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cmj (ágætis byrjun)

sometime during the late '80s, england's 4ad label must've made its way to reykjavik, dumped off a pile of its best stuff -- cocteau twins, this mortal coil, maybe even a slowdive melody or two borrowed from cousin label creation -- then left it to chill in the ice for a decade and a half. when this crystalline tangle finally began to thaw, sigur rós emerged, clearly born from the deep-freeze-melding of these dream-pop aestheticists, but perhaps influenced in greater measure by the melancholic glow of an icelandic sunrise. it's that kind of deep, almost primordial beauty that cloaks ágætis byrjun like a wet, silvery fog. led by jon pór birgisson's airy, almost genderless (and often wordless) moan, sigur rós deploys its somber lullabies with symphonic grandeur, stretching out its arching melodies, building tonal and emotional colors around them, and eventually conceding to a perfectly timed fade to black. it doesn't get much more sublime than this.

(colin helms)



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