Although this album technically came out last year, it's been relatively hard to find until now, mainly due to it only being available on the small Bad Taste label through Iceland. After releasing the Svefn-G-Englar and Ny Batteri single earlier this year, though, Fat Cat records in the UK rightly signed the band and is giving the band the larger push that could just make the band a bigger name than fellow Icelander Bjork.
I'm not kidding.
If you've already checked out the reviews for the above mentioned singles, you'll know just how much this band moves me. The best part is that this full-length album is better than either of those singles, partially because they're able to realize themselves on a more full scale, and partially because it finds them putting all their different sounds together into a cohesive, 70-minute journey of aural bliss that I've not heard in quite awhile. In fact, unless something else comes out this year that shakes me to my foundations as much as this release does, I have a feeling it will be my favorite album of the year. The group take little bits from bands like Labradford, Radiohead, the Cocteau Twins, and about 10 other bands, yet put everything together in a way that it comes out sounding original and beautiful in it's very own way.
After a short intro track that lasts less than 2 minutes or so, the disc goes right into the already mentioned "Svefn-G-Englar" and lead singer Jonski sounds like he's cooing into your ears from 1000 miles away while sonar blips dot a doppler effect through the light instrumentation. "Staralfur" adds a string backing to the group for the main part of the song while little bridges drop out with pulsing electronic beats and even a stripped down acoustic guitar. Really, there's not a song on the album that misses it's mark, from the squalling feedback mixed with a bit of a jazzy number on "Hjartad Hamast" or the smooth bass progression on the sing-along of "Olsen Olsen." The album winds down with the twinkling sounds of the album titled track "Agaetis Byrjun," before closing out with the cool wash of "Avalon," that makes you feel like you feel like you're sitting on the cold coast of the groups home country while looking up at the vast sky.
With four people in the band and the occassional backing by a string section, the very young group have already set their sites high with what is technically only their second full-length release (their debut, Von can be purchased through the Bad Taste website). It doesn't even matter that I can't understand a word they're saying on this release, because it's truly so beatiful that one can 'feel' what they're saying anyway. That may sound cheesy, but that's just how they make you feel, and once you're listening to it you won't even care. There's already been a lot of dramatic words written about the sounds of this groups music, and there will only continue to be more. Just check it out before your friends all beat you to it.