Sigur Rós - Takk...

Sam Wetherell 12/09/2005

Rating: 5/5

It still feels a bit like summer doesn't it? The temperature in the late twenties, the confounding lack of anything decent on telly, and the manor in which the entire country sits hypnotised by Shane Warne's spin bowling makes me think that there's been some kind of national calendar cock-up. It can't be mid-September, perhaps the powers-that-be counted too many days by accident? Thus Takk is a distant and unearthly call from Iceland, a gentle reminder that October is an inevitability, and that the subtle atmospheric changes taking place around us are about to lose all their subtlety.

Sigur Rós have always tried to sound not just other-worldly, but unlike any music that has ever been recorded or played before. The album case has no copyright information, no mention of a record label, no words at all other than a blurred track listing and could, for all it seems, have fallen from the heavens to land on a shelf in HMV. “Genre: unknown” it says when I put the CD into my computer. It seems Sigur Rós have even eluded the thorough searchlights of Windows Media Player.

Takk is instantly shriller, lighter and fluffier than anything Sigur Rós have recorded before. Birgisson's voice is more alien, more inhuman and is often impossible to disentangle from the perpetual flood of strings and flutes that accompany it. Hopelandic has changed too, it is now less a series of defined words, and more one long shriek of distilled emotion, shorn of its consonants .

Glósóli, the opener (aside from a brief intro) is the highlight. It opens with a hum of strings and a slow bass-line which changes into a thudding pulse orbited by a whirlwind of Birgisson's feverish ghostly voice and what sounds like about two hundred different instruments. It then reaches a climax so intense, so drunk with its own complexity and power that it makes the climaxes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor sound like The Stereophonics, a celestial whisper that becomes a deafening scream. Gong, with its rapid funky percussion and elusive guitar riff, is likewise brilliant. If ancient Icelandic spirits went clubbing, this is what they would dance to.

Unlike Agaetis Byrjun there are no throaty, brittle extended violin movements that sound like a Boeing 747 taking off, or cyclic piano loops to bring a song quietly back to earth. For this reason Agaetis is more robust, complex, and by a fraction the better album. Divorced from the deeper timbres that anchor Agaetis to some kind of musical reality Takk dwells solely, and perhaps rather too indulgently, in the heavens, nothing less (or more) than the banal yet wonderful chattering of demi-gods.