Sigur Ros – ara batur

I will have much more to say about the new Sigur Ros album, titled Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, their fifth studio album.

But for now, enjoy the 7th track from the album, titled “ára bátur.” I chose this song not because it is representative of the new album (because it isn’t), but because it is such a beautiful song. Sigur Ros is a band known for crafting songs that uplift and transcend, and even by the band’s own standards, this song is about as uplifting and transcendental as they come.

It starts out like a usual Sigur Ros composition: with some stately piano playing in minor key as a prologue to the lead vocal. Over the course of nearly 9 minutes, the song slowly builds up. With 7 minutes left to go, a rather subdued string section is introduced, and at 6 minutes, you hear a brief appearance by the horn section, which quickly disappears. At about 5 minutes left, a backing choir is introduced, albeit very far back in the mix. From about 4 and half minute left, the vocal disappears completely, leaving only the piano. An upright bass is then introduced, then the strings and the horns make their re-entrance, still rather subdued and low in the mix. Then they get louder and louder, and the vocals are re-introduced. At about the 2 minutes left mark, the singer disappears, and the choir comes back. Then everything, and I mean everything, goes higher, higher, higher, and higher, until they seem to just be able to touch God or something. And then, BAM! Climax! The choir soars, and the cymbals crash and timpanis roll, and the horns are almost angelic. Then, just as it quickly soared to the heavens, the song descended back to earth with about half a minute left, ending on the same vocal plus piano arrangement that began the song.

My suggestion: play this song as loudly as you possibly can get away with, either in complete darkness, or stand on top of a high mountain on a bright, clear day, and wait until the end, when everything just suddenly kicks in. If you do not feel transcendence washing over you, if you do not feel like you are face to face with eternity, if you do not feel touched to the very core of your being, well you, my friend, are not human.

The emotional power of the last couple of minutes, in my opinion, are only rivaled by the ending section from “All I Need” by Radiohead (when the entire string section kicks in and goes apeshit) and the long coda from “Purple Rain” by Prince.

I don’t have the fucking slightest clue what the guy is singing about; for all I know, he could be singing about the flavors of ice cream that he likes. But by God, he sings about the flavors of ice cream as if they constitute the very core of his existence! The first time I finished hearing this song, chills just went down my spine. It’s one of those spookily beautiful things that makes you agree with what Goethe said a long time ago:

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

With this song, Sigur Ros has just re-affirmed the beauty of music.

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