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Sigur Rós - () (CD)

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( ) comprises eight untitled songs which Sigur Rós have been playing at concerts in the past 2-3 years. A 30 second period of silence divides the 71 minute album in two halves, each half containing four tracks. The first half is light and optimistic while the second half is bleaker and more melancholic, "plays more with your emotions", as Jónsi worded it. There is some experimentation of instruments in the first half of the album, with some sampling of Jónsi's voice and more emphasis on keyboard than guitar (drummer orri plays keyboard on tracks 1 and 3). There is more of the typical guitar, bass and drums line-up on the second half, jónsi bowing guitar as usually.

Comparing ( ) to the band's last album, Ágætis byrjun, it can be described as more minimalistic and atmospheric than its predessessor. It's a rawer and darker album and considerably less accessible than ágætis byrjun; drum beats are usually slow (tracks 1 and 3 are drum-free) and the songs take their time to progress into the trademark Sigur Rós emotional climaxes, making for a more challenging but more rewarding listen. With it's intense highs and lows and its mood ranging from brittle to brutal, ( ) is very much a headphone album.

The album's entire packaging is completely free of text and markings. You won't find album credits or tracklistings anywhere on the album. The only thing representing the album is Jónsi's handwriting of "Sigur Rós" on the front cover and a symbol cut out in the slipcase most accurately described as a pair of parentheses, or two semi-circles. The symbol can be interpreted as either an emphasis on the album's untitle (the listener is free to make up his/her own title since there is essentially none) or an emphasis on the division of the album, the two semi-circles symbolizing the album's two halves. or maybe it doesn't "mean" anything. every listener is of course free to make up their own mind.

There are no lyrics on the album. Jónsi sings in the made-up "language" which the band calls hopelandic. This is of course not really a language in that sense, since it is essentially just babbling vocals that fit with the music, like another instrument. Since there are no lyrics, the listener is invited to write in or illustrate his/her own interpretations of the songs onto the blank pages in the album's 12-page booklet. sigur-ros.com featured an interactive option where fans could send in their own lyrics and a computer program recongised the most common words and phrases to form the actual lyrics.

Artwork on the album (which is basically just the image inside the parentheses and the spreads in the booklet) is based on photographs the band took outside their studio in álafoss, which they have manipulated and distorted to their liking. The images are close-ups of natural elements such as grass, bushes and ponds. four different versions of the album's packaging will be distriubted around the world, one in each of the following regions of the world: europe, america, australia and japan. Iceland won't have its own special packaging but all four versions will be available to buy there. There are different images inside the brackets for each region and the spreads will also differ.

( ) is the first Sigur Rós album which was recorded in the band's converted swimming pool studio in álafoss, mosfellsbær (a small rural town located near reykjavík). The band calls this studio 'sundlaugin', or 'the pool', and the studio has its own website up on sundlaugin.com. The album was produced by Sigur Rós and engineered by Ken Thomas, who was also their engineer on ágætis byrjun. On the majority of the album the band is accompanied by the string quartet amina, which comprises four icelandic young women. ( ) was mixed at peter gabriel's real world studios and mastered at abbey road studios.

Working titles:

untitled 1 - vaka (the name of orri's daughter)
untitled 2 - fyrsta (the first song)
untitled 3 - samskeyti (attachment)
untitled 4 - njósnavélin (the spy machine)
untitled 5 - álafoss (the location of the band's studio)
untitled 6 - e-bow [georg uses an e-bow on his bass in this song]
untitled 7 - dauðalagið (the death song)
untitled 8 - popplagið (the pop song)

Sigur Rós - (  )