icelandic band sigur ros sound like a historic compromise between pink floyd and estonian religious composer arvo part: epic scale, bowed electric guitars, choirboy vocals from lead singer jonsi birgisson, and brooding arctic landscapes. their last album agaetis byrjun ("a good beginning"), brought them alternative-rock superstar status in the us and europe. their new album, the coyly titled ( ), starts very slowly, sometimes so slowly that rock rhythms are barely sustainable; it's music for people with hangovers meditating on the northern lights.
birgisson's falsetto soars above hymnal chords picked out on piano and organ, and weird guitar effects flutter around the mix. the tension is slowly notched up, building towards the final track, where the band finally unleash an untrammelled cascade of guitar noise and rhythm. pretentious? portentous? derivative? maybe. in full flight, sigur ros do sound an awful lot like toronto band godspeed you! black emperor. talk of elves and nonsense lyrics (sung in the invented language, hopelandish) don't help. but this is still great music for rainy afternoons.