The beauty of the Icelandic soundscapes that Sigur Ros has created over the past nine years reaches a majestic summit on their new album Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust. The album’s title, loosely translated to mean “with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly”, is an introduction to the kind of out of the box thinking that goes into listening to their music. Most of the songs are sung in a made up language singer Jon Thor Birgisson calls “hopelandic” and use his voice as an instrument rather than a purveyor of lyrical meaning. His choir boy falsetto soars over piano and guitar accompaniment that surges toward slow building climaxes that take your breath away.
The first two songs “Gobbledigook” and "Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur" are experimental departures for Sigur Ros, the closest they have come to pop music and act as headlights shining into the rest of the album’s dark and epic musical journeys. Each instrument, from glockenspiel and bowed electric guitar to the tribal drums and crisp clean strings arrangements are more clearly defined than the wash of reverb characterizing their first four albums, still fragile but more confident. "Ára Bátur" involves over 90 musicians including the London Sinfonietta and London Oratory Boy’s Choir that begins with a simple piano and ends in a cinematic crescendo of sound. The fact that it was recorded in one take with no overdubbing only adds to its grandeur.
The final song “All Alright” is the first English language song in Sigur Ros’ catalogue but Birgisson’s singing is almost as indecipherable any of his lyrics. That’s the point; that music can take you to places you’ve never been whether coming from the western world, Iceland or a spaceship a million light years away.
Listen for songs from the album Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust by Sigur Ros all this week on Paul Shugrue’s new music show “Out of the Box” on Hampton Roads public radio 89.5 WHRV Mon. through Thurs. from 7 to 9 p.m., Sat. afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. and on-demand at www.whrv.org/outofthebox.