ALBUM: Sigur Rós’ Valtari
Yesterday was a big day for music as not only did Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros release their second album, Here, but Icelandic ambient post-rock group, Sigur Rós released their sixth studio album, Valtari. While one could go on and on about how incredible this album is, sampling Sigur Rós’ classic style while simultaneously managing to be different from anything that they have produced before, I will keep it simple.
The album’s title, Valtari, is the Icelandic word for ‘steamroller,’ which is certainly fitting as the album is a gentle, mechanical Goliath that will roll over anything in its path, flattening any who listen to it with its heavy emotions and powerful simplicity. As lead singer, Jónsi Birgisson said in an interview with Q Magazine, “the music kind of just rolls over you. In a good way.” It is different from many of the other albums because, instead of using overwhelming instrumentals and pulsing drumbeats, instead of exultant lyrics and joy-rendering melodies, Valtari moves slow and utilizes the subtle power of silence to drive home its’ beauty.
The one track that I will speak of is second track of the album,entitled “Ekki múkk,” which is also their first single from the album, as well as the song featured in the first music video to come from Valtari. In the title to the YouTube video the poster added a parenthetical that claimed the video was ‘moving art.’ As you will see, even though “Ekki múkk” translates to ‘Not Seagull,’ the caption of ‘moving art’ is more than appropriate. For me this video describes the feel of Valtari almost as well as the concept of the steamroller does. It is simple. Elegant. Minimalistic. And beautiful. It is filtered and fantastical, yet somehow real. It is a dream and an experience even though nothing of any consequence happens. When listening to Valtari we are taken somewhere, but we float there slowly, without any haste or anxiety. We allow the waves, the music, the steamroller to envelop and roll over us. And thus Sigur Rós finds yet another way to elucidate from their listeners swelling emotions and tremulous shivers without having to resort to heavy drum beats, poppy melodies, or even the incredible symphonies of their past albums.
To sum things up, perhaps the best person to turn to is the bassist of the band, Georg Hólm, whose words are proudly emblazoned on the band’s website: “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.”
There you have it. Even the band members love to listen to their own music, which as many musicians will tell you, is not a common thing.