‘takk…’, the fourth album from sigur rós, was released by emi records on september 12. written, performed and produced by the band (along with co-producer ken thomas) at their studio in álafoss, iceland, ‘takk…’ is the record to justify every amazing claim ever laid at this exceptional band’s door.
huge and intimate, orchestral and gossamer-light, rich layered and essentially simple, ‘takk…’ is a work of a band operating at the very top of their game. it accomplishes what maybe they haven’t done since they first appeared, which is to make high-flown ideas appear to be straight ahead pop music, or, perhaps more accurately, invest pop music with a sense of magic long since lost in the mists of time and imagination (not that they sound anything like any music made back in any mythical musical heyday).
‘takk…’ seems to operate so far outside the confines of what else is going on as to make comparison redundant. that the band were not going to be held by any narrow categorisation was apparent from the off. that they might be capable of creativity at this level of freedom and imagination was more than any of us might ever have hoped for. ‘takk…’ is an instant classic, and might well turn out to be sigur rós’s masterpiece.
“there is nothing clever about sigur rós and how we write songs, it’s just mucking about really. it’s all very spontant (sic),” says the band’s kjartan sveinsson, although most musicians could muck about for millennia and never come up with anything approaching ‘takk…’.
flowing through 65 minutes of 11 linked pieces, ‘takk…’ came together relatively quickly (in sigur rós terms), with recording starting in earnest last december and mixing finishing this june. the running order more or less wrote itself by the spring, with several additional songs naturally falling by the wayside as the record took shape.
the band deliberately put a halt to live performances two years ago, to ensure anything they wrote towards the album would remain fresh in their minds. as a result only two of the songs on ‘takk…’ have ever been heard at shows (prior to the band’s current european jaunt), with the remaining nine taking off in a multitude of new directions, only hinted at by the band’s previous work. ideas burst free in every direction, where before the band might have worked through a concept to its utter conclusion (playing and developing a song as slowly as possible – the origin of a thousand ‘glacial’ metaphors), they now burn through ideas with scant regard. songs begin in one time signature and end in another, having morphed beyond recognition on their passage through. a beautiful piano motif will be bombed into submission by power chords, which in turn will succumb to a heavenly string-led calm after the storm.
that said, sigur rós can still take a breathtakingly long time to get to the point. the see-sawing strings and distant piano of ‘mílanó’ are like watching omar shariff appear on the horizon in lawrence of arabia, while, the orchestration towards the end of ‘andvari’ changes almost imperceptibly on its way towards its epiphany.
elsewhere, ‘takk…’ is literally packed with music, so much so, that you wonder how the band managed to keep the space, clarity and separation in the sound. the ascent of ‘svo hljótt’ is dizzying and disorientating, while ‘glósóli’ features the crump of no fewer than three bass drums, before taking us through the ceiling of the song with a guitar that keeps climbing long after you think it must have reached its zenith.
‘takk…’ is, according to the band (with icelandic tongue firmly placed in icelandic cheek), a “rock’n’roll record” – and it certainly is on occasion played both loud and fast – but few of the clichés of the genre come through sigur rós intact. in fact, listening to ‘takk…’ it is not images of rebellion or off-the-peg degradation that comes to mind, but more a feeling of being washed clean by music. even when they rock sigur rós provide a clear spot of, dare i say, sanctity, and, at the end, of the record the prevailing feeling is one of peace.