A friend who saw Iceland’s Sigur R?s recently told me that, because of the crowd’s reverential (and nearly militant) silence, he wasn’t sure if it was the best show he’d seen all year or the worst. Either way, it’s nice that – even in these denuded, mp3ed times – there are still epic rock bands that inspire such devotion, and Takk, the 4th full-length from Sigur R?s, is every bit the product of one of them. Like each previous release, it’s sweeping, sprawling and every other adjective that’s been used to frame them as somewhere between Bjork and Radiohead.
And, once again, frontman J?nsi Birgisson sings in his own made-up Hopelandic language (or maybe he’s really singing in Icelandic this time). If it’s a formula, it’s one that seems to work. Gentle strings give way to bombastically over-saturated guitars on “Gl?s?li,” just as they do on the album’s extended centrepiece, the palindromically structured “M?lan?.” On “S? Lest,” brass dramatically punctuates a string-and-bell swirl. On “Gong,” the strings and guitars are propelled by a shuffling martial beat while Birgisson moans with Thom Yorke-like falsetto urgency. Though the disc’s 11 tracks occasionally melt into a drone-psych sameness, it’s little matter.