a listener with a more discriminating ear might draw distinctions between sigur ros’ “hvarf/heim” and its predecessors. for me, it’s more of the same, which is all good and is what you’d expect from an icelandic band that calls its web site “eighteen seconds before sunrise”: celestial, operatic anthems that sound expressed from a place beyond heaven.
this work comprises two cds. the first is “hvarf,” a collection of three unreleased (and in at least one case, unrecorded) tracks, plus gorgeous and overhauled versions of two cuts from their first album, “von”: “hafssol” and the title track.
the second disc, “heim,” is even more familiar and for good reason. it comprises live acoustic versions of six songs pulled from the band’s four studio albums, including “agaetis byrjun,” which, according to the label, wasn’t performed live, ever, until this summer.
even the new techniques and treatments are familiar and, at times, heart-wrenchingly emotional: thunderous crescendos, dramatic climaxes and rushes of tranquillity, quietude and resolution — music that blurs the distinction between sorrow and joy. those are sounds and traits we’ve heard before, either vaguely or directly, from the likes of radiohead, u2, genesis when gabriel and hackett were still in it, gabriel solo, pink floyd, even a bit of enya and coldplay.
but if you’ve seen this band’s astounding live show, you know full well there’s nothing old-school or new age about sigur ros, a band that’s of a time, place and beauty all its own.