Sigur Rós could be forgiven for sounding better on record than in concert. The Icelandic band's songs either billow out deliberately or stomp majestically, and in every case entail the building of layers upon intricate sonic layers. Plus, singer Jónsi — he of the otherworldly voice, singing mostly in a ghostly language of his own devising — is no Mick Jagger when it comes to calling attention to himself. He's created an air of shyly vulnerable mystery that seems antithetical to showmanship.
And yet it's not hyperbolic to suggest that Sigur Rós is one of the world's great live bands, creating a hypnotic, almost overwhelming experience. Just last year, that experience was documented in a gorgeous DVD/CD package called Inni, which showcases both Sigur Rós' epic sonic sweep and an ability to complement it with gripping, enveloping visuals. Now, the band is touring to support this year's gorgeous Valtari — and coming to New York City's Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series on Tuesday, July 31. NPR Music and WFUV will present a live audio webcast and broadcast of that show, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The group's first album in four years — during which time Jónsi released the effervescent and uplifting 2010 solo album Go — Valtari returns to the roots of Sigur Rós' moodily slow-building, almost impossibly pretty sound. Though it occasionally builds up to a furious clamor, most notably in "Varúð," Valtari floats around in a dreamy sweet spot: calming but portentous, with every moment milked for maximum drama and beauty. On the live stage, listen for Sigur Rós to indulge in its specialty, as it fuses uncommon delicacy with uncommon power, while compromising neither.
[by Stephen Thompson]