The majestic swarm of sound produced by Sigur Rós is a force of nature that carries the Icelandic trio where it wants to go, like water to the sea.
The filigree of strings and piano, Jónsi Birgisson’s yearning falsetto and his elusive and dreamy wordplay, frequently punctuated by the skittering claws of the digital, is a highly personal and primal thrum. The fact that it has resonated with fans and critics around the globe for nearly two decades is almost incidental.
When the music trades shimmering beauty for darkness, Sigur Rós has no choice but to follow.
“It is a dark album, but it is cleansing, I think, this darkness,” says Orri Páll Dýrason of “Kveikur,” Sigur Rós’ critically lauded summer release. “It is about not losing hope. There is always hope.”
“Kveikur” was recorded through most of last winter as an alter-ego companion to 2012’s “Valtari.” Where the latter album was notable for a mystical and spiritual longing delivered with hymnlike restraint, the new release comes from a totally different place. The title track, especially, is a pounding, distortion-scarred bit of poetry that would be right at home on Trent Reznor’s 3 a.m. playlist.
“Kveikur” has a prominent place on Sigur Rós’ 18-month world tour, which will stop Oct. 9 at Miami’s Bayfront Park.
Taking a break while fishing for trout in a lake in the lowlands about an hour outside of Reykjavik, Dýrason describes “Valtari” and “Kveikur” as “sister albums” created after losing a brother, Kjartan Sveinsson, the classically trained keyboardist who left amicably after 15 years with Sigur Rós.
“We were still working on ‘Valtari’ [when Sveinsson told them he was leaving], and we went in my garage, the three of us, Georg, Jonsi and I, and we just started playing,” says Dýrason, Sigur Rós’ drummer since 2002. “Kjarten was quitting, and we wanted to see what would happen as a trio. We wanted to do something totally different. We didn’t want to be stuck.”
The more muscular and percussive sound heard on such "Kveikur" cuts as "Brennisteinn," which some critics have hailed as a welcome addition to the Sigur Rós palette, has elevated Dýrason’s role to one more traditional for a rock band (“I would not have drummed like this for any of the previous albums. … Yes, it feels good”), but he finds it no less artful.
“It is a different kind of beauty. More energetic, for sure,” he says.
It is hard to argue with the instincts of Sigur Rós, whose inventory of admirers is as varied as it is long. Six years after a Miami appearance to help celebrate the career of legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham (“I loved Miami, but my nose was bleeding all the time. I don’t know why,” Dýrason recalls with a laugh), the band was animated for a recent episode of “The Simpsons.”
The list of soundtrack appearances, which includes Cameron Crowe’s arty “Vanilla Sky” and Wes Anderson’s “ The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” was augmented recently by the TV drama “The Vampire Diaries.” And HBO just revealed that the band will be included in the upcoming season of its fantasy hit “Game of Thrones.”