Two years ago, a man in Florida used a piece of software to play a Justin Bieber song 800 percent slower than intended. The result was shockingly beautiful. Every note from the groomed munchkin’s mouth formed long waves of glacial splendour, ebbing and flowing with almost spiritual grace. The internet for once was united: it sounded exactly like Sigur Rós.
Yes, the Icelandic post-rock quartet have a defined sound – one that’s frequently exploited by nature documentaries or during any dramatic surge of emotion on film. Valtari, however, reminds us just how special that sound is. Eschewing the guitar-led accessibility of their last album, they’ve piled on the choral and orchestral touches to evoke everything from Gavin Bryars to Dvorák. On ‘Ekki’, Jónsi Birgisson’s mewling falsetto sounds as though it’s being extracted, emerging from a bassy morass as swampy as a Seamus Heaney poem. ‘Varuo’, meanwhile, might just be one of their greatest songs to date, building from whispers to a spine-tingling finale of distortion and thunderous drums. After more than 15 years, you have to admire their consistency. This sounds exactly like a Sigur Rós album, and that’s no bad thing whatsoever.