With “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep”, the Icelandic band released its ultimate collection of electronic remedies for nerves tied in knots.
It’s a rare thing to find a band like Sigur Rós.
Despite the emotional complexity of their sounds, and the defragmented structures of their compositions, which are often based on depressing themes with unnerving beats and whatnots, Sigur Rós broke the glass ceiling of that weird, Icelandic band. Along with Bjork, it was these few gentlemen who sculptured the face of this far-away country in the listen-to area.
It’s a funny thing that after all these years, their avantgarde art hasn’t shaken, but on the contrary, it steadily grew into a trademark. Because when you think about flying to cosmos with just your headphones on, you’ll be more than tempted to reach for Sigur Rós.
And there is no better opportunity for a little space travel than the one created by the streaming-only release of “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep”.
2019 – the busy year for Sigur Rós
Some say that prolific artists try to trade quality for quantity. That certainly is the case of many underground rappers, who spit their mixtape faster than lines in their tracks.
However, some bands are great at delivering lots of quality stuff, because they simply have their momentum going. Apparently, Sigur Rós had theirs ever since 1994 when the band was founded and it’s been whirring on and on.
But looking at their releases from 2019, it becomes clear that Sigur Rós started to explore instrumental pieces that majestically unwind over the span of 20-and-more minutes, rather than commingling rock and ambient. That’s the case of “Variations on Darkness”, a highly experimental ambient album.
Featuring only two tracks, this is Sigur Rós exploring fields of unease, and uncertainty. “The Hungry Ghosts, We Live in an Old Chaos of The Sun” radiates with the Space Odyssey-like vibes, heavily synthesised, and drifting in a sphere far from their rock albums. At some point, you will hear “Chernobyl” OST there too (which was, by the way, composed by another Icelandic genius Hildur Guðnadóttir). It’s creepy – to some degree – as well as grand and overwhelming.
And while the second track, titled “The Silence of Animals, The Truth is it Wanted to Cave in”, lands some place warmer, partially thanks to Jónsi’s vocals arriving in the middle of the track, it sows the similar seeds of restlessness.
If you start your year by such a release, what’s the possible follow-up?
“22° Lunar Halo”, a second album of Sigur Rós which premiered in 2019, deepens those anxiety-inducing areas. Track No. 1 – “With Arms and Legs Moving, The Tell Tales” – overwhelms with its span of percussions and rhythmic noises, but only until the point when the wall of sound stops and makes space for gentle bells and violins.
There is, though and finally, some hope.
Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep (2019) – An Ambience Masterpiece?
Unlike “Variations on Darkness” and “22° Lunar Halo”, this third piece entitled “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” lasts almost 2 hours and a half and produces an entirely different haze of music.
Frankly, the title of the album says a lot about what’s to be expected. As an article from The Sanity Snacks explains,
Liminal dreaming is the swirling, kaleidoscopic, free-associative experience on the edge of your mind. You’ll find it in the space right between awake and asleep. “Liminal” refers to the spaces in between things, the transitional condition of thresholds or boundaries.thesanitysnack.com
You might hear the ringing of that-sounds-like-bs bell when reading the above.
Fortunately enough, you don’t need to believe in liminal dreaming and kaleidoscopic trips through cosmos to let “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” struck you with awe.
Given the sheer brilliance of this album, you actually might feel a bit Interstellar-esque. A regiment of Sleep-titled tracks starts with poignant ambient called Sleep 1, where lucid themes commingle with echoing shimmers, softly soothing as the first song closes to an end. Sleep 3 takes you to a much more solemn space, like drifting away in space, but its Sleep 8 that imitates the kind of disturbed sleep.
And indeed, just as those names suggest, each track from “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” tells a story of its own. Such music brings images, associates feelings that range from serenity through emulation and even fear. Each composition flows separately, consumes its time in three acts and then pupate into something new.
While each track has its own DNA, one could hear ambiguity in each one of those seemingly calming tunes. Sigur Rós masterfully weaves contrasting emotions, portrayed in their musical canvas by a-rhythmic pounding overlaid deeply within the space of calming ambient. The background is never calm like the main waves of sound, and that’s what perfectly illustrates the nature of sleep too. Like a brain which goes through phases and depths of disconnection from reality, “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” dives deep and sails shallow, and that way it captures the mysterious process of resting by being ridiculously active. If every dream reminds of a snowflake – unparalleled in its own unique form – then the same goes for these nine Sleeps from the album.
Such diversity becomes richer when you listen to “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” second and then x-times too. The perception changes accordingly to the external factors weighing in too. Such is the value of art in its purest form, when it lets you immerse in hidden tones and colours and discover them over and over again.
One final note that’s key to embracing the full marvel of “Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep” is to listen to the entirety of it. Sigur Rós clearly builds an anthology out of this one, leaving your brain to conjure the visual side of those stories.
So leave it to the projections of your mind and let your soul immerse in this rich architecture of sound.