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icelandic mystery jam band sigur ros emit another enigmatic smoke signal from the land of volcanoes and hot springs (and caves and gnomes and spirits...) with their obliquely titled third full-album "( )." after 1999's ágtis byrjun's unheralded emergence garnered wide acclaim (everyone from the new yorker to butt magazine lauded the band's pirouetting angelic vocals, ethereal guitar/fuzz soundscapes and emotional string arrangements) the group retrenched, built their own studio and refined their sound. what emerged is more somber, more earthbound, and seemingly more real. less structured around stand-alone vocal riffs and patterns, "( )" seems to investigate a sort of slothful psychedelia. plinking pianos and analogue synths delicately lay across a collage of barely audible cries and drifting feedback. swaying guitars lead into dirge-tempo marches and singer jonsi's voice is lodged more often in the middle registers where it sounds much richer and viscerally compelling as it intones icelandic melodies of entreating melancholy and wistful longing. despite this simplification, the band still tends towards the epic (the minimum song length being approximately seven minutes), and jonsi still launches into unhinged soprano swoops. but overall, the gestures are smaller in scale and more focused and organic with almost no string section to speak of. as a result, the scope and texture become increasingly effective, allowing the cinematic sounds to breathe in their own echoes, and the instrumental vibrations to interact and counteract with each other, bouncing between haunting drones, ancient folk melodies, and more traditional (post) rock song structures. while less immediately engaging than earlier more catchy efforts, "( )" proves to be more penetrating and will most likely not leave your thoughts (and dreams) for some time.

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