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They are the ultimate life-is-a-movie soundtrack, perfect for self-mythologizing and elevating the humdrum ho-hum of the ’burbs and the boonies into the stuff of half-speed-shutter-flutter-partial-exposure existential
Peter Murphy, 18 Nov 2002
So here’s the deal. You make one of the most luminous albums of the epoch. You send it off into the icy waters like a little origami Marie Celeste, and slowly, slowly over the next year, watch it make its way down the tributaries and feed-streams of the culture, ending up seeping through the cracks in Vanilla Sky, or soundtracking mistreated children in MTV ad-appeals. Your little vessel is feted and showered in champagne and doused in rose petals and even receives fan mail from Lars Ulrich.
Then it’s time to make a bigger boat. So what do you do?
Well, you design a longer but more streamlined version of the original vessel, one devoid of tremolo pedals or niggling indie references. Except this time you don’t even name it.
The group’s third record is made up mostly of material developed live, recorded at home in Iceland, mixed in Real World, Bath. It has no title. Nor do any of the tracks. Which must’ve made for a hell of a lot of confusion at playback time:
“Cue the one with the e-bow there, willya?”
“Which one with the e-bow?”
“You know, the eight minute one sung in Hopelandic.”
“Which eight minute one sung in Hopelandic?”
You get my drift (oops, sorry – inadvertent arctic reference).
Excuse the flippancy. It’s just that, despite the almost overwhelming beauty of Sigur Ros’s sound, I sometimes get queasy around the tug-forelock reverence with which the band and their elk – dammit, ilk – Low and Mogwai and Godspeed are treated. I do adore them, but the chin-stroking Whispering Bob aspect of the beyond-thunder-drone fraternity can distract from the true blue beauty of a band like the Ros’s celestial twinklings.
Having said all that, the basic allure of SR is that when you put them on the headphones, they can make drizzly Dublin look like Wim Wenders’ Berlin, or your local Centra vendor come on like a young Jeanne Moreau. They are the ultimate life-is-a-movie soundtrack, perfect for self-mythologizing and elevating the humdrum ho-hum of the ’burbs and the boonies into the stuff of half-speed-shutter-flutter-partial-exposure existential (or for those perennially half in love with easeful death, exit-stential) ennui overload.
Consequently, if you play this album at the right/wrong moment, it’ll probably make you break down and weep with the gentle intensity of it all.
This nameless little opus is a thing of brittle, starry beauty.