Top positive review
Beautiful and sweeping
on April 22, 2004
Experimental Icelandic band Sigur Rós reached exceptional heights with "Agaetis Byrjun," a fluidly mellow album. Music both cool and beautiful is warmed by Jon Por Birgisson's falsetto vocals and some majestic instrumentation -- and the result is staggeringly lovely.
The peak of the album is the slow, sparkling, sweeping "Svefn-G-Englar." When listening to the eerie mixture of organ, strings and chimes, think about the northern lights over a glacier. But Sigur Rós has more than just soundscapes: the orchestral majesty of "Staralfur," the ethereal music-box acoustics of "Agaetis Byrjun," and the gentle piano and swelling strings of "Vidrar vel til loftarasa."
It's hardly surprising that Sigur Rós is the biggest band in Ireland -- their music is ethereal, accessible, and so atmospheric that it's hard not to be swept away. There's a certain epic quality to their songs; what's more, they can can slowly switch from spine-tinglingly eerie to angelic ethereality.
It takes real effort to pick apart the seamless music at times. It almost feels wrong to do so. But the sweeping strings, organ and electric piano are standouts in "Agaetis Byrjun." Most uniquely, there are music-scapes created without synths. Instead, there is an electric guitar played by a cello bow -- a unique bit of brilliance.
Icelandic singers are going to sing in Icelandic, right? Wrong. Frontman Jon Por Birgisson sings in a sort of made-up language the band calls "Hopelandic." There's no discernable meaning, but Birgisson's high-pitched, melodious crooning banishes any real need for lyrics that mean something. His voice is just another instrument, like the piano or violin.
Imagine a cool, starry night with a cold breeze blowing through the trees -- that's Sigur Rós. Angelic and ethereal, "Agaetis Byrjun" is a rare musical experience without a single dud song.