wed 29/11/2023

Album: Sigur Rós - ÁTTA | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Sigur Rós - ÁTTA

Album: Sigur Rós - ÁTTA

The Icelanders distil their already intense sound into yet purer variants

It’s easy to take Sigur Rós’s emotive force for granted. So ubiquitous has their 2005 “Hoppípolla” been on everything from talent shows to apocalyptic environmental collapse documentaries to lyrical scenes of birds in flight that it became the archetypal tear-jerking music of the modern era. Everything about the band was designed with weapons-grade effectiveness for omniemotional impact.

Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson’s voice is androgynous, and his made up “Hopelandic” language makes it seem like he’s singing folk songs of all cultures and none – almost as if he’s inhabiting a shared mythic space. The music touches on Radiohead without the awkwardness, the slow-surging post-rock of Mogwai and God Speed You! Black Emperor without the rage-filled noise pinnacles, and the ultra-accessable and equally soundtrack-friendly spirituality of holy minimalists Górecki, Pärt, and Tavener. 

Now, following a 10 year break from their seventh album Keikur, they’re back. And though Jónsi in the meantime has explored everything from radically glitched hyperpop to trad indie to banging trance with megastar producer Tïesto, here Sigur Rós are back to being precisely Sigur Rós, albeit with guitars and drums stripped way back and strings taking the lead. On every track, the orchestra surges in such a perfect way for soundtracking elemental forces that you can almost hear David Attenborough’s voice in your head, then Jónsi’s voice rises up through it to a high note and oh my, all the feels are there. 

There are distinctive moments – the most obviously anthemic track “Klettur” has a trippy little motif where everything seems to glissando at once, and there’s a surging cadence not unlike the chorus of Julee Cruise’s “Falling” that recurs through “Skel”, “Klettur” and “Andrá”. But mainly it is that same magic trick of building from brooding to piercing expressiveness over and over – but that’s fine. Like a Pixar movie, it’s so brutally effective it could feel manipulative, like calcultated button-pushing, but also like a Pixar movie there is a human core here that makes it feel potent and real. Sometimes, when something works it just works, and Sigur Rós have really got to the very core of what they do best here. You could try and be churlish and call it formulaic or commercially minded, but just try putting it on loud and not getting swept up in the bittersweet power of it all.


Listen to "Blóðberg":

Oh my, all the feels are there


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters