Sigur Ros: London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Heartbreaking works of staggering genius from icy baroque ambi-rockers Sigur Ros...

So this is [I]really[/I] what the dark side of the moon sounds like. Four

fragile, waif-like creatures stroll out from the wings. The Empire, hushed to a near-silence anyway by the soothing purple lights and the distant hum of whale music that serves as introduction, takes a deep breath and prepares to be plunged into the iciest of Icelandic waters.

The freeze starts the second singer Jonsi Birgisson scrapes his cello bow across the strings of his low-slung guitar. For twenty long seconds the sound reverberates before bassist Georg Holm joins in and the band begin to build what can only be described as a glacier-coated sonic cathedral around it. Hours pass. After an eternity a solemn looking character steps up to the microphone, looking as if he’s just arrived from a Quaker prayer meeting.

This, it turns out, is not the Judder Man but Stendor Andersen, a legendary figure in Icelandic classical circles (come on, keep up at the back there). Having accompanied them on a pair of spell-binding – and, come to think of it, dictionary-defying laments – he strolls off, leaving the band to lighten the mood with a glorious ‘Danarfregnir Og Jardarfarir’.

For a moment, a light flickers across the landscape. But then, just as

quickly, it’s gone, and the mood reverts to that of Thom Yorke’s house on the night his girlfriend left him. It’s glorious, soul-wrenching stuff, but it works best at the point when three-quarters of Sigur Ros huddle around a piano whilst Jonsi sits cross-legged on the floor, happily curled over his guitar as the band eke out another lost nursery rhyme they found on the moon and thought they’d better share with us.

Just another heart-breaking work of staggering genius, then.

Paul Moody