Excluding perhaps Bjork, there is no better Icelandic music export to the world than the post-rock trio of Sigur Ros. Unique ethereal soundscapes pour over a variety of slow-building emotions that are voiced by singer, Jonsi Birgisson. Birgisson uses ‘Hopelandic’ – a gibberish form of the Icelandic language – to paint the song’s mood. While it has been four years since these Norsemen released an album, the group had over 23 years and seven albums worth of material to draw on, as they performed Friday and Saturday night at the ACL Live Moody Theater in Austin.
Friday night’s sold out show garnered much anticipation from longtime fans, as the venue gave an unusual amount of intimacy despite its size. The show was split into two separate acts and an intermission, which effectively dichotomized the night into two unique shows, each embracing an opposite aesthetic.
The first act proved to be meditative exploration of the band’s softer and subtler tracks. This would be one of the first tours for Sigur Ros where only original members were present, as touring members were absent. The eight songs included in the first act were supplemented by dramatic and spellbinding light production, which succeeded in projecting a fantasy-filled alternative reality. Tracks like “Glosoli”, “Varoa”, and “E-Bow” were notable highlights before the house lights went up for intermission.
Returning to the stage was a much more energetic and hard-hitting Sigur Ros. The second act brought urgency to Birgisson’s trademark falsetto vocals, and power to the backing instruments. Songs like “Festival” and “NY Batteri” begin with slow-builds but erupt into stormy ballads, while “Saeglopur” and “Kveikur” cut the fat and embraced the dramatic chorus payoffs nearly immediately.
While we live at a time where instant gratification and quick results are paramount in our shallow ADD-culture that seems to pervade every facet of life, Sigur Ros’ music represents a musical alternative. Well thought-out song structures that run close to ten minutes in length, subtle instrumentation that delves into deeper themes, and a unique perspective that redefines music originality. True to their nature as music pioneers, Sigur Ros succeeded tearing down preconceptions on Friday night and instead delivered something wholly refreshing and different.