Sigur Ros - Hvarf/Heim
Hvarf/Heim (XL Recordings, 2007)
Download: Sigur Ros - "I Gaer"
Download: Sigur Ros - "Hljomalind"
With the onslaught of highly anticipated albums being released this year (Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Björk, to name just a few), there's something to be said for the many die-hard fans waiting in the wings for one of 2007's last big releases, Sigur Rós’ Hvarf/Heim. It’s been two years since Takk, an album that was adored by fans and critics alike. This latest two-disc album is comprised of unreleased recordings and new live versions of older songs, like "Starálfur," a song that listeners may recognize from its use in The Life Aquatic. Whether or not this album is all “new material,” is one thing. But the listening experience is, in and of itself new, and as always with Sigur Rós, ethereal. Would one expect anything less here?
Hvarf takes off with "Salka", a dreamy, entrancing song that echoes older works, like "Njósnavélin" from 2002’s ( ). Drums are teased with wire brushes, soaring vocals from Jónsi Birgisson lead into an explosion for the senses that becomes something larger than life, larger than a song – it’s a sensory experience.
Other songs off this first disc like "I Gaer" change the album’s mood completely, from peaceful bliss to haunted dreams and explosive sounds. "I Gaer" could double as music for a Tim Burton film as it begins with an eerie little melody, sounding like a xylophone buried in ice, creeping its way into song.
The song eventually gives way to a fierce and strong buildup with bellowing guitars and dramatic drumbeats with a musical build one would expect from the likes of Roger Waters. It’s something a little futuristic and perhaps loud for Sigur Rós, slightly steering away from their trance-inducing slower stuff. It's a strange step for them to take given the fact that it’s not technically a new album. For those familiar with Sigur Ros' music, it may sound a bit like these guys are itching to get some band new material out there.
The acoustic live tracks come off well on Heim, where each song was recorded in a different natural landscape: near water, fjords, and in valleys. Classic tunes such as "Ágætis Byrjun" are brought into a different light, maintaining it’s composure while adding the rawness of live music to its composure. Both discs give a little something to everyone, with a little bit of new stuff, along with tempered classics.
To enhance the auditory experience of Sigur Rós’ even further, they have also released a film, titled Heima (meaning “at home”), giving fans a visual to coincide with their music, set appropriately in their homeland of Iceland. If one didn’t already have images of crackling white glaciers, deep purple skies and epic green fields in their heads while listening to this band, there’s no escaping it now. It’s a documentary of sorts, but is mainly focused on the music, and where their visual inspiration comes from.
A trailer for Heima (which will be released on DVD next week) can be found on Sigur Rós’ MySpace Page as well as a few tracks from Hvarf.