Review of Sigur Ros' album Inni released through Krunk
Sigur Ros' new live album Inni is a strange and wonderful beast. Recorded and filmed over two nights at Alexandra Palace in 2008, it's also taken some time to surface. The double record serves as a comprehensive view of the Icelandic four piece's back catalogue, while the accompanying film pushes their minimalistic art rock aesthetic even further forward. That may not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but in reality it's an immersive and rewarding experience.
While the recording and film complement each other, it's difficult to ascertain quite where the seed of the project lies. Is the album in fact an extended soundtrack for the video, making the film the primary focus of Inni? On closer inspection it seems that probably is the case, because of the care and attention put into the production process. Shot digitally and then projected through glass and other objects the grainy black and white film takes on a strange otherwordly quality with hints of colour flaring up at times. There's almost no recognition that an audience is present either with tight, sometimes disorientating images of the individual band members and their instruments dominating. While this highlights small intricate details such as Jonsi's use of vocals as instrumentation, it also detracts somewhat from the scale of the performance, making it a very personal experience.
This means the double album feels slightly distanced from its visual cousin. Here the crowd is more audible and the acoustics of the room add to the sense of occasion. It's also more immediately obvious that the band has been stripped back to remove the strings found on many of the studio recordings.
Opening with a triumphant and visceral version of 'Svefn-g-englar' (strangely relegated to the second track on the DVD) sections of the song are bathed in feedback and crackling guitars. But also it's the quieter moments that the double album succeeds in highlighting, that make the record seem superior to the film. For example as the room falls silent during 'Vio spilum endalaust', all that can be heard is a solitary pump organ wheezing away. It's enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Elsewhere as Jonsi holds a single note for 45 seconds during 'Festival', the album makes you feel like it will last forever. Whereas the film reveals the effort on his face towards the end of this showstopper, which breaks the spell of what you're hearing.
With an additional 6 tracks the record also feels more like a greatest hits set for the initiated. It draws from every one of Sigur Ros' albums, providing an experience that you're more likely to want to revisit compared to the 75-minute film. While some fans may feel that Inni is treading water and revisiting past glories, the inclusion of an unreleased track ('luppulagio') at the very end of both the film and record does signpost towards a new studio album. In the meantime though, Inni has enough quirky special moments to satisfy the appetite of fans looking to immerse themselves in Sigur Ros' ethereal and expansive soundscapes.