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Agaetis Byrjun

4.4 out of 5 stars 381 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Reykjavík-based noise quartet Sigur Rós are the biggest band in their native Iceland, which should say much, much more about the collective insanity of that earthquake-ridden, blizzard-beaten crag of an island than anything to do with Sigur Rós's sound. But in their music, Sigur Rós reflect all the breathtaking glory of the Icelandic wastes--a fairy-tale explosion of unhinged elemental majesty that's finally crystallized here, their debut European release. Poised somewhere between the haunting soundscapes of Labradford and the lilting Celtic falsetto of Enya, Agaetis Byrjun is a truly breathtaking listen. Frontman Jon Por Birgisson sings in a language that Sigur Rós dub "Hopelandic"--an otherworldly mutation of Icelandic, sung in the falsetto cadence of angels; similarly, he plays his guitar with a violin bow, opening the floodgates for brilliant waves of feedback. And while it's the opening "Svefn-G-Englar" that's Sigur Rós' moment to date, there's far more that they have to offer; listen to the pomp and flourish of a full orchestra on "Flugufrelsarinn," or the awe-inspiring near-religious mantra of "Ny Batteri." --Amazon.co.uk

Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: PIAS America Records/Fontana
  • ASIN: B00005IC2H
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (381 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,430 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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With nearly 300 reviews of this CD already written, and no one but the most deranged fan willing to read more than a few, why add another? Well, because I suspect there are listeners other than myself who look and listen and wonder how to decipher all the woozy praise or hysterical hatred. Besides, of course, buying the darn thing and listening.

I have been a fan of Sigur Ros for over 4 years, having been exposed to them by my daughter, who thought this right up my alley. And she was blindingly right. I have witnessed them twice live. This is amazing stuff. Now, not everything they do is amazing....some of it is rather pedestrian. Tedious. A little embarrassing. Even Mozart wrote uninteresting music. But there is nothing dull on this CD. It is transcendent and intoxicating. Their consistently best work to date.

I do not believe snippets or scraps can really capture what this can do. You need to immerse yourself into the world they create, a sonic palace of bizarre digital noises and weird little drones, a wispy little vocalist and a breathtakingly brilliant percussionist, and savor it all. Unlike anything else, and unrelated to anything else, it stands on its own as something worth experiencing and enjoying.

Sigur Ros is like a Jackson Pollack painting. Often when you look at a Pollack, not a print but the real thing, you wonder what the heck he thought he was up to. He got paid for that? But sometimes Pollack hit it perfectly; he took the same old swirls and drips and spatters on every painter's dropcloth and produced something gorgeous and permanent. This CD has all winners on it, a flow and a movement using the the most elementary, and often most repetitive, little sounds and weaving and blending them into a tapestry of endlessly surprising and often unimaginable beauty.
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Format: Audio CD
Reports suggest that Sigur Ros is from Iceland, but if they ended up being from Pluto, or some far off galaxy, it wouldn't be surprising. Nor would it make any difference. Agaetis Byrjun, a hypnotic siren song of an album, glides in as if delivered by an advanced alien civilization. Warmer and fuller than any of Radiohead's attempts at moody, ambient music, Agaetis Byrjun would suggest the future of music if you actually believed anyone else on earth was talented enough to replicate its unique sound (no one is).
After a beautiful appetizer of an intro, the album goes right into the epic "Svefn-G-Englar" (try saying that 10 times fast), 10 minutes that may as well last a lifetime. It sounds like a submarine maneuvering through a newly discovered celestial body. Relaxing, powerful, and touching all at once, it sets the tone for the rest of what follows. "Staralfur" follows, a track as hopeful as a newborn child's birth. Listening to it is as cathartic as My Bloody Valentine's shimmering wave of feedback from ten years ago. After the demise (or hibernation) of that band, it's wonderful to see a new band trying to bring rock music to an entirely different level.
Scared of the language barrier? Don't be. Like any opera, the emotion comes through regardless of whether or not you can understand the words. From the dazzle of "Svefn-G-Englar" to the Celtic waterfall of "Olsen Olsen," Sigur Ros bursts with feelings of hope, despair, happiness, sadness, and all points in between, perhaps even creating new emotions as they go along. It's an incredible achievement, not likely to be matched by anybody anytime soon. Unless you count the band itself, but they may have moved on to another solar system by then.
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Format: Audio CD
I stumbled into Sigur Ros after someone on a messageboard I frequent was expressing excitement about their then-upcoming third album ( ), which I bought the day it was released stateside. I was duly impressed, but it was after I bought Agaetis Byrjun that the band really sunk it's claws into me.
For an album who's songs stretch up into the the ten minute range, this is a very accessable record. The instrumentals are soothing yet intense, often at the same time (think Kid A-era Radiohead), as this is very much mood music. Pianos interweave with bowed electric guitars, fingerpicked acoustics, moderate percussion, keyboard melodies, etcetera. One song (Olsen Olsen, I believe) even has a somewhat dischordant orchestral bombast.
As far as the vocals, Jonsi has a beautiful falsetto (no one I play this for believes that's a guy at first), and even though I don't understand the lyrics (they are Icelandic after all), I like the tonal quality of them.
To a point, Vanilla Sky did for Sigur Ros what Benny & Joon did for the Proclaimers: gave an unknown band stateside a few minutes in the spotlight. Given, Sven-g-Englar (which loosely translates to Sleepwalkers I think), the song on the VS soundtrack, is one you hear people going on about a lot. The standout, in my opinion however, is the title track, Agaetis Byrjun (A Good Beginning). Both are fantastic songs, though, and the rest of the album isn't much behind.
So yes. If you're in the mood for a three minute pop hook, obviously you would do well to look elsewhere. If you're willing to invest a little patience, however, Agaetis Byrjun is a top cut. Let it wash over you and see where it takes you.
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