Sigur Rós pulverise emotions

With the Icelandic spellbinders set to tour the U.S., this list unearths their overlooked heights of musicality.

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Maxwell Heilman, Writer

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Icelandic post-rock giants Sigur Rós come to Los Angeles on Sept. 24, 2016 at the Hollywood Bowl. If the mere mention of their impending tour is not cause for excitement, perhaps these lesser-known tracks chosen from this band’s storied discography will shed light on their importance to modern music, and why their return to this continent after three years is indispensably noteworthy.

Hún Jörð

Taken from a hashed-out time in the band’s career, this track exemplifies Sigur Rós in their primal form. It is essentially a shoegaze song. Strikingly thick bass and guitar cascading over rolling drum beats and noisy synthesizers make this song less forgiving to uninitiated listeners. Even the vocals, while having foundational aspects of what was to come, have a distorted quality absent in subsequent outings.

Í Gær

This is arguably the heaviest track Sigur Rós has ever released. Doing away with panoramic crescendos, this song jumps from delicate vibraphone chimes to harrowing post-metal strains in one beat. No sooner has this glacial riff scrambled one’s brain when the song drops into dissonant swells. Juxtaposing two time signatures, this song seamlessly flows in and out of feels and dynamics. It is much less friendly than what might be expected from Sigur Rós, and a wonderful example of their more abrasive side.

Untitled 7

Alternately called “Dauðalagið,”  this track makes it clear as to why Sigur Rós is so well-respected in the post-rock community. Fat bass notes and droning vocals are slowly complemented by layers of guitar and synth, concluding in overwhelming heights. The drums stand out as the driving force of the song, bringing its dynamic variety into the spotlight. The vocals also take an intimately raw quality, which can be most obviously heard in the final notes of the song, when Jónsi’s voice audibly quivers with emotion. These 13 minutes beautifully encapsulate the band’s emotional grandeur.

Andavari

Sigur Rós masterfully implement strange counter-rhythms as a backbone for a 27-beat long melody, using the complicated platform as a doorway into mind-altering sounds. Neither the melody nor the rhythm sound terribly complicated at face value. Their oddball nature serves as a vehicle for something entirely unique. Jónsi’s voice guides the listener through an ever-evolving time signature before the song collapses into somber strings, making a hidden gem on a truly sublime album.

Svefn – G – Englar

For many fans, this offered the first glimpse into the transcendent sound Sigur Rós would develop. It sports a hypnotically loose groove that moves the song forward through alien soundscapes and colossal guitar chords. This song stays impossibly weighty while maintaining an affinity for the tranquil and experimental — as exemplified in the concluding passage, in which heartbeats build upon one another into a startlingly syncopated rhythm. This is the earliest example of the band blending together in the cavalcade of passion and tranquility they would become renowned for.

Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do

Although this is technically an EP, it can only be properly appreciated in its entirety. These three soothingly minimalistic ambient pieces were arranged for a dance choreographed by Merce Cunningham. Featuring only a music box, synthesizers and sparse piano, none of Jónsi’s distinctive singing is present. In fact, the final track’s vocal drones only use the words in the EP’s title. The most incredible aspect of this EP is realized when one plays all three tracks simultaneously, forming a singular masterpiece of modern experimental music.

The cinematic beauty of Sigur Rós’s music cannot be overstated, and their contributions to the current musical landscape will be treasured for years to come. Tickets for their North American concerts are selling fast, so head over to their website for an opportunity to experience their majesty for yourself.

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Sigur Rós pulverise emotions