Takk… is one of those albums you have to experience. Nothing I say here will come close to accurately capturing what Takk sounds like. It’s an album you can only understand when you’re caught up in the momentum from start to finish – it’s an album where tracks stand on their own beautifully, but together form something far greater. Takk is ethereal, a dreamlike trance, wispy moments lost in the breeze. It’s far from all soft ballads and lullabies, but walls of sound and unrelenting energy. This is an album built on contrasts; of loudness and silence, of complexities and simplicities, and of brightness and darkness.
Following on from their breakthrough album Ágætis byrjun and the subsequent ( ), the Icelandic post-rock outfit had a lot to live up to. In 2005, Sigur Rós were a stark contrast to the post-punk revivalists and indie rockers that permeated the mid 2000s charts. The loosely defined stylings of post-rock seemed far in the past, lost in the year 2000 with Radiohead’s Kid A and Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. But with Takk, Sigur Rós’ sound became the face of post-rock. Drawing on a myriad of influences in dream pop, ambient, and classical music, as well as with frontman Jónsi’s bowed guitar and innovative instrumentation, Sigur Rós developed a uniquely nuanced yet focused sound.
From start to finish, Sigur Rós’ new ideas and stylistic experiments result in beautiful moments throughout the entirety of Takk. Even in the album’s most ethereal and obscure regions, wondrous lights step forth from the band’s most shadowy compositions. For those who put down Sigur Rós’ work as lullabies, in many ways, you’re not wrong. But at the same time, the post-rock trio’s dreamy soundscapes are so much more, almost a sort of thinking man’s lullaby. Takk goes far beyond the glossy baroque pop of Hoppípolla. Takk plunges into the depths of post-rock, enamouring itself with the heavy yet hopeful aggressiveness of tracks like Glósóli as much as it does with the subtler ambient folk aspects of the finale Heysátan.
Takk is an album of buildup and release. Sigur Rós are masters of the mathematics of momentum – each song knows the precise moment to let go and let everything crumble apart beautifully. The momentous climb on Mílanó, and then as it returns for a second time, is unforgettable, a cascading waterfall of grinding guitars, flailing drums, and a powerful falsetto that brings it all together. Sæglópur similarly begins as a quiet ambient piece, but quickly grows into a forward moving, guitar driven, and ultimately emotional composition. Despite the timid nature of the album, even the heaviest and most aggressive climaxes on tracks like Glósóli and Mílanó seem restrained beneath the band’s ambient façade – in fact, at a lot of times, Sigur Rós are far heavier than most people would like to think.
But Takk’s quieter moments are just as evocative. The ambient title track and opener serves as a short but sweet taster of things to come throughout the album, almost hinting at certain musical motifs that will reoccur at later moments. The dream pop ballad Hoppípolla brings about a sense of nostalgia, hope, and pure bliss unlike any other song does. Somehow, just like the title suggests, Hoppípolla’s inspiring orchestration evokes that feeling of hopping into puddles, and all the happiness and innocence that comes with it. Although being unable to tell the difference between the two, Jónsi’s use of both Icelandic and his invented Hopelandic only reinforces the innocent playfulness of Takk’s sweeter songs. Hoppípolla’s instrumental finale in Með blóðnasir rounds out what goes down as a perfect song – nobody can listen to Hoppípolla and not feel the sense of bliss that Sigur Rós have so carefully crafted.
Takk’s more restrained and calmer compositions have just as much to offer. The slow moving and classical inspired Andvari works well with the wispy post-rock dynamics of Svo Hljótt and the sparse finale Heysátan to form the come down section of the album. With Gong, Sigur Rós venture in the cold soundscapes of trip hop with intricate, tight drum patterns and a wandering guitar line to match. But it’s Sé Lest where Sigur Rós make the biggest departures from their typical sound. The first half begins as a more usual sort of post-rock ballad, but suddenly evolves into a glockenspiel led lullaby and then into a messy but beautiful carnival breakdown. Sigur Rós are seamless.
Twelve years after its release, Takk remains at the forefront of post-rock. Sigur Rós draw from contemporary and baroque stylings equally, pooling this mess of ambient, classical, post-rock, and dream pop into a wonderful result. Takk’s compositions are timeless, framed by only the evocative elements of the music and the nature of human emotion, Sigur Rós have created something universal. To use the band’s own words, takk…