Sigur Ros - Alexandra Palace, London - 20/11/08

28 Nov 2008

"a barrage of water then falls ahead of the crowd, separating the audience and band with a dazzling sense of wonder before more note-perfect melody, and the odd shower of confetti and snow, rains down over us. as moments go, seeing sigur ros will undoubtedly make the highlights edit of your life..."

Sigur Ros

There's music and then there's Sigur Ros. They take no notice of trend, scene or sonic fashion, opting instead to live within the niche constraints of euphoric ambient jazz pop - a genre which doesn't even exist. Joyously, they have been doing this now for seven particularly intense and exquisite albums.

They were playing their biggest ever UK dates in celebration of a new album, Með Suð í Eyrum við Spilum Endalaust, an album title that rolls off'a every tongue we know. It might not be as pronounceable as their breakthrough 2005 album, Takk, but it's certainly more accomplished and in many ways far more accessible than their previous releases, confirmed by its recent chart achievement. The big, elevating sound-scapes of songs like 'Hoppípolla' are recreated on the record with the diversity of 'Hvarf/Heim', and a ruthless rage between an introvert acoustic beauty and a stadium filling opulence; with the majesty of a full orchestra playing the greatest classical music in mind.

Their imagery is so vastly created that you can't envisage the sounds satisfying any venue less magnificent than London's Alexandra Palace, the grand ballroom being a faultless home to the kind of Sigur Ros experience you'd hope would be realised live. Their ability to take the philosophy of classical music and turn it into formulaic, segmented pop is something of a jaw-droppingly exciting principal that these Icelanders have mastered so consummately, so precisely that the pioneers can really control your emotions, bewildering the huge autumn crowds.

The new album suggests more mainstream horizons in sight, with 'Gobbledigook' having the drums and snap of an indie sound - a quirky and inexorably flamboyant indie sound - but still arguably conformist. That said though, the audience react to every song alike offering no superfluous support to the more extravagant tunes, instead going at the bands precious pace. At times, the Scandinavian four piece break off to indulge their musical promiscuities, but bounce back with engulfing stretches of noise akin to an almost Jason Pierce quality, Jon Thor Birgisson's exceptional and breathtaking vocal soaring out from their outstandingly set stage.

Huge orbs hang behind the band, half-hidden by a screen and projected on them a plethora of otherworldly images of ghosts, sunsets and children running through snow. When the performance is reaching the first of its many climaxes a barrage of water then falls ahead of the crowd, separating the audience and band with a dazzling sense of wonder before more note-perfect melody, and the odd shower of confetti and snow, rains down over us. As moments go, seeing Sigur Ros will undoubtedly make the highlights edit of your life.

The absolute peak of the show finds Sigur Ros belting out a monstrous deposit of riffs as a battering of white confetti springs from under them and into the room as though an apocalyptic hurricane had broken through the walls, filling the venue with noise and light. The set continues to push, the band building stratums of sound continuously until we're at breaking point, left wrecked and awe-struck.

It's all part of the Sigur Ros approach... the art of taking sound and turning it into something far more excessive; an incredibly cinematic musical interpretation of splendour and expression, verbalised by one of our generation's most creative and valuable bands. Again, there's music and there's Sigur Ros.

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