and airy soundtracks.
Maybe this is a deliberate retreat from Go, the riveting and jovial solo debut from Sigur Ros front man Jonsi. In 2010, his band was all but dead, with members' very public squabbles being aired in the music tabloids. Jonsi embraced a flamboyance his mates eschewed in concert.
So Valtari all but eliminates the need for a vocalist, even though Jonsi is one of the most recognizable talents today. His choir-boy falsetto does beckon on "Ekki Mukk," but most of the tracks depend on hushed chimes and willowly piano to guide them.
To try to review the songs as individuals would be a lost cause - wonderfully so. Valtari is meant for a marathon listen. It is a quintessential "album's album," in which no one piece would survive without the others. It is a cerebral experience. At times, one can't be sure the music is even there. It whispers and ebbs, like a snaking brook, until it completely washes over the listener.