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Sigur Rós - Kveikur Album Cover

Sigur Rós - Kveikur

Reviewed by
8.8
Sigur RósKveikur
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Record Label: XL Recordings
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Something eerily close to the crackle of a geiger counter is one of the first sounds on the latest Sigur Rós record Kveikur, found within the sound of some fast-gathering storm that is about to visit destruction on the landscape. This is surprising at first, since Sigur Rós had seemed content to draw their albums up from the same chilly, placid well for over a decade. But your surprise fades quickly, or is at least distracted by the arrival of the lurching, heavy “Brennistein.” This is the first Sigur Rós record in some time that has the power to distract instead of allowing you to become lost in the spectral ambience of Jónsi’s voice and the accompanying heavenly soundscapes, the band distorts those components to arrest your attention and hold it for the course of the entire album, which happens to be its shortest yet.

Having somewhat pigeonholed themselves since their breakthrough Ágætis byrjun, becoming the default choice for “pretty” post-rock and the ambassadors of the genre to the mainstream, even recently guest starring on The Simpsons. On Kveikur there’s a chance, for possibly the first time in the band’s history, that fans of their trademarked beauty might be alienated. The characteristically undeniable splendor of the band’s discography is still here, as on “Rafstraumer,” which is the most “typical” Sigur Rós track on the album, one that deals heavily in Jónsi’s vocals to create an ethereal atmosphere. But most of the beauty on the album instead comes by way of the sounds of destruction and a contained chaos. The high-strung title track is filled with pounding drums and a constant state of piercing, distorted wails of guitar, and is much more the norm on the record than the relatively relaxed “Rafstraumer.”

Jónsi has been the most recognizable member of the band for years now, and the album does more to service his uniquely angelic vocals than Valtari did last year, placing him once more in the forefront of the music. Despite that, it should be immediately clear to anyone that the stars of Kveikur are Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason, the rhythm section of the band. There is hardly a moment where they do not commandeer your attention, with Dýrason's percussion being the driving force behind much of the album. The near-danceable drums of “Yfirborð” are among the quietest on the record but still manage to divert attention from Jónsi’s warped vocals with the occasional crashing cymbal. Similarly, the album’s highlight “Ísjaki,” is a haunting yet poppy trip through howling vocal reverb and disturbingly tinny and clinking percussion, squeals of feedback and a truly lovely melody from Jónsi. All of which makes for a song that doesn’t become “stuck” in your head so much as it creeps in, refusing to dislodge itself, continually unsettling you.

A feeling of hauntedness, of otherworldly invasion, pervades Kveikur. The peaceful incubation of the fetus-creature on the cover of Ágætis byrjun has apparently ended, developing since that album into the distressed, bizarre creature found on the cover of Kveikur. That figure is distinctly humanlike yet still alien, made into its form by some unknown trauma or disaster. It is the physical representation of the record in a way that many album covers are not: Kveikur is the band’s most grounded record yet, even as it feels like it is shifting the earth from beneath your feet to create music that has similarly disrupted the familiarity of the bands past output. Sigur Rós isn’t quite ready to commit to the paradigm shift that songs like “Kveikur” and "Bláþráður” are harbingers of, and despite the shimmering prettiness of “Rafstraumer,” it feels distinctly out of place on the record. There are moments on several songs like “Stormur” where the band seems uncertain of how far to dip into the violent waters of this new sound. It helps keep the record tied to their past, but at this point it seems necessary to cut loose and let the beast on the cover that has been tied up for so long rage without restraint.

It has always been temptingly easy to ascribe deeper meanings to Sigur Rós’ Icelandic titles, though it often felt like a stretch of the imagination. But on Kveikur (Candlewick), the meanings are clearer than anything the band that created the blank canvas language of “hopelandic” has done before. “Brimstone” and “Storm” are painfully obvious signifiers, and the record ends with “Var,” which translates to “Was,” which one can only hope means that what they were is no longer what they will be going forward. The anxiety-ridden sound of Kveikur is the best the band has produced since their breakthrough album, and seems promising to yield only more rewarding results in the future.

8.75/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 21
10:19 PM on 06/30/13
#2
mikeyg003
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Great review. Need to check this out.

And are you a new staff member?
10:59 PM on 06/30/13
#3
Jake Jenkins
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hack writer
10:59 PM on 06/30/13
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Jake Jenkins
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05:59 AM on 07/01/13
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Ryan Dennehy
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Great review. Need to check this out.

And are you a new staff member?
Thanks! I obviously recommend it. And yes, I was just brought on staff a few days ago. This is my first review for the site.

i learned it from watching YOU okay!!
06:06 AM on 07/01/13
#6
PeeDster
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Awesome album, simply awesome. Good review but I could never call Sigur Ros a post rock band...and I am not sure they were ever pigeon holed into that ..

Isjaki and Stormur are amazing.
06:14 AM on 07/01/13
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Cody Nelson
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Very, very well-written. A band I'm not all that familiar with, but this review left me with a lot of clarity on how the record might sound. Kudos, might have to seek the album out.
06:19 AM on 07/01/13
#8
theherox
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nice!
06:52 AM on 07/01/13
#9
djemilah
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Great review!

This really echoes how I feel about Kveikur; I adore the more distorted, electronic-touched tracks on this (Kveikur itself was a nice surprise after seeing the live version) and although many people seems to love Stormur etc. they just don't sit well with me as more than 'generic' Sigur Ros. I'm happy someone mentioned Bláþráður too, it's one of my favourites from the album although I'm not quites ure why.
06:57 AM on 07/01/13
get up kidd
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Love this record, and really enjoy the new direction the band seams to be going. Hopefully they continue to keep pushing this sound.
07:06 AM on 07/01/13
Ryan Dennehy
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Awesome album, simply awesome. Good review but I could never call Sigur Ros a post rock band...and I am not sure they were ever pigeon holed into that ..

Isjaki and Stormur are amazing.
I just wasn't sure what else to refer to them as - they certainly are unique within that genre which makes it even harder. There aren't a lot of reference points for the band outside of their own work. Which is sort of what I'm getting at with the "pigeonholed" thing, they're certainly unique but they've been working themselves into a fairly predictable (though rewarding) sound with little variations on each record.

Very, very well-written. A band I'm not all that familiar with, but this review left me with a lot of clarity on how the record might sound. Kudos, might have to seek the album out.
I definitely recommend it, as well as most of their other material.
Great review!

This really echoes how I feel about Kveikur; I adore the more distorted, electronic-touched tracks on this (Kveikur itself was a nice surprise after seeing the live version) and although many people seems to love Stormur etc. they just don't sit well with me as more than 'generic' Sigur Ros. I'm happy someone mentioned Bláþráður too, it's one of my favourites from the album although I'm not quites ure why.
I really like "Stormur" but it just feels like it could have been taken a little bit further into the new sound.

Thanks for reading and the kind words guys
07:14 AM on 07/01/13
phaynes1
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Fantastic review. Would expect nothing less from my boy. Definitely hit all the major points of the album.

Amazing album too. Probably my second favorite of theirs.
07:23 AM on 07/01/13
Ryan Dennehy
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Fantastic review. Would expect nothing less from my boy. Definitely hit all the major points of the album.

Amazing album too. Probably my second favorite of theirs.
luv you babe couldn't do it without you
07:35 AM on 07/01/13
Rob McWilliams
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Great review/good on you for the staff position.
08:14 AM on 07/01/13
Chuck!
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Best review on the site that I've seen in awhile. This album continues to amaze me.

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