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31 January, 2006

Review: Takk... (Sigur Rós, 2005)

There's an obvious influence from the 'experimental' 'Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do', and several songs include the same production style instrumentation (xylophone, 'musical box' and background crackle) amongst the more normal percussion and bowed guitars.  However, I'd agree with the recipients of advance copies who'd said this was a return to the feel of 'Ágaetis Byrjun', rather than a continuation of the darker, more abstract and consequently less accessible '( )'.

Again like 'Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do', there's a strong sense that the album is one continuous composition. Certain songs stand alone, but repeat specific elements (especially 'non-lyrics') and the non-specific 'feel' of others, whilst others seem more directly linked, track divisions merely marking a slight change in direction within a longer song.

The first few tracks are downright joyous, but darker, more wistful tones emerge towards the end. The transition isn't so abrupt as on '( )', which consists of two 'sides' separated by a silence, but the same principle applies to 'Takk...'. That said, there is an extended silence at the end of 'Milanó', and the next track, 'Gong' conveys a sense of desperation setting the less positive tone of the rest of the album.
Incidentally, that is 'Gong', not 'Göng', with an umlaut – it seems some fans and reviewers have a form of linguistic diarrhoea, sprinkling accented characters indiscriminately, perhaps to add a false sense of exoticism, and 'Gong' has been a frequent target.

Reviews containing gratuitous comparisons to Pink Floyd should be treated with contempt, but there is one parallel: like 1970s PF, Sigur Rós have been playing 'Milanó' and 'Gong' on tour for at least two years before committing them to an album. As such, those two tracks are very familiar, but with a freshness introduced by hearing them in a studio setting for the first time.

My favourite Sigur Rós song is 'Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása', from 'Ágaetis Byrjun'. Now that has competition: 'Glósóli', from 'Takk...'. Both have the same slow-build format, though the latter is arguably more overtly uplifting. Both have excellent videos, too, though I don't think that determines my liking for the music alone.

'Saeglopur' is another highlight. In fact, as the most accessible Sigur Rós track I know, it's probably a good starting point for those new to the band.

Highly recommended - probably my 'album of the year' for 2005.

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