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Sigur Rós’s seventh album opens with rumbling distortion that explodes into clanging percussion and squelching bass. The song – Brennisteinn (“brimstone” in Icelandic) – is less surprising in its naked aggression than in the literal way it evokes the landscape. Typically, the Icelandic post-rockers resist citing their volcanic surrounds as inspiration, preferring listeners to conjure their own references.
But Kveikur is all about directness. After the departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinnsson, the remaining three members recorded a new album much quicker (in less than a year) than their usual glacial pace. It boasts a heavier rhythmic pulse than usual, but this is hardly the band’s metal moment.
All their hallmarks (choral crescendos, swooping melodies and stately horns) and a few curveballs (The xx-esque 4/4 beat on Yfirbor∂) are present, but the songs reach their emotional climax quickly. The stars of Kveikur are drummer Orri Dyrason, whose machine-gun pacing sounds either menacing or celebratory, and singer Jonsi Birgisson, whose otherworldly falsetto leads some of the band’s poppiest material in a while.
Top track: Isjaki