SCQ Rating: 73%
There are hundreds of go-to words that seek to magnify Sigur Ros’ transcendent allure – among them “glacial”, “earth-shaking”, “ethereal”, etc. – and most fans acknowledge them for lack of a clearer way of articulating such a singular sound. “Nice” shouldn’t be one of those descriptors but Valtari, the band’s fifth studio full-length, doesn’t offer a surplus of alternate doorways by which we might offer in-depth commentary.
As what can be loosely considered Sigur Ros’ “choral” album, Valtari does deviate from the life-affirming bombast that dominated Takk… and half of með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. But these eight songs don’t play out any progressive intentions, instead retracing the Hopelandic ambience they pioneered on ( ) with their symphonic habits still calling the shots. Far from minimal, the results dial up the distilled beauty of Jonsi + Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps through the full band’s sensitive approach. Given how successfully Sigur Ros have built evocative, full-length spanning sound-environments in the past, Valtari nevertheless comes off as unsure of itself, hiding a handful of lovely, true-to-form compositions within a transient cloud of lavish indecision.
With highlights dominating the first half and the final three tracks forming a delicate instrumental suite, Valtari resembles a super-generous EP (in the tradition of Hvarf/Heim or their various maxi-singles) moreso than a self-sustaining album. However one chooses to view or describe Valtari, it finds Sigur Ros quietly thriving off their own laurels, unbothered by the boundaries they’re dwelling in. For a band that has spent half a decade leveling post-rock, they’ve earned the right to play nice.