Review Summary: "But outside, a face looms at the window." Sleep tight, my child.
When I was young my mother would sing German lullabies to me; not all the time, mostly just when I was sick or upset, but those are memories that stay with you as you grow older. And while I never understood what she was singing (having been brought up in an English-speaking household) the words were strangely comforting. Their foreignness engrossed me more than anything else, that alien quality to language you are unfamiliar with captivating me to such an extent that my eyes would eventually just shut and I would drift off into a peaceful sleep.
Those moments of weakness, of frailty, are the moments when we need guidance and support most. As nothing but a helpless child, this came in the form of my mother’s singing. Twenty-odd years later, my attention turned to lullabies of a different kind. Sigur Rós’ dark, emotional rendition of traditional Icelandic lullaby “Bium bium bambalo” would mesmerize me in a way very few songs have before or since. Jónsi was the mother of my haunted soul, gently singing me to sleep as I struggled to come to terms with a period of change in my life. Lying there in the darkness night after night, staring at the ceiling and thinking too much, Sigur Rós changed my perception of what music could be and what it could do for someone. This humble EP meant more to me than a lot of other music at the time and it still holds a special place in my heart for its incomparable sincerity.
And while “Bium bium bambalo” was really at the crux of the Ný batteri
EP, I couldn’t imagine hearing it without “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” coming afterwards. The latter is Sigur Rós’ version of a song played on Icelandic radio as a theme for death and funeral announcements and it provided a fitting epilogue to my misery. And of course there’s the title track. One of the band’s most majestic pieces, and even more so when combined with the extended introduction of “Rafmagnið búið,” “Ný batteri” builds slowly towards its epic climax featuring the famous bent cymbal the band found on a street in Reykjavik. This is among the bleakest and most desperate Sigur Rós songs, although in a way that was very unique to the Ágætis byrjun
album as a whole. It maintains the mystical aura that made that album such a classic, yet a simple translation of the lyrics reveals a much more human side than one might have thought possible of the group’s otherworldly music.
It’s not often that music speaks in the same way this relatively overlooked release does and perhaps it is entirely due to my own personal experience with it. For that, I am forced to admit that it is probably not perfect. But I can’t see it any other way and so all I can say is thank you Sigur Rós. Thank you for saving my life.