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rolling stone (ágætis byrjun)

sigur ros are the most bizarrely beautiful import from iceland since bjork -- fairport convention playing with new fuzz boxes, singing in what sounds like latin and drowning in psychedelic syrup. their international debut album (the title means, roughly, "a good start") swirls with cathedral-organ chords, scraps of white noise and languorous rhythms. "flugufrelsarinn" is achingly gorgeous, swelling with tape loops, heart-tugging strings and singer jon por birgisson's lush, startlingly feminine vocals. birgisson's emotive glossolalia, a mix of icelandic lyrics and ingenious nonsense, is the raw, red heart of the band; whether or not one understands what he's yelping about, he sounds like one sad little ice pup. "olsen olsen" takes nearly two minutes to drift into cohesion but then sways with a lilting piano figure and guitars that rumble like distant thunder. there's an odd majesty to this music, which explains why art-rock true believers radiohead have asked sigur ros to open on some upcoming european shows. they evoke folks as diverse as led zeppelin and my bloody valentine, but the gently woozy sigur ros don't sound like anything or anyone else so much as a classic-rock band bewitched by white magic. **** (out of five)

(pat blashill)




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