Sigur Ros Return With New Album
The first track from Valtari, entitled "Ekki Múkk," is now streaming on the band's website – www.sigurros.com. Valtari will be released on double LP, CD and digital download. Valtari is Sigur Rós's first studio album since 2008's acclaimed Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, marking the end of their indefinite hiatus. It is either the album they always wanted to make, or the album they almost didn't make, depending on how you look at it.
Taken together, the eight songs on this 54-minute album feel like an alternative musical path the band didn't take after 2002's untitled ( ) album. Frequently bereft of formal structures, and for large stretches of time more atmospheres than songs, the work – which the band has described as sounding "like an avalanche in slow motion" – offers a counterpoint to Sigur Rós's steady yet unconscious migration towards public acceptance.
In English, Valtari translates as "steamroller," and there is something right about the title in terms of the process of its creation. In 2011, the band, alongside mixer Alex Somers, started the painstaking forensic task of piecing together a cohesive and magical work from disparate constituent parts. If this sounds unromantic, the results are anything but. Something alchemical occurs when the four members of Sigur Rós are in the room together, and while Valtari is a more "studio based" album than any of its predecessors (which usually start life as rehearsal room jams), the long hours of experimentation and unsentimental editing have yielded incredible results.
Certain songs on the album have roots in earlier times. "Dauðalogn" and "Varðeldur" emerged out of sessions on the back of Takk… but the choral ideas behind them stem from as far back as 2002 and an orchestral collaboration with the 16 Choir; 2009 sessions in the wake of the last album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, threw up some individually beautiful moments - of which three, "Rembihnútur," "Fjögur piano," and "Valtari" live here - but it was hard to draw a line between them, and the band found focusing on such elusive music hard to do for any sustained period.
And so, they essentially put the record on hold. In 2010, singer Jónsi went off to make, and then tour, his expansive, critically-acclaimed solo album Go, while keyboardist Kjartan spent time on his classically-inclined, unreleased work, 'Credo'. Time slipped by. But then a film scoring opportunity led to the creation of the towering and majestic "Varúð," arguably the record's centerpiece; and shortly thereafter, scouting around for a closing credit song for last year's live film, Inni, the band unearthed "Lúppulagið," which in its reworked choral form is here titled "Varðeldur," one of the album's most understated and elegant songs. And slowly, what had seemed like a collection of isolated-but-interesting recordings, for the first time felt like the viable way towards a strangely cohesive body of work.
But the process of making Valtari, and the powerfully pleasing end results, are perhaps best described by bassist Georg Holm: "I really can't remember why we started this record, I no longer know what we were trying to do back then. I do know session after session went pear-shaped, we lost focus and almost gave up...did give up for a while. But then something happened and form started to emerge, and now I can honestly say that it's the only Sigur Rós record I have listened to for pleasure in my own house after we've finished it."
Sigur Rós are: Jón Þór Birgisson (vocals, guitar), Georg Holm (bass), Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards/piano), Orri Páll Dýrason (drums). Valtari was recorded by the band at Sundlaugin Studio, Mosfellbaer, Iceland.
Valtari track listing:
1. Ég anda.
2. Ekki múkk.
8. Fjögur píanó.