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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

Directions, lost and found

New from pop's northern lights

September 04, 2005|RICHARD CROMELIN

Sigur Ros

"Takk ..." (Geffen)

* * 1/2

ONE of the talking points surrounding the fourth album (in stores Sept. 13) from these doggedly ethereal Icelanders is that they're willing to be more accessible this time around. Not by adding catchy beats or singing in a sub-stratospheric range but by performing lyrics in their native language rather than in the invented tongue they've used in the past.

That's not much of a concession, so let's hope they don't get branded as sellouts by hard-core Hopelandish fans. After all, there's little other sign of any pop radar being deployed. Maybe the touch of syncopation, Nordic folk-pop air and embryonic guitar hook of "Gong," and the one song that clocks in at close to four minutes (no, your iPod is not malfunctioning; the song is over).

But most of "Takk ..." sticks closely to the established Sigur Ros aesthetic: orchestral rock exercises that unfold with deliberation, starting slowly, building to climax, then dissolving into sonic sigh.

It's a classic form that Sigur Ros keeps interesting with wide-ranging textural transformations and involving through its ability to sustain an aura. But the band still hasn't captured on record the soaring intensity it can achieve in concert, where Jon Thor Birgisson's impossibly high vocals and the tension of live execution add dimension to the experience. (The Hollywood Bowl, where the band plays Oct. 5, should be an especially hospitable setting.)

"Takk ..." seems a little flat and familiar in comparison -- too little progress and too much mood.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent), and have already been released unless noted.

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