I can think of pretty much my ideal album for the snowy weather that’s hitting Britain today. It comes from the land of glaciers and geysers, and it’s also the album I associate the most with the natural environment. Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun, released in 1999, was the record that launched their international career, and quite rightly too, because it’s utterly stunning. Yesterday I wrote about music that’s good because it’s frightening – the first time I put this record on, I thought aliens were arriving on Earth. I was petrified of the other-ness of the band’s sound, based around the guttural, explosive power of Jón Þór Birgisson’s cello-bowed guitar, and all manner of strings, percussion and sonic trickery. Their later work resembles more the sound of glaciers, moving slowly through the Icelandic landscape, but in Ágætis byrjun, the extraterrestrial force is strong.
How does this relate to snow? I can’t really explain it using words. Just listen to the thing and, in particular, the album’s 10-minute long opener, “Svefn-g-englar”, which emerges from “Echoes”-style keyboard pings before opening out into a soaring, emotionally draining epic with guitars from the end of the universe. On record, it’s pretty satiating; when performed live, it’s like a new galaxy is being born.