Sigur RosIcelandic band Sigur Ros expertly mixes the gentle touch with the heavy hand. On the band's third release, it strips certain elements down to the basics: the title of the album as a simple parenthesis, for example, collecting together nameless songs; or vocals that dance around English before drifting out into sweet disembodied utterances that form words no better than do the instruments that back them.
And then there's the heavy -- samplers, live strings and sound effects forming a dense soundscape upon which Jon Thor Birgisson's childlike coos and primal howls rest. Even the "heavy" on this record is airy, though, as each level of instrumentation sounds delicate as gossamer, sailing out into the atmosphere with the rest of the song.
Like "Agaetis Byrjun" before it, "( )" is a grand record. It's the soundtrack to times of momentous beauty and momentous sadness, again pulling the focus away from a songwriter's stories to zoom in on Sigur Ros's gut emotions, where complicated feelings are evoked like dreams that refuse to be classified as specific ideas.
This record, recorded in the band's swimming pool/recording studio, is a slow-moving epic. It's the shoegazer days of bands like Slowdive returning on a gentle breeze of Radiohead experimentation. It's desolate beauty spun into song, heightened with the heavy thump of a drumbeat and crashing cymbals or soothed by the operatic quality of vocals strewn over stark guitar rhythms. If Sigur Ros is the sonic mood merchant of our time, "( )" peddles floating for 70 minutes in a state of pure symphonic bliss.
-- Jennifer Maerz
Sigur Ros is in concert tomorrow at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8182.)