“We have arrived at Rotorua”
I first learned about the Icelandic band Sigur Rós in 2008. It had just stopped raining and I was sitting outside my tent at the Lowlands Festival waiting for some sun. My tent was located close to one of the stages and I could hear this music coming from there that suited the weather and festival feeling perfectly. And if it wasn’t the music, I would at least have noticed the crowd which exploded in a deafening applause every 15 minutes or so. Even though I was as close to the stage as the bird flies, actually getting there would have cost me at least 45 minutes, so I decided to stay. And that is how I enjoyed the music of Sigur Rós at what would later be known as the most legendary concert at Lowlands ever.
Later that year I made a trip to Rotorua, New Zealand. Driving through the endless rolling green hills, the landscape passing by, I listened to the albums Ágætis byrjun and (). Nostalgia and emotions are words that go hand in hand with the post rock of Sigur Rós and also with the lyrics. Some of the songs are sung in the made up language Hopelandic and some in Icelandic. Both are completely unintelligible to me, but this music is about feelings, not the lyrics. And although I sometimes wonder what they are actually singing about, to me the voice is just another instrument. And it’s hard not to travel back to those hills in my mind every time I hear one of those albums. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, released in 2008, was a change in direction and was more happy, and more radio friendly than the previous albums. Sigur Rós released Valtari in 2012, after a 3-4 year hiatus and it meant another change in musical direction. More electronics, and ambient sounds found its way into the record. Now, in 2013, they have released their seventh studio album Kveikur. The band have left behind their old publisher and Kjartan Sveinsson, the keyboardist, who decided to focus on other things after spending half of his life playing with the group. Earlier in this review I mentioned Rotorua. It’s a city in New Zealand, known for it’s geothermal activity and geysers. And if I would still be on my trip, this is where we would be now. Kveikur – yet again – is a change in musical direction for the band. But never before has that been a bad thing, and neither is it this time. Kveikur sounds more aggressive then their previous albums and there is some distinctive industrial distortion going on in the background. Still most of the recognizable features, like the falsetto voice of vocalist Jónsi, and the nostalgic sounding lyrics are there. The album is both surprisingly new and still 100% (ok, without Kjartan, maybe 75%) Sigur Rós.
I can perfectly understand them not being everyone’s ‘thing’, they seem to be one of those bands you either like very much, or not at all. For the latter group, if the first six albums have not convinced you, this one probably won’t either; but for the people from the first group, Kveikur is a more than worthy addition to their Spotify, iTunes or whatever playlist. And I hope that, like me, they make a trip down memory lane when listening to this record. Albeit traveling over volcanic ashes and passing steaming blow holes this time. The first track Brennisteinn (Brimstone) is a good opener and most likely the most aggressive song on the album, but the personal highlights for me are the title track Kveikur (Candlewick) and the song Rafstraumur (Electric Current). Enjoy!