( ) by Sigur Ros

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( ) by Sigur Ros
( ) by Sigur Ros

Album Released: 2002

( ) ::: Artwork

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If Sigur Rós weren't ambitious before - well, be prepared - because this is ambition. So this album unsurprisingly gets a a high rating from me, because I am a pretentious dork. No need to question why, I just am.

It's true that this album kind of divided fans somewhat, and being the 'follow-up' to the mega hit Ágætis Byrjun, it was inevitable that the question 'which is better, Ágætis Byrjun or ( )?' would become commonplace. And it did. But whether you think this album is better or worse, you gotta give the band credit for not churning out an album identical to Ágætis Byrjun just to please the critics and fans.

This album, unlike the previous one, has a clear concept, a clear goal, and clear ambition. It was time for the band to truly test their limits, to find an identity of their own, and that's just what they do.

So, what is ( )? Well, how can I explain? First and foremost, the album's most immediately obvious feature is that it has no title. And not just that, but none of the tracks are titled either, and the only words printed on the CD artwork is the handwritten name of the band. But that isn't gratuitous - all the lyrics are written in 'Hopelandic' - that is, every 'word' Jónsi sings means nothing at all. So there are no 'lyrics', and thus the album is completely wordless.

The thing is, it wasn't the band's intent to create a 'meaningless' album. A meaningless album by definition means absolutely nothing, and trying to remove any kind of meaning from art is negating the very essence of art, though there are artists who do that. But that's not what the band is doing here. The band simply made the album without any 'meaning' in sight, left the 'meaning' as a complete blank. And so it's up to the listener to find their own personal meaning in the songs, and in the album as a whole, and write their own lyrics on the blank spaces in the album's booklet, and then write their own name between those big parentheses.

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by Reviewer: Fernando Canto (blogging at Sir Mustapha's Album Reviews [Defunct])

It's difficult to discuss Sigur Ros albums in any depth. Firstly, even though each of their albums has its own character, and a Sigur Ros song is still instantly recognisable - what with the band's stately cinematic sound and Jonsi's unique voice - they're all kind of similar-sounding. Secondly, it's impossible to go into the meaning of the lyrics since they're all in Icelandic or Hopelandic.

() varies most substantially from its predecessor by dispensing with the orchestrations, and relying solely on the band themselves. But even without orchestration, Sigur Ros still have a large cinematic sound, thanks to Jonsi's ambient yet imposingly large guitar style. Yet despite the grandiosity of their sound, losing the strings does take away some of the musical colour, and () has less of the melodic fluidity of Aegetis Byrnjun, instead presenting a darker and more textural side to the band.

The result is there's less happening in the mix, so () can seem more monotonous than Aegetis Byrnjun in places. But by and large it's another stellar set from the band, even if it does take longer to uncover its secrets - there's an elegant grace to the way the band's pieces ebb and flow, and a tangible beauty.

() is divided into two halves, with a clear gap between the two sides, and in general the first half is more accessible than the second. The first two songs are more in the vein of Aegetis Byrnjun, while the two subsequent tracks take a more direct approach - the mesmerising piano arpeggios of "Samskeyti" are simple yet effective, while "Njósnavélin" mixes in a beautiful stately guitar progression with keyboard breaks reminiscent of Yes.

The toughest going is around "E-bow" and "Dauôalagiô", lengthy tracks that are built around Sigur Ros' less pre-possessing melodies - the latter is little more than a series of crescendos around a droning Jonsi vocal that's surprisingly grating along with a vocal melody that's surprisingly repetitive. "Popplagiô" then restores the beauty with a typically elegant melody.

() is a difficult record after the easily approachable beauty of Aegetis Byrnjun, but it has plenty of moments of transcendent gorgeousness, and if you loved Aegetis Byrnjun you'll want to want to hear this one too.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])

Again with the obfuscation ... the album title is a pair of parentheses, the songs have no title, and the singing is even more incomprehensible. I'd find all that irritatingly pretentious if Sigur Rós weren't such a great band.

At least, Agaetis Byrjun was obvious greatness - this is more like pretty good. The band has eschewed the strings and horns and things, and seem to be concentrating on more guitar and keyboard-based stuff. And instead of wonderful transcendance, the focus is more on pleasant prettiness, which they still do quite well - on Track [1] for example - but it is kind of disappointing.

The worst offender is Track [5], which manages to do something the band hadn't managed before: be boring. On the other hand, Track [8] builds to an exciting climax, and the rest is pretty entertaining, if not genius. So that's that.

by Reviewer: Cole Reviews