I’d read plenty about this band before I actually heard any of their music. Pitchfork raved about them. The Godspeed You Black Emperor! mailing list couldn’t go for more than 5 posts without their name popping up. And a visit to their website revealed they had enough press accolades for 10 bands. At first, I might have had a bit of skepticism. However, I am here to say that Sigur Rós lives up to everything you’ve ever read or heard about them.
The EP begins with “Rafmagníd Búíd,” a haunting piece of breathy trumpets and flowing bassline that doesn’t sound too dissimilar from the Cocteau Twins’ Victorialand album. It’s beautiful in the way that the sun slowly rising over arctic lands after months of darkness might be beautiful. The song morphs into the title track, and the most gorgeous element of Sigur Rós’ music — the voice of Jónsi Birgisson — reveals itself. His voice careens and soars, out-Thom Yorke-ing Thom Yorke, and even approaching Liz Frazier territory. One minute it’s fragile, threatening to break and shatter, the next something visceral and gutwrenching as the music writhes and flows around it.
The third song, “Bíum Bíum Bambaló,” is a slow and somber track of droning guitar and echoing percussion. Jónsi’s voice hovers over it all, spinning out words in Icelandic and the band’s own made-up language “Hopelandic,” which is also reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins’ singing in tongues. This track gives way to “Dánarfregnir Og Jaroarfarir,” which wraps up the EP in an organ-drenched psych-rock cacophony à la Godspeed You Black Emperor! crossed with a church organ.
On their website, Sigur Rós claims that their goal is to change music forever. Such bombastic claims aside, there’s no denying that “Ny Batterí” contains more drama and power than most bands pack into an entire catalog. Surprisingly, the pundits on the Godspeed You Black Emperor! mailing list claim this is the band’s worst material. If this is the band’s worst material, than I can only dream of what their best material might be, because this music sounds nearly perfect to these ears.
Snatch up this EP and wait for the rest of their catalog to be released outside of Iceland through FatCat Records (or plunk down beaucoup bucks for the imports). Either way, I have a feeling your patience (or your hard-earned money) will be handsomely rewarded.