’ new album “Kveikur,” track-wise, is the Icelandic band’s second-shortest set. It’s also among their most focused, a turn from the surreal restraint of last “Valtari” and their first in 15 years without arranger/keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson.
That personnel reduction has the post-rock trio shifting into what you could call and offensive rather than defensive sound. Guitars are more pointed and the tempos are ballsier, like on moody and melodic first track “Brenninstein,” which shares its clanking call-to-arms with aggressive rhythmic objects with follow-up “Hrafntinna.” The vocals on “Stormur” sound like a wild animal call, breaking up its chugging pop structures. The title track is ground up in infernal, dark grinding sounds like an earthquake, its finale like stringed instruments being obliterated into fluttering feedback experiments. “Rafstraumur” has a glassy coolness in its echoes and clean drum sound, as the whole set finishes off with the atmostpheric dust of instrumental “Var.”
These aren’t alien sounds from Sigur Ros. “Kveikur” still carries an earthy, gorgeously organic weight to it, as (translated) song titles like "Iceberg," "Storm" and "Kindle" insinuate. As a result, “Kveikur” is much more focused on energizing central melodies, Jonsi Birgisson continuing to use his high voice as a lead instrument. If it’s not a largely important album for the longstanding band, “Kveikur” is at least an indication that, should they remain a mere three-piece in the future, they’ll be just fine.