SIGUR ROS

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MCA

There is an atmospheric quality to the latest Sigur Ros album well matched for casual listening. Foregoing song titles, the album's eight songs create a soundscape of recurring patterns. Dawdling guitar and keyboards, pitter-patter drums, reverb-tinted bass and Jon Thor Birgisson's ethereal vocals seem bent on providing musical passage to a land of prenatal fantasy.

Yet consciousness has a way of rising to the surface, obliterating stupor and picking apart easy comforts. With its symbolically titled name, flamboyant lack of song titles and typical art-rock disregard of verse-chorus-verse sound structure, it's clear that Sigur Ros nourishes serious aspirations. As such, it's only right to harness one's awareness and push this disc away from an attractive background setting where it can be appreciated with half-drawn lids and wavering attention.

The result is not especially flattering. Though Sigur Ros has a knack for overlaying textures while retaining an organic (which is to say not overproduced) feel, their shameless use of slow chord progressions drenches the album in cloying sentimentality. (See tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.) The more successful, or more accurately, the least soporific songs on the album (tracks 5, 7 and 8) use a variation on the heretofore-mentioned formula that is equally tendentious and manipulative in their tugging of heartstrings. A prolonged stint of solemn, plodding chord progressions modified by a quickened tempo, a dash of distortion to the guitars, and voila{grv}: pompous, faux transcendence -- dilettantism plain and simple.

-- Christopher Byrd

Appearing Tuesday and Wednesday at the 9:30 club with Amina and the Album Leaf. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Sigur Ros, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8109. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)