When Godspeed You! Black Emperor came out of hiatus last year with a tour and a new album, it surprised many. More surprising to some was how relevant their new album felt. Could it be that post-rock was due for a revival after a decade of slumber?
Unlike GY!BE, Sigur Rós never went anywhere. Since their 1999 breakout sophomore album, Ágætis Byrjun, Sigur Rós have released four full-lengths. However, it's been since 2008 that the band has generated any significant amount of buzz with their single "Gobbledigook," which sounded refreshingly different, even if they got a little Dave Matthews Band mixed in with their Animal Collective. Unfortunately the single was something of a red herring; the rest of the album carried on with their signature sound, edges wearing off more and more after each release.
Their latest-released June 18-and sixth album overall, Kveikur, is another sign that post-rock is making a comeback. The album begins with "Brennisteinn," which after several seconds of quiet noise, erupts with a buzzing, industrial bass line, which shocks in a similar way to Portishead's "Machine Gun," lead single to the 11 years-in-the-making third album from that band. "Brennisteinn" announces that Sigur Rós have restored a chunk of vitality, and while Kveikur doesn't ascend to the same heights as Third, it is a nice surprise to be recommending a Sigur Rós album again.
The rattling fuzz of the opener acts as a hint to what's to come yet it isn't entirely representative. Things are much livelier. Still, this isn't Sigur Rós-goes-metal. Clanging percussion is a theme but distorted guitars are not. Which, in a way, is unfortunate. The band has great capacity to adeptly portray ominous misery, as can be seen on the last track of 2002's (). In fact, that track feels a bit dangerous and, sadly, its been a long time since Sigur Rós has felt anywhere near dangerous.
The momentum that "Brennisteinn" generates is spread thin with too many soft intros and outros, too many special effects, and too little darkness. The Burial-esque disco beat that pops in and out of "Yfirbord" is a delight, but the band never lets the beat settle and build. "Ísjaki" has a bit more percussion than usual for Sigur Rós but the song stands out for having one of the best melodies the band has produced in a while, not for any rhythmic reasons.
While I wish the band went further with the dark and the dirty, Kveikur still feels very fresh and vital. Sigur Rós still has a lot to offer and hopefully Kveikur is a sign of more good things to come.