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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Sigur Rs
Me su eyrum vi spilum endalaust

Rating: 9.5/10 ?

June 25, 2008
As John Morley, a 19th century English journalist, biographer, and statesman eloquently stated, "Evolution is not a force but a process." In almost any instance, barring context, evolution can be seen as the progression of something, which involves a litany of factors impacting that progression, or lack thereof, taking place in a particular stimulus. For bands, this process can be dangerous, arduous, and extremely taxing on the cohesion of member musicians. On the outside, evolving too quickly or slowly, or even remaining stagnant, may alienate a large segment of the fan base. Thus, judging acceptable increments in which to evolve organically, without putting off listeners, remains one of the most daunting tasks for many performers.

The evolution dilemma holds especially true for the Icelanders of Sigur Rs, as every new release by the band makes for an increasingly difficult pairing against - living up to and evolving from - the dexterously composed releases that came before it. However, the band's latest release, Me su eyrum vi spilum endalaust, not only adds to an already impressive body of work, but on many levels transcends the boundaries of its predecessors. The English title of the album translates as: 'with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly'. There couldn't be a more fitting title for the quartet (JnThor Birgisson, Georg Holm, Kjartan Sveinsson, and Orri Pll Drason), who have dominated the post-rock atmospheric scene for almost a decade now, since their 1999 release of gtis Byrjun.

This LP certainly resembles Sigur Rs, but envelops a surprisingly refreshing mood; evident from the start is an evolution in the band's style. The locus of Me su eyrum vi spilum endalaust is remarkably different than of previous outings in form, composition, and overall temperament. The music is said to be inspired by the band's trek across Iceland last summer, playing free shows for their compatriots at smaller, more intimate venues. This cross-country exploration led to a critically acclaimed DVD, Heima, and a double disc of music, Heim-Hvarf. The first disc of that pair was composed of previously unreleased music, while the second disc was recycled material the band had recorded acoustically. The journey allowed the band to interact with their native people, and understand and appreciate their country on a deeper level than before, and the trip across their homeland proved instrumental in the evolution their music.

Said to be inspired by the making of Heima, this amalgamation of music was the first disc to be constructed outside of Iceland, as the band also recorded in London, New York City, and Havana, Cuba. The energy of these bustling, cosmopolitan cities is certainly evident throughout many of the tracks, especially "Gobbledigook," "Inn mr syngur vitleysingur," and "Vi spilum endalaust." The first track in all of the band's discography sung in English is on this album as well.

The band's lighter side is evident on the release of their first single and accompanying video from the album, "Gobbledigook." The video displays people frolicking naked through fields exploring a lush, remote countryside. The rhythm of the drums and catchy acoustic guitar combine to create light, enjoyable sounds to commence the disc. This playful and airy mindset is evident throughout much of the first half of the album.

The fifth track, "Festival," is without a doubt the pinnacle of the album. The track begins with Birgisson's forlorn yet encapsulating voice, with some accompanying light strings (provided by their musical partners Amiina). When Birgisson's voice dissipates and the bold combination of bass and drums interject, it is obvious where the song is headed, but not immediately gratifying; the beat teases the listener for a while, practically putting them in a trance. Finally, around the middle of the seventh minute, the track explodes into an all-out 'festival' of sorts with captivating horns, strings, guitars, and drums. A brazen number, "Festival" illustriously demonstrates why Sigur Rs are one of - perhaps the - most talented band around, experts at building up tracks and then exploding them into utterly enchanting symphonic heights.

Another impressive track is "ra btur," which was recorded live, in one take, with the London Sinfonietta and London Oratory Boy's Choir. With nearly 100 people performing at once, it is by far the band's most immense musical undertaking, and once again displays their inherent gift of transforming quiet, somewhat lonely songs into triumphant and captivating epics.

The second half of the album forgoes the playful nature of the first, but is otherwise unrelenting; the spirited, upbeat music is replaced by more technical, manicured and classical-leaning tracks. It's packed with the kind of slower, less overtly dynamic songs that many Sigur Rs fans may initially pass over, but come to fully enjoy with more spins. On past albums such as gtis Byrjun and Takk, such songs were interwoven with the faster, more uplifting numbers, but here they tend to congregate at the tail-end. The end effect frontloads the upbeat mood of the album quite a bit, but ultimately doesn't take away from the experience of the work as a whole.

No contemporary band combines classical instrumentation and post-modern rock better than Sigur Rs, and Me su eyrum vi spilum endalaust is no exception. The album is a classic from start to finish, and only adds to the already monumentally impressive discography the band has produced in the past decade.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones



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