Yes, that’s right, the name of this album is ( ). Oh but that’s not all. The tracks contained on ( ) officially have no names. Indeed, other than the name Sigur Rós on the front of the white slipcase, and the two brackets die-cut into it, there’s no other identifying marks on artwork for this release.
Sigur Rós are a band I once described as sounding like “icebergs colliding with clouds erupting with rainbows”, which is a fairly retarded description really, and as I would later discover, not representative of the band’s work as a whole.
Additionally, if you’re one of those people who watches a lot of reality television, you’ve probably heard Sigur Rós a lot without even realising it. On shows like X Factor, they regularly have what could be accurately described as the “she’s a single mother who just wants to become a recording artist to raise money to buy new shoes for her daughter dying of AIDS and GUESS WHAT she made it through to the next round hugs and tears and yes it’s HOPPÍPOLLA by SIGUR RÓS with its touching piano melody so it’s okay if you want to cry just a little AH GO ON” Moment™. It’s more than a little irritating that the band have been reduced to some kind of televisual shorthand for tears-of-joy-tinged-with-sadness.
The first four tracks on ( ) are heart-wrenchingly uplifting pieces, with piano and guitars and all the high-pitched warbling you’d expect from the band, only a lot slower. On this album, the band sang exclusively in their made-up gibberish language, but because they’re Icelandic, most people, myself included, can’t really tell the difference between the two.
On the first half of the album, the entire lyric sheet seems to be made up of variations on what sounds like “you sigh low, you sow the light, you sigh alone you sigh you’re on fire oh…” over and over and over. It’s pretty.
And then the second half kicks in after a 30 second pause.
The last four tracks on ( ) are heart-wrenchingly depressing pieces, all droning organs and guitars, and painfully protracted chords. Track 5 in particular seems to reference Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets.
The lyrics on this half change to “you sigh a tune, you sign a late poll, you sigh downtown, you sign the fire low.” Track 7 has an utterly haunting “chorus” of “PRAAAAAAAY… YOOOOOW… YOU SIGH BLAAAAAMMEE… OOOOOOH I SIGH YOU KNOW…” and the closer adds “I low, no, you sigh low um, you sigh nothing I low one door, you sigh late now fire, home, you sigh doorway fall down…” before dissolving into a huge angry clattering of thousands of ravens pecking at your eyes in a blizzard while barn owls hover in the wind above surveying the snowy land below. Yes, Paul, IT SOUNDS JUST LIKE THAT.
Coincidentally, the second half is also my favourite, particularly for the last two tracks which thankfully negate my earlier iceberg+cloud=rainbow theorem.
( ) is, in my humble estimation, the best thing Sigur Rós have done, and most likely will ever do. On the one hand, it’s dynamic, elegant and pretty, on the other hand, it’s slow and droning and repetative. On the one half, it’s Sigur Rós play minimalist pop, on the other half, it’s Sigur Rós play funeral dirges at night in an icy crosswind…