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Sigur Rós

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Sigur Rós remains “the shizzle”—at least according to one fan’s recent message-board posting. So when the act made its latest local appearance a couple of weeks ago at North Bethesda’s Strathmore Hall, there were undoubtedly people in the audience who were thrilled that “Svefn-G-Englar,” from the band’s even more unpronounceable breakthrough album, 2000’s Agætis Byrjun, was included among the evening’s selections. Of course, only the die-hards would have been able to tell. Over the course of four albums, from 1997’s Von all the way through the new Takk…, the Icelanders who make up the Reykjavik-based quartet have created music that’s not rocking enough to be rock, not ambient enough to be ambient, and without quite enough strings to be orchestral. That’s Postrock 101, of course, but the otherwordly keening of vocalist Jón Þor Birgisson and an attention to jarringly disconnected sonic details—the sonar pinging at the beginning of “Svefn-G-Englar,” say—used to set the band apart. Or at least they did in less-soundscapy days: On Takk…, Birgisson & Co. do nothing but twinkle, twinkle, and sparkle. The title track contains a nifty and unexpected blast of feedback, but that’s about as differentiated as this recording gets. In other words, pity poor Orri Páll Dy«rason. The huge quarter notes the drummer pounds out on such songs as “Sæglopur” make it sound as if the guy wanted to add a Bonham drive to the music but was hampered by the band’s approach. When a proper beat does emerge, as on “MeÝ BlóÝnasir,” the result seems out of place and heavy-handed. Had Sigur Rós replaced some of the sheen with a little bit of swagger, the bigger drums might have worked. But by leaving the bulk of the tunes to hover in an undistinguished, elevator-ready state, the band let down apparently the only one of its members who could have saved it from itself. The result is music that rings with hollow, sweeping triumph—the kind best peddled by the shizzly likes of Coldplay. —Mike Kanin