Back in 1997, three years before the Alternative Nation went apeshit for their album of icy Icelandic whale-music, Ágætis Byrjun
, Sigur Rós released Von
. This atmospheric curio, formerly available only through the band's own label or from greedy trainspotters on Ebay, was a much sought-after collector's item that only added to the odd little band's hipster cache. This reissue, courtesy of One Little Indian, gives SR's ambitious debut a wider release.
Von is a darker, creepier experience than its follow-up, but the band's basic elements -- barren, windswept soundscapes, weird noises, lush string passages, Jon Thor Birgisson's angelic alien-baby vocals and an artistic vision so over the top it scratches the moon -- were evidently in place right from the start. It's a long, occasionally ponderous listen, lasting well over an hour with long passages of near-silence or sustained drones, but it's an impressive and rewarding journey that moves between prog, space-rock and subdural transmissions in ancient alien tongues. Enormous slabs of headphone ambience rule the roost here, with "Hún Jöro"'s tribal pulse and "Myrkur"'s reverb-soaked majesty standing out from the larger atmospheric movements. Weirdly, there are moments on Von that are closer to earthbound rock and pop than Ágætis Byrjun and ( )'s extended instrumental suites, sounding more like Yes performed by an isolated clutch of Finnish monks than the billowing blue-grey-spacecraft-landing-inside-your-head-sensation that fans have come to love and expect. Bestial, bombastic and beautiful, often all at once, Von is a brilliant bow.