Sigur Rós

Von

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AllMusic Review by

The heaps of praise during 2000 surrounding 1999's Ágætis Byrjun brought surprisingly little attention to Sigur Rós' first record, released in 1997. Remaining available only through the band's Icelandic label, it took some effort to obtain, but those who did get a copy probably found it to be just as adventurous as Agætis. Though darker and more fractured than the string-laden nooks of the follow-up, it's just as sprawling and outright bombastic. It's remarkable that such a young band would be this experimental at this stage in their lifespan, but the sheer breadth gets to be an albatross. Poking fun at '70s prog rock is just as easy as shooting at cement gargoyles on a suburban rooftop, especially when you're an indie kid or a fan of post-rock. But Sigur Rós makes Yes look like the Minutemen. Whittled down to 40 minutes, Von would be considerably more effective than it already is. As a mood setter, the 10-minute opening track really takes about three minutes to do what it needs, and a few other spots seem to drag on for the sake of sucking time. That doesn't prevent Von from being impressive, veering from Gavin Bryars-style aquatic minimalism to My Bloody Valentine-style dream pop. Varying states of isolationist ambience run throughout, whether evoking unrest or tranquil rest. You can practically envision a stray headboard floating through the Sinking of the Titanic-type passages, and the lush "Myrkur" comes from a planet where MBV's Kevin Shields and Kitchens of Distinction's Julian Swales are accorded the level or worship that Earth gives to Hendrix and Clapton. And then there's that voice, one of the most distinctly unintelligible voices since the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser. Boy? Girl? One would be hard-pressed to guess without liner notes. Based on pure sound, Von is just as much of a treat as the acclaimed follow-up.

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