If the release of Sigur Rós’ last studio album, Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, led people to fear that the band’s days crafting sky-scraping epics might be coming to an end, Valtari is going to worry them even more. While that 2008 album led off with the prancing “Gobbledigook” and seemed to edge towards a more open, commercial sound, Valtari heads off in the opposite direction, into a world of often percussion-free ambience.
Its gestation was lengthy: Valtari’s roots lie in a 2003 collaboration with the 16 Choir that took place at London’s Barbican, and recording in fact started back in 2007, when they decided to pursue the concept of an entirely choral album. But other projects, and a lack of a clear goal, prevented them from making significant progress for a while, and it was only last year when they began to assemble the album from the various experiments that they’d conducted over the previous four years.
The results – eight songs totalling almost an hour – are probably the band’s quietest since 1999’s groundbreaking Ágætis Byrjun, and consequently their most perplexing. Yet, in some ways, this is one of their most beautiful releases in a career that has never been short of elegance. Sigur Rós remain as eager to challenge themselves as their audience. — BBC