Sigur Rós: Sæglópur
The Worker's Institute

The Worker's Institute certainly spares no expense in mounting Saeglópar's EP and DVD in a distinctive gatefold digi-pack. The first disc pairs a Takk epic with previously unreleased tracks by the Icelandic quartet while the DVD collects the videos for the Takk songs “Glósóli,” “Hoppípolla,” and “Sæglópur.”

As quintessential a Sigur Rós piece as any, the eight-minute “Sæglópur” opens quietly with tiny creaks and rustles before a simple piano and glockenspiel backing for Jónsi Birgisson's ethereal voice appears. Rather than slowly intensifying, the calm is abruptly shattered when the music explodes with glorious guitar frenzy and then wails anthemically for nearly three minutes. Following that, peaceful calm sets in, with the melody melismatically rising and falling as the song slows to a string-drenched close. Not surprisingly, the delicate piano ode “Refur” and the idyllic string-and-flute meditation “Ó Fridur” don't match that peak, though Birgisson's pleading vocal in the latter leaves a strong impression. Soft tinkles in “Kafari” could ease any child to sleep but the piece subtly swells in volume, as strings and glockenspiel clusters meld into gentle placidity.

Typically video discs feel like little more than bonuses but in this case it's wonderful that the group's mesmerizing videos can be viewed in their high-quality, full-screen glory. “Sæglópur” opens with slow-motion silhouettes of a mother watching her son disappear beneath a lake's surface. Once below, the boy escapes the clutches of a squid-like creature but then gets caught in underwater tendrils before a scuba diver brings him (too late?) to the surface where he's cradled, Pietà-like, by his mother. “Hoppípolla” is clearly the weakest video of the three; showing seniors act like playful delinquents is a cute and mildly charming idea but little more. “Glósóli,” on the other hand, is almost as transcendent as the song itself. Merging Pied Piper with Peter Pan, the video follows a drummer boy and an ever-expanding group of children as they race up a mountainside, seemingly intent on throwing themselves to their deaths. Without giving anything away, the climax—visually and sonically—is magnificent.

October 2006