Sigur Rós Saeglopur [Geffen]

When Takk was first released last year I remember feeling a little disappointed. It wasn’t a bad record, but it seemed to me Sigur Rós had wandered out of their caves built of ice, and I didn’t know if I was ready to see them dissolve into a sunnier and more upbeat affair. I missed the Sigur Rós from ( ) when they had the absurd confidence to make an entire album into a droning monochromatic monolith. Even the stark contrasts and experimentation that flooded Agaetis Bryjun seemed absent.

I just felt like I missed something, and upon listening to the Saeglopur EP I think I did miss something with Takk. Fortunately the Saeglopur EP has given me is a chance to revisit some of Takk in both familiar and new context. (The EP is multimedia and comes with audio and video discs containing respectively, b-sides from the Takk sessions and three music videos.)

Saeglopur opens the audio disc, and as with most Sigur Rós songs you start wondering if you actually hit play or not, because it’s been about a minute and you know…nothings happening, but soon sprockets wind and croak with a percussive nature and everything that I dismissed the first time around, is working now. At eight minutes Saeglopur has enough vocal and piano hooks to actually feel like a pop song, and represents everything Sigur Rós does well, compressed, and wrapped up in a neat little package.

Following Saeglopur is an instrumental piano track titled Refut. As a coda for Saeglopur it works perfectly, but with the previous song’s lengthy running time it feels a little excessive. It’s a beautiful interlude, and a nice addition to the EP but it’s easy to see why it was cut from the LP. Next come O Fridur, and Kafari. And while these songs do stumble across something interesting from time to time they ultimately feel incomplete. Kafari being the extreme example here with nearly four minutes of drones and xylophone banter before finally breaking into something truly worthwhile.

Considering the relative weakness of the b-sides, the video section of the EP is definitely the highlight. With all of Takk’s singles represented here, there is much to like. Saeglopur begins with what is without a doubt the longest slow motion shot I have ever seen in a music video. For nearly a minute and a half a young boy wanders out into the turquoise sea (here looking strangely thick and jelly like) before finally submerging. The underwater scenes shown next involve a chase with a sea monster, and invoke somewhat of a less stylized version of The Smashing Pumpkins “tonight, tonight”, or Wes Andersons “The Life Aquatic.”

Hoppipola is up next, and charms with the concept of the old acting young by engaging in wholesome activities such as throwing fireworks at people, getting in fights, and shoplifting. Despite the cheese of the concept it works. One gets the feeling that if only a few jaded hipsters were forced to watch this video, and take in the unabashed cuteness offered, it would cure cancer, or bring all the dead kitties you ever knew back to life, or who knows, maybe it would just bring down the amount of asymmetrical haircuts seen at rock shows.

Rounding out things is Glosoli, the strongest offering on either side of the EP. It begins with a Peter Pan like figure recruiting other children in wartime. The children then wander the countryside and while there is a thin plot, it is the landscape that is the star. Nearly every shot here is composed brilliantly, and in fact looks better than feature films I’ve seen lately. There is even a believable computer generated shot of the children flying that stuns simply because it has no reason to look as good as it does.

And I guess that is what makes the video section of the EP so special. Everything is just much, much better than it has any right to be. It’s not even the concepts so much as the rabid attention to detail and thoughtful execution. And when looked at from this perspective, the videos more than make up for the weaker b-sides that fill the audio disc, turning what could have been a forgettable stop-gap release, into something that is much more captivating and lasting.

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