Sigur Rós

Hvarf/Heim, Heima
(XL Recordings)

Sigur Rós

Iceland's Sigur Rós are no less majestic in 2007 than when they first broke worldwide a few years ago. Case in point: The two-EP set Hvarf/Heim and the concert/documentary DVD Heima are as essential as anything in its catalog. Hvarf unearths three songs lost in the shuffle up until now, each heavy with orchestra-swept ambience and saturated with shivering emotion. Best of these is "Hljómalind," on which angelic Jónsi Birgisson almost sounds like he's singing in English for once (he's not), and Hvarf's drastic reimaginings of the older "Von" and "Hafsól," each averaging ten minutes of slow-building instrumental power. Songs from all four Sigur Rós studio albums get the acoustic treatment on Heim, since the band played outdoors in remote parts of Iceland that lacked electricity. This unannounced string of free shows is the basis for the feature-length film Heima, which is as dreamy, uplifting and weirdly universal as the band itself. A valentine to Iceland as well as a snapshot of Sigur Rós, Heima features shots of bleakly lovely scenery fluttering throughout the jaw-dropping performances. Meanwhile, in interviews, Sigur Rós laments the business side of music and discusses an acoustic show protesting the building of a hydroelectric dam in the Icelandic countryside. By the end, it's clear their music is as transcendent for them to play as it is to hear, and watching them against such backdrops is magical beyond words.
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