Sigur Ros
Valtari


3.0
good

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
May 29th, 2012 | 297 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Twinkle, twinkle... blah blah blah.

For the longest time, I didn't know how to write about Valtari; I would hazard a guess that I'm still going to struggle. At this point in Sigur Rós' career, we know a lot before we even listen. We know that, at some juncture, we will wake (either literally or figuratively) to find ourselves surrounded by a wall of strings and pianos, with Jónsi Birgisson's angelic falsetto stirring somewhere above or below. We know that we won't be engaging in any sing-alongs, barring crude interpretations of the invented language Hopelandic ("Untitled 1"'s 'she sat alone', I recall). And we know we will emerge, at the end of it all, in a relaxed but somewhat intoxicated frame of mind.

And so the question, on discovering Valtari's decidedly ambient nature - light to say the least on percussion, and meandering through tremolos rather aimlessly at points - seems to be: what do we say when that's all there is to say? Valtari is in some ways a brave record, for its emptiness and the way it is content to just move from one haunting melody to another, slightly familiar one. But in the context of Sigur Rós' discography, what can it do to counter ( ), an album which seems like Valtari with far more actual ideas? While "Untitled 3"'s piano states its case emotionally, even Valtari's best track, "Varúð", just sits and listens stoically.

There are factors to Valtari that separate it sonically, albeit by inches as opposed to miles. To say that the brakes are on in the aftermath of Jónsi's hyperactive Go would be an understatement of the highest order, and tracks like "Ekki múkk" feel like some of the coldest material Sigur Rós have ever recorded. And the comparative looseness of this album is refreshing; it floats through a heavy atmosphere with a beauty reminiscent of the band's best moments, sounding both helpless and commanding in the same moment. That's something Sigur Rós have unequivocally mastered.

And yet, and yet, and yet... something is missing. What exactly is the title-track? In the realm of Sigur Rós, it's akin to breathing plain fresh air: in some contexts, refreshing, but in others, just... there. And beautifully there, sure, these chords and these twinkles, but so what? In the midst of "Varúð"'s heavenly climax, we're ready to declare Valtari an unmitigated success, so my question is this: where does it all disappear to? A record of crescendos like that one would grate far more than Valtari does, but that doesn't make "songs" like "Varðeldur" anything more than a series of nice-sounding drones.

Sigur Rós are capable of making us feel chills, and they're capable of making us feel calm. Would we be happy with Valtari 2, next time out? There is brilliance in this album, for sure, in the way it bides its time and, well, it certainly doesn't rush to any conclusions. But the way it's constructed doesn't make it feel sorrowful or desperate like Stars of the Lid's incredible Refinement of the Decline. It has a few absolutely stunning moments, and a lot of absent ones. Most of these passages don't stab anywhere close to the heart, let alone evoke the sort of passion this band is capable of. I can be okay with that - I just can't be much more.



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user ratings (648)
Chart.
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
chambered49
May 29th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i like this a lot more than on first listen, nice review man

Xenophanes
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


10614 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Yay this is more in line with my thoughts than the rest of the community ergo it pleases me.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Knott-
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So do I. I dare say I'll probably give it a spin every now and then, too. But I still can't bring myself to feel like it's anywhere near their best work.

MagmaWalrus
May 29th 2012


243 Comments


Sounds like I'll enjoy this as long as I know what to expect. Great review, and summary.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 29th 2012


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I agree with this review.

Eko
May 29th 2012


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Refinement of the Decline makes you feel pained and desperate?

Knott-
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Those are the words I used!

minty901
May 29th 2012


2067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can't wait to get through this band's discog and discover where i fall on this album. so far i'm not yet familiar enough with their earlier stuff to want to give this a go just yet. haven't even listened to ( ). though i have bought it.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 29th 2012


7360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually agree with pretty much everything you've written here - particularly with the way that album shifts course after Varúð, but for some reason I still find myself really enjoying it. That fact that it doesn't really come close to Ageatis Byrjun, ( ) and Takk... only emphasises to me how good those records are.

Amazing review as per.

Eko
May 29th 2012


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

pretty sure this will be at least a 3.5 for me but it's too soon to tell for sure

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 29th 2012


23909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good review but booooo

and you take back what you said about Refinement RIGHT NOW

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

Tyrael
May 29th 2012


20900 Comments


Did I tell you you're my hero Adam

Ponton
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


5803 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

great read, you and me think as one

think ill throw Varúð on the end of my copy of med si i eyrum... and just call it a classic

Xenophanes
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


10614 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

haha, yeah that and 6th track are really great.

Knott-
Emeritus
May 29th 2012


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I can kiss away the pain.

In case people are reading it wrong (or it was ambiguous... I didn't think so but I can't tell...) I love Refinement...

haha good idea Jared

minty901
May 29th 2012


2067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is refinement worth the cost of admission?

ILJ
May 29th 2012


6709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Awesome review

Finally listening to this now. I like it quite a bit.

Acanthus
May 29th 2012


9543 Comments


A really nice review sir, don't enjoy the band myself but twas a fun read.

Digging: The Knife - Deep Cuts

Sanders
May 29th 2012


2353 Comments


Varúð is easily the best track on here

ForgiverForgetter
May 29th 2012


36 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The Minutemen reference made me pos


or it would if you weren't staff



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