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Gibson Recommends Sigur Ros Hvarf / Heim

Nicole Keiper

Sigur Ros Hvarf / HeimIt comes off exceptionally thought-out and measured, the way Iceland’s Sigur Ros build and break and settle melodies and rhythms. And that precision is part of their power.

But it isn’t the precision so much as the way Sigur Ros’ songs can mimic nature’s unpredictability that really makes them as affecting as they are―there’s an oncoming hurricane implied in most songs on the band’s first four LPs, moods of eerie calm swelling into melodic gusts, whipping winds and thunderous explosions, then a graceful, soothing eye.

So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the band sounds so at home on Heim, part of the band’s new Hvarf / Heim double-EP, having been plunged into the most natural of settings―stripped to acoustic simplicity, in some cases, performing sans-electricity off in Iceland’s hinterlands.

Sigur Ros fans will recognize the delicate piano plinks that set the pace for Heim opener “Samskeyti” from the band’s 2002 disc ( ), but there’s a distinct difference here―an accordion wheezes, the naked piano twinkles, and strings delicately swell. It’s simpler, slower, more lonesome, stripped of studio sweetening. And it’s just as beautiful.

Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros with his Les PaulAnyone who’s seen Sigur Ros’ live show might’ve wondered, at least a little, if they could pull off all that power―singer/guitarist Jónsi Birgisson pulls a bow over his Les Paul’s strings, drummer Orri Páll Dýrason thunders, lightning-flash stage lighting pulses―without, well, power.

But it’s an entirely different kind of power that the band works here, Ágætis Byrjun’s “Staralfur” feeling gentler and more symphonic, acoustic guitar strums forming a rustic bed underneath the piano and strings. There’s a particularly gripping juxtaposition, too, as the title track from the band’s debut album Von is reinterpreted on Hvarf as a regular studio track, on Heim as a gentler lament that doesn’t fully erupt.

Hvarf is a treat too, particularly in the recorded reinvention of live favorite “Hafsol,” from Von, in which Georg Holm’s drumstick-tapped bassline hypnotizes like driving rain on a rooftop. But Hvarf largely allows fans a souvenir of what they already know the band is exceptionally capable of; Heim shows listeners that Sigur Ros is capable of surprises.