Tonality: Agaetis Byrjun
Few albums could embody the beauty of an entire country in the way Sigur Rós does on “Agaetis Byrjun.” The album ranges from indigenous mythological tradition to eruptive chorales that echo through Iceland’s landscape.
On “Olsen Olsen,” a careful listener can hear an entire town singing. The sonic waves move listeners past volcanoes, geysers and fields of lava. The album is a series of escalating tensions and long, satisfying releases, engaging all of the senses.
Sigur Rós defies postmodern principles with this album. It cannot be labeled as post-rock, orchestral or even alternative.
The music on “Agaetis Byrjun” functions as well through headphones as it would in an opera house, with songs like “Svefn-G-Englar” utilizing chamber instruments, wires, piano, flutes and even feedback to create the sounds of a mythological people that live in the forgotten landscapes of Iceland.
The album cover is an illustration of an alien baby, meant to pay homage to the mythological “hidden people” who have occupied Icelandic folklore since the country’s ancient origins.
The album itself is said to model the life cycle. It begins with a feeling of crushing liquids and uneasiness, then takes you from creation to silence. The Icelandic folklore manifests itself through melodic sequences that frequent the album.
There is never a dull moment on “Agaetis Byrjun.” The lyrics are sung in Hopelandish, a language invented for the album. The writers felt that words fail to describe Iceland’s beauty.
It’s a purely musical album. In order to fully experience this monument in music, it would be a disservice to the listener to not fully listen, in high quality, with your eyes closed, undisturbed.