Sorry for the long delay between posts. First I was off traveling for a couple of weeks, then getting back into the swing of things. Finally, entries resume.
This week instead of reminiscing about summers past, I’m remembering an album that calls to mind freezing temperatures and short days. It’s not that I’m ready for the dead of winter by any means, but a song from this album came up on shuffle for me recently, and I recalled that it was the album that first made me fall in love with epic, instrumental post-rock.
I’ve never talked to anyone who knows what the title of this album is. Some pronounce () simpy as “Untitled.” This makes it very hard to search for, but naming an album with empty parentheses is likely an artistic statement which Sigur Ros intended to make. What that statement is, I’m not sure. I do know that this is one of their darkest albums, sonically speaking. Some have posited that it represents the emptiness felt by members of the band during that period of their lives, a hypothesis which I believe has merit. All but a select few moments on the album are brooding, ethereal, and even ominous.
While the album was released in 2002, I first came across it as winter approached in late 2009. Early nightfall was perfectly accompanied by the ambient, yet deeply emotional sounds of this album. As with other seasons of my life, mistakes and relational situations weighed heavy on my heart. The shortening days didn’t help my mood, but this album connected on a level deeper than words could describe.
As with most of Sigur Ros’s work, the vocals are not the feature. Or they are, but no one can understand them. In fact, on this album, they’re mostly indiscernible noise, but in a beautiful way. Some have said that front-man Jonsi is singing in a made-up language. While that may be, track after track, his haunting falsetto captures as much emotion as could be expected from words which can’t be understood. In this regard, it’s odd that I love this album as much as I do. Typically, lyrics are a huge part of what makes a song click for me. In this case, the music is so good that it happens not to matter. Discernible or not, the intent is clearly conveyed in the vocals. Part of me wishes there were profound lines to accompany the instrumentation, but I realize that in this case, that isn’t necessary.
As is common in the genre, tracks routinely reach the ten-minute mark. In fact, not a single song is under six minutes. This is music that needs to be mulled and digested, not tossed on the radio for a quick hit and a few bucks. Still, this particular album is dynamic enough that I wouldn’t consider it background music. The final track (affectionately labeled as “Untitled 8”) builds from somber vocals punctuated with toms to a furious, aggressive finish, including the most powerful drumming of the album. I remember lying on the floor at my duplex on Battery Lane, listening to the track through the 1970s stereo my dad gave me as the darkness outside quietly fell around the house.
The album would go on to typify that freezing and lonely winter with its somber and atmospheric sounds. Today it reminds me of the power of music in and of itself, apart from lyrical content.
You can find the layered and emotional post-rock of () on Spotify and Amazon.