astonishing, simply astonishing. there's no straightforward way to describe what sigur ros do and how they sound. you can talk about the instruments: guitars, cello, horns, violins, drums, keyboards, various electronica and sometimes orchestras. and that gives you some idea of the eclectic nature of the sound sources but no real understanding of what the group does with it, how they can bend shapes into spectral shimmers or other-worldly cascades one minute, caress with an ambient sparseness surrounding solo piano the next and then drive hard with vaulting guitars.
then there's the voice of singer jon thor birgisson. it's capable of a firm falsetto and even stronger high tenor and has the kind of lilt and sway that can just as easily suggest racked souls as exultation.
it can also traverse territory as diverse as early church music, what might be whale sounds and near-alien glitches and the swoops and glides of siren calls. when double-tracked it sounds eerie and when multi-tracked it lifts off.
then you learn that the voice isn't singing a language you, or anyone else, knows. birgisson sings in a language entirely made up. but - and this is the crucial thing - you can understand it. pain, desire, extreme joy and the slumber of exhaustion are all there. innocence, lust and the isolation of a treeless ice field are there, too. ok, maybe it's not what birgisson meant and maybe he doesn't even know what he meant, but it's what you take from it and it makes sense, feels right and that's what matters.
and when i tellyou that this, the band's fourth album, doesn't have a title and in fact none of the tracks have titles and the cd comes decorated only with shadowy branches in the shape of brackets and that all this seems appropriate, you're getting an idea.
but trust me, you won't be close to understanding just how bizarre and beautiful and, well, astonishing this band and this music is.