Sigur Rós will return their sixth studio album, Valtari, on 28th May. The first track from Valtari, entitled “Ekki Múkk”, is now streaming on the band’s website – www.sigurros.com. Valtari will be released on double LP, CD and digital download.
Valtari is Sigur Ros’ first studio album since 2008’s acclaimed Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, marking the end of their indefinite hiatus. It is either the album they always wanted to make, or the album they almost didn’t make, depending on how you look at it.
Taken together, the eight songs on this 54 minute album feel like an alternative musical path the band didn’t take after 2002’s untitled ( ) album. Bereft of formal structures, and for large stretches of time more atmospheric than songs, the work – which the band have described as sounding “like an avalanche in slow motion” – offer a counterpoint to Sigur Rós’ steady yet unconscious migration towards public acceptance (either via ‘sound-bed’ ubiquity or use as emotional shorthand in this or that movie.)
In English, Valtari translates as “steamroller,” and there is something right about the title in terms of the process of its creation. In 2011, the band, alongside mixer Alex Somers, started the painstaking forensic task of piecing together a cohesive and magical work from disparate constituent parts. If this sounds unromantic, the results are anything but. Something alchemical occurs when the four members of Sigur Rós are in the room together, and while Valtari is a more “studio based” album than any of its predecessors (which usually start life as rehearsal room jams), the long hours of experimentation and unsentimental editing have yielded incredible results.
Certain songs on the album have roots in earlier times. Dauðalogn and Varðeldur emerged out of thr sessions on the back of Takk, but the choral ideas behind them stem from as far back as 2002 and an orchestral collaboration with the 16 Choir; 2009 sessions in the wake of the last album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, threw up some individually beautiful moments – of which three, “Rembihnútur,” “Fjögur piano,” and “Valtari,” live here – but it was hard to draw a line between them, and the band found focusing on such elusive music hard to do for any sustained period.
And so, they essentially put the record down. In 2010, singer/guitarist Jónsi went off to make, and then tour, his expansive, critically-acclaimed solo album Go, while keyboardist/arranger Kjartan spent time on his classically-inclined, unreleased work, “Credo.” Time slipped by. But then a film scoring opportunity led to the creation of the towering and majestic “Varúð,” arguably the record’s centerpiece; and then the editing process for the band’s first live album, Inni, released last year, led to the unearthing of “Lúppulagið” (here retitled “Varðeldur”) one of the album’s most understated and elegant songs. And slowly, what had once seemed out-of-context and isolated recordings, for the first time seemed like the viable way forward towards a powerful and cohesive body of work.
Sigur Rós is: Jón Thor Birgisson (vocals, guitar), Georg Holm (bass), Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards/piano), Orri Páll Dýrason (drums). Valtari was recorded by the band at Sundlaugin, Iceland
Valtari track listing:
1. Ég anda.
2. Ekki múkk.
8. Fjögur píanó.