Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós has, for their two decade-long career, defied easy description. Resting somewhere in the space between pop, experimental rock, ambient, and sometimes even classical music, the group creates soundscapes which evoke images of other places and of alien worlds. The band released their most recent album, Kveikur, in 2013, the same year that the departure of long-time keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson turned them into a three-piece. Though they currently have no new record to promote, they embarked on a short US tour again this fall, including a stop at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
The band has been working on their next release, however, and opened the night with one of two new songs, “Á.” Like the other new song of the night, “Óveður” (with which the band opened the second set of the night) the track takes the band in an almost industrial direction, with mechanical sounding synthscapes and drums. But above both of them, as always, are singer Jónsi’s trademark falsetto vocals. The stage setting took on an industrial appearance too, with girder-like bars lining the stage and lights pulsing in and around them.
The rest of the set drew from the band’s earlier records, with their 2002 album ( ) being the most represented with five album tracks and the b-side “Smáskifa.” While the band has often performed in the past with additional supporting musicians such as the Icelandic string quartet Amiina and sometimes even a full orchestra (in 2013, they had an eleven-piece touring band), for this tour they have kept it stripped down to the three core members. Yet the music was far from sparse, and the three managed to fill the venue with their haunting, dreamlike sound. The more spare arrangements allowed the audience to hear the hypnotic core of the songs, without all of the flourishes that a larger ensemble brings.