igur Rós have become the weirdest celebrities on Earth. They began as a band in Iceland making normal, artsy folk music that wouldn’t seem very strange in a country with such rich culture and creativity. After some good press in Britain, their second album (nobody heard the first one) was released in North America nearly 2 years after it initially came out. Along the way they toured with Radiohead, every famous person’s favourite band and slowly became the new favourite band of every famous person, most notably Brad Pitt (the title is currently in the hands of Coldplay, if you’re wondering).
() is everything the follow-up to Agaetis Byrjun should be. It is a step forward from their previous work, and even more obscure and diverse. The band has even gone weird(er) with the artwork, choosing an extremely minimal approach that would make Labradford jealous. Apparently, the whole idea around the ambiguousness is that they want to include their fans in the whole creative process: naming the songs, drawing pictures and writing lyrics in the tracing paper sleeve to what you think they are. I’m flattered that they want to include my input, but really, I can’t be bothered (I say this in my lazy way, not ridiculing their plan, but admitting that I, personally, wouldn’t want to ruin the artwork by fucking up and drawing/writing something I’d regret. I am sure hardcore fans will have a blast, WHICH IS A GOOD THING).
It doesn’t take long to realise that the songs and production here are superior to Agaetis Byrjun. The music was recorded in a swimming-pool-cum-recording-studio for chrissakes, and sounds amazing. In the two years the band has been touring, they seem to have explored their sound even more than you could imagine. The songs included are the ones the band played on their last few tours, the ones that nobody knew, and the ones that people didn’t want to hear because they were expecting stuff from Agaetis Byrjun. As well, the orchestra the band uses on tour is used throughout ().
() is the sound of a band making music that doesn’t seem like it has been performed by a band. The songs seem to float around like a cloud that purely exists without any explanation. While you can hear the odd guitar, piano and drums, the music is so transcendent that it feels more like a classical composer at work here than four art students making space-rock/shoegazing/ambient post-rock/art-wank, or whatever else their constantly classified as.
Yet when looking upon why this album is so good, a question must be raised: Is it not the fact that they are so different that makes them so good? Singer Jonsi Thor Birgisson sings in a made up language called, of all things, “Hopelandic”. It all sounds too perfect with these guys, but there is nothing you can really hold against them, except for maybe that they’re “too artsy”. And still, if you’re going to throw sticks and stones for something petty like that, you should really take a look and notice that people are buying this band’s records and loving them. Investing money in a piece of art is a lot better than wasting money on a piece of trash like whatever is reigning at the top of the charts (bar Nirvana, of course).
Reviewed by: Cam Lindsay
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01