Sigur Rós Ágætis Byrjun (PIAS)

Agaetis Byrjun (PIAS)

Record Reviews

Sigur Rós

Ágætis Byrjun (PIAS)

They appeared suddenly, like the comet from the heavens that in ancient times marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Sigur Rós isn't the end of any era, but it may be the flourishing of a new one -- a new beacon in the marriage of raw human emotion and sublime layers of aural wallpaper until now commissioned so effectively by Radiohead. From the Great White North of Iceland they come, spreading their painfully exquisite message in a mixture of Icelandic and singer Jón Thór Birgisson's private "Hopelandish" language. The sound of "God weeping tears of gold in heaven," Melody Maker tells us. In two years, Ágætis Byrjun has become the barometer with which all music is compared in their native Iceland and inspired new levels of hyperbolic journalism worldwide, leading up to this re-release on PIAS America in conjunction with MCA. The snow-capped majesty of Ágætis Byrjun, augmented by bowed strings, the static crackle of falling snowdrifts, and other ethereal rumbles, is the most immediately striking element of Sigur Rós, as Birgisson's woozy operatic vocals take a while to sink in. Once they do, it becomes clear that at the heart of the polar grandeur there are unbelievably affecting songs that come across loud and clear in any language. Birgisson's quivering voice on "Flugufrelsarinn" conveys the torture of the dark Icelandic winter. "Olsen Olsen" finds the singer's angelic wails reverberating from one peak to another until the sound rattles in the dell, where the folkspeople celebrate with triumphant marching flute and sing along, reveling in the extraordinary masterpiece that is Ágætis Byrjun.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Reddening West
Deltas (Record Review)

Hannah Wisterman, Dec. 14, 2018

Texas Platters
Aaron Stephens
Focus (Record Review)

Clara Wang, Dec. 14, 2018

More by Michael Chamy
Texas Platters
Palaxy Tracks
Twelve Rooms (Record Review)

Sept. 16, 2005

Texas Platters
Feathers From the Wing EP (Record Review)

Aug. 12, 2005

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle