Review Summary: Sigur Ros’ ( ) is proof that the absence of bad music is not the equivalent of good music.
Take one moment and try to forget everything you feel
about ( )
. Adjectives like breathtaking, awe-inspiring, chilling, and pure have all been used to describe Sigur Ros’ most adored piece, because of the way that the album attaches to us and associates with the most emotional moments in our life. There is no denying the beauty of a record that relies on identifying with the emotions of its listeners; in fact, those of you who have read my previous reviews know that I am all about it. The gorgeous unraveling of ‘Untitled 1’, the crescendo in ‘Untitled 3’, and the epic ending to ‘Untitled 8’ all make ( )
feel like a truly brilliant album – and I think it is safe to say they have that effect on most listeners. But what lies beneath those “things” that this record makes us feel? Surely an album that is so profound and insightful must feature gorgeous, sprawling instrumental work and technically advanced songwriting. Or perhaps it possesses a soundscape so varied and distinguishable that the listener has no choice but to sink into its effortless diversity. ( )
certainly presents us with a few of these qualities, but the majority of it meanders through repetitive song structures, stagnant instrumentals, and monotonous build-ups.
Sigur Ros’ main issues come on the back end of ( )
, because the first half has moments of irrefutable splendor. ‘Untitled 1’ sounds like the end of an ice age, opening with an eerie creaking noise that is reminiscent of something loosening and subsequently expanding over some sort of vast scope. Likewise, ‘Untitled 3’ captures one’s attention with the slow building intensity of its piano notes before fading out like a gentle exhale. Unfortunately, the listener is forced to endure the aimless roaming of the second track in between the aforementioned gems – a nearly eight minute long interruption that proves costly to ( )
’s early sense of flow. The gibberish vocals on ‘Untitled 1’ and ‘Untitled 4’ are actually one of the album’s more pleasant surprises, as they are sung in a made up language signifying nothing yet mirroring the record’s tone quite remarkably. However, outside of the angelic Thom Yorke-like humming, even ‘Untitled 4’ feels a bit redundant. Echoing drums fill up most of the space, surrounded by reverb-drenched guitars and practically nothing else, save a brief chime-like section towards the end that rescues the song from complete futility. Worse yet, these sounds hardly ever vary in tempo or style, making ‘Untitled 4’ feel like an onslaught of the same thing, over and over again. And that is where one of ( )
’s primary weaknesses become painstakingly obvious: the music throughout the whole experience progresses either too slowly to hold one’s interest, or in some cases, not at all.
The second half of ( )
serves as one giant case in point. The first eight minutes of ‘Untitled 5’ is essentially a simple drum beat away from being silence. And then, after the agonizing wait, Sigur Ros presents us with climactic cymbals, airy synthesizers, and heavier drumming that all would have been nice if they had anything to do with the extensive introduction. By the time the song has ended, one is left with the impression that it could have done without at least six of those first eight minutes; that is, if the listener is still paying attention. ‘Untitled 6’ and ‘Untitled 7’ basically follow the same template, although admittedly with slightly more promising results. Both songs are sluggish from the get-go, instrumentally unvaried, and dull in terms of tempo, which results in massive portions of ( )
sounding redundant and overlong. When these songs reach their pinnacle, they sound glorious and majestic…but the set ups preceding them feel, in some cases, entirely unnecessary. It is almost as if Sigur Ros was aiming for a time benchmark, gratuitously extending each song’s length to make the album feel more epic or more like post-rock should. As I previously stated though, there are obvious exceptions (even in the album’s muddled second half) such as ‘Untitled 8’, which rings out with a spacey atmosphere that avoids all of the album’s otherwise abundant pitfalls. Every second of the song contributes something, from the gentle acoustic picking to the shifting tempos in percussion and layered instrumental effects. With the nearly perfect vocals being used as just another instrument, ‘Untitled 8’ eventually erupts into an absolutely glorious climax that only becomes more forceful as the song closes out. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, chilling, and pure? It certainly is…but it also provides a point of reference for what all of ( )
should have been like, sounding off like cries of failed potential for an album that could have landed among the stars.
is a record with its share of amazing moments. While it contains several of the ultimate goals of post-rock – such as hair-raising climaxes and tangible atmospheres, it is also riddled with damning weaknesses like its gradual but boring song development and discord between the climaxes and their prior moments of progression. ( )
may make us feel a wide spectrum of emotions due to its quiet, contemplative nature. However from an instrumental, technical, and songwriting standpoint, the record fails to deliver a consistently good and flowing collection of songs – instead presenting us with shining moments united by nothing but dull, empty space. Thus, ( )
is an album whose title is quite fitting.