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01.03 Sigur Ros: Speaking perfectly without words

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How do you put into words an album that purposely sets out to communicate without understandable language?

Sigur Ros, the unconventional quartet from Iceland, has managed to speak in tongues that none of their listeners will understand. All of the lyrics on their second release, ( ) (that’s two empty parenthesis), consist of entirely made up words.

Getting rid of word content is nothing new for Sigur Ros. Traditionally the band has stuck to creating landscape pieces. To say that the result brings to mind the band’s northern homeland is almost trite. Slippery and sharp noises set an icy stage while sporadic bursts from the drum-kit are like blasts of steam providing some warmth. Sure, it all sounds a bit flowery when put into words like this — but that is Sigur Ros’ aim: to make a piece of music the defies language, but melts perfectly into your feeling.

Something happens when listening to ( ). You do not understand the words — nobody does – but somehow you can relate to them. At some points you may think that you are hearing familiar words. At other points you maybe find some meaning in the nonsensical sounds. In this uncertainty is the essence of the record — the unknown – which is evident from the first calm step on the untitled opening track to the releasing crescendo on the untitled closing track. In fact, all of the eight songs are untitled, as the entire album is one large panorama that just does not work if any part is omitted.

Unlike other bands adept at making abstract landscape albums like Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Mogwai, Sigur Ros are able to avoid a certain amount of pretentiousness and artificiality. What the Icelanders dodge are delusions of grandeur and an overindulgence in noise. The result is a personal, well-crafted album.

It is easy to make this release one’s own personal album. ( ) seems to have been made for the solitary times in the dark. Playing it on a long car ride or while lounging in your own dimly-lit room is conducive to pushing your mind to wandering. Even if you do not know exactly what is being said here, and even if the album is hard to describe — it is undeniable that you can feel what Sigur Ros is trying to tell you without words. And that is the point.

To say that the result brings to mind the band’s northern homeland is almost trite. Slippery and sharp noises set an icy stage while sporadic bursts from the drumkit are like blasts of steam providing some warmth.

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