Sigur Rós: Takk …

Sigur Rós has always struck me as a band I could probably like, but my exposure to them has always been at inopportune times.

I was under the mistaken impression the band’s third album, () (I like to call it Two Hot Dogs Facing Each Other), would be the kind of subtle ethereal as Wayne Horvitz’s 4+1 Ensemble.

It wasn’t, and I returned the disc to Waterloo Records when I discovered a debilitating scratch on it.

Then I listened to Takk …, and when I heard the driving conclusion of “Glosoli”, I thought, “Huh. Just like mono and Explosions in the Sky”.

Takk … got under my skin, and before I knew it, Sigur Rós had me.

I asked a friend of mine more familiar with the band to contrast Takk … with Aegetis Byrjunn, an album from which Kronos Quartet performs two tracks as encores in their concerts.

He does a better job of describing those albums than I would, so I’ll paraphrase them here.

Aegetis Byrjunn is like looking out at an icy plain and seeing nothing for miles and miles around.

Takk …, on the other hand, is like seeing angels burst in a flash of blinding bright light everywhere.

Picturesque as those descriptions as are, they do a good job of tracking Sigur Rós’ creative development.

Takk … is far more grandiose and beautiful than the previous albums. (And yes, I’ve also grown to like Two Hot Dogs Facing Each Other, but not as much as Aegetis Byrjunn and Takk ….)

Takk … could also be considered the band’s most accessible album thus far.

The orchestral flourishes of “Hoppipolla” feel quite British. The post-rock textures of the aforementioned Explosions in the Sky and mono show up again in the “Saeglopur” and “Milano”, while “Gong” feels busier than anything on their previous albums.

The band still knows how to milk a lot of music from sparse material, and the concluding track, “Heysatan”, makes particuarly effective use of silence.

Singer Jónsi Birgisson puts his falsetto to work on this album, and its constant use may put off some listeners. If someone were to make An Orchestral Tribute to Takk …, replacing Birgisson’s part with a boy soprano may work well.

Takk … is not circumspect about offering blatantly beautiful music. It doesn’t hide the delicacy of its melodies, nor does it gloss over the brutalness of its harsher moments. It doesn’t obfuscate with dissonance nor compensate with prettiness.

It’s not shy about its ambition either.

Takk … is so far the best entry point into the aural world of Sigur Rós. When you’ve taken that step, the others follow easily.