Sigur Rós

    {grate 3.5}

    Iceland. Images of vikings, frost-bitten tundras and Bjork
    come to mind. No one is more befitting to provide the soundtrack to this
    strange land mass, full of even stranger people, than Iceland’s most beloved
    sons, Sigur Rós: Their lush cello-bow-on-guitar swells and frontman Jon
    Birgisson’s hauntingly feminine falsetto embody the mystery of their homeland,
    where the majority of inhabitants believe in elves and the majority of the
    landscape is volcanic wasteland.

    The quartet’s new double-disc features previously unreleased
    gems and live sets, complemented by the DVD “Heima”, which contains both a
    documentary and live footage of the band’s Icelandic tour in summer 2006. The
    two albums are treated separately, each with its own fuzzy cover art (disc two
    pictured above), but work together in creating a unified feeling of homecoming,
    digging into the band’s pre-breakout catalogue — before any studio heads forced
    them to record a track for recording’s sake — for an organic, untreated
    intimacy, as if one would normally hear these ethereal verses resonating from
    the cliffs of Reykjavik.

    Hvarf (“disappearance”) boasts five studio rarities pulled
    from the furthest back-pages, including a 1995 demo of “Von.” Heim (“home”) is
    the unplugged half of the whole, with six acoustic tracks that still manage to
    give off the bravado and grandiosity of their studio counterparts — if
    anything, even more so. Birgisson sits on the floor, bow drawn, causing the
    instrument to sing in a falsetto not unlike his own (even more bonechilling
    when stripped of atmospherics). As if by accident, his microphone picks up the
    birds singing outside and the soft pitter-patter of rain.

    Sigur Rós’ latest island-spanning lullabies dip as low as
    the fjords and as long as a Nordic winter, but even when out on the
    northernmost tip of nowhere, we still feel strangely warm and peaceful inside
    because we know we’re home again.

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