let’s get something clear right off the bat: it’s not agaetis byrjun. nor should or could it be. agaetis byrjun was wondrous because it wasa surprise, an expected trove of incan gold when i wasn’t even looking for it. some of the lustre wore off when i began to hear “svefn-g-englar” in every tv show and movie striving to be indie-cool, but the that cd, for me, exists in my old apartment, 3 feet off the floor, crossing the living room to my couch where i sat agape. such a singular feeling about a cd eliminated any chance of a band repeating with a follow-up, and so i resigned myself to not making a comparison.
the self-control was unnecessary. () (a rather poncy title, i’ll admit) holds up as a different experience. agaetis byrjun was the introduction and indoctrination; () checks our guts to see if we understand why we’re here and if we have what it takes to stay. they do their best to scare us off in the first three songs, so anyone short of patience (read: MTV viewers) will lose interest without realizing it’s all part of a plan. the reward arrives with njosnavelin, probably destined to be the “popular” song from the album, much as “svefn-g-englar” was. it was already featured in vanilla sky in the crucial final scene, and it has an addictive – and, as usual, unintelligible – lyrical hook. i’ve been humming it today when the cd wasn’t playing in my stereo, computer or nomad. you will too.
there’s nothing new here. these songs have all been played live, and i heard most or all of them at the massey hall concert last fall (and will probably hear them again tonight), so while the general public may not have heard these songs, concert-goers and determined downloaders are familar with them already. with music like this, though, it’s the beauty of hearing it, the subtleties that you get in the studio that you don’t get live, that’s why you buy the disc and listen in the dark when everything else turns to shit or gold. live is a different experience, and an amazing one with this band, but the music coming from this album is like an established conductor or an old artist or the ’77 canadiens…there’s no deception here, no surprises. you know what’s coming, you’re ready for it…and it kicks your ass in ways you didn’t know a band could.
this is no longer just an alright start.