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Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
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Aural Pleasure Review

Sigur Rós: 'Valtari'

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Those that believe an album's merit lies in its capacity to be heard from start to finish as a singular work will find validation of their theory in the angelic sounds of Sigur Rós' Valtari. Ambient and minimalist, the Icelandic quartet's sixth release is a voyage through a dream in which details oscillate in and out of focus. Classical piano arrangements paired with Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto vocals create a beautiful fragility that threatens to shatter at any moment. This ethereal tension is a product of Birgisson's choice to sing not only in his wispy Icelandic, but also in a form of Icelandic glossolalia, or tongues. The result is a calming sadness that could just as easily be interpreted as euphoria. In the past, Sigur Rós' music has been utilized as a score for nature documentaries and network television shows. That fact, and the departure of Valtari from their past work to a more strictly ambient sound, hints that perhaps Sigur Rós has turned focus to the lucrative business of commercial licensing. Regardless of intent, Valtari stands as a truly cohesive piece of harmonic tranquility.

★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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