Release Year: 2005
Formats: Digital, LP, CD
Type: Album

  1. Takk…
  2. Glósóli
  3. Hoppípolla
  4. Með blóðnasir
  5. Sé lest
  6. Sæglópur
  7. Mílanó
  8. Gong
  9. Andvari
  10. Svo hljótt
  11. Heysátan

about takk…

‘takk’, the fourth album from sigur rós, was released by emi records on september 12, 2005. written, performed and produced by the band (along with co-producer ken thomas) at their studio in álafoss, iceland, ‘takk’ is the record to justify every amazing claim ever laid at this exceptional band’s door.

huge and intimate, orchestral and gossamer-light, rich layered and essentially simple, ‘takk’ is a work of a band operating at the very top of their game. it accomplishes what maybe they haven’t done since they first appeared, which is to make high-flown ideas appear to be straight ahead pop music, or, perhaps more accurately, invest pop music with a sense of magic long since lost in the mists of time and imagination (not that they sound anything like any music made back in any mythical musical heyday).

‘takk’ seems to operate so far outside the confines of what else is going on as to make comparison redundant. that the band were not going to be held by any narrow categorisation was apparent from the off. that they might be capable of creativity at this level of freedom and imagination was more than any of us might ever have hoped for. ‘takk’ is an instant classic, and might well turn out to be sigur rós’s masterpiece.

‘there is nothing clever about sigur rós and how we write songs, it’s just mucking about really. it’s all very spontant (sic),’ says the band’s kjartan sveinsson, although most musicians could muck about for millennia and never come up with anything approaching ‘takk’.

flowing through 65 minutes of 11 linked pieces, ‘takk’ came together relatively quickly (in sigur rós terms), with recording starting in earnest last december and mixing finishing this june. the running order more or less wrote itself by the spring, with several additional songs naturally falling by the wayside as the record took shape.

the band deliberately put a halt to live performances two years ago, to ensure anything they wrote towards the album would remain fresh in their minds. as a result only two of the songs on ‘takk’ have ever been heard at shows (prior to the band’s current european jaunt), with the remaining nine taking off in a multitude of new directions, only hinted at by the band’s previous work. ideas burst free in every direction, where before the band might have worked through a concept to its utter conclusion (playing and developing a song as slowly as possible ‘ the origin of a thousand ‘glacial’ metaphors), they now burn through ideas with scant regard. songs begin in one time signature and end in another, having morphed beyond recognition on their passage through. a beautiful piano motif will be bombed into submission by power chords, which in turn will succumb to a heavenly string-led calm after the storm.

that said, sigur rós can still take a breathtakingly long time to get to the point. the see-sawing strings and distant piano of ‘mílanó’ are like watching omar shariff appear on the horizon in lawrence of arabia, while, the orchestration towards the end of ‘andvari’ changes almost imperceptibly on its way towards its epiphany.

elsewhere, ‘takk’ is literally packed with music, so much so, that you wonder how the band managed to keep the space, clarity and separation in the sound. the ascent of ‘svo hljótt’ is dizzying and disorientating, while ‘glósóli’ features the crump of no fewer than three bass drums, before taking us through the ceiling of the song with a guitar that keeps climbing long after you think it must have reached its zenith.

‘takk’ is, according to the band (with icelandic tongue firmly placed in icelandic cheek), a ‘rock’n’roll record’ ‘ and it certainly is on occasion played both loud and fast ‘ but few of the clich’s of the genre come through sigur rós intact. in fact, listening to ‘takk’ it is not images of rebellion or off-the-peg degradation that comes to mind, but more a feeling of being washed clean by music. even when they rock sigur rós provide a clear spot of, dare i say, sanctity, and, at the end, of the record the prevailing feeling is one of peace.

in this 30 minute short film below you can listen to an interview with the band members in which they talk about each song on takk individually. the band tells us about the origin, inspiration, recording process, and general comments about the songs on takk. the interviews are accompanied by images of the band’s surroundings in álafoss and reykjavík.

1. takk…

kjartan: “the music comes from a very special place deep inside the mountains of iceland (laughs). there is actually nothing genius about what we do, you know, there is nothing clever about sigur rós. really. how we write the songs is just mucking about, it’s all very er… what is the word for it? it’s all very spontant (sic). the new album is just more matured, obviously i mean we’ve done these two albums, one kind of naïve and happy and one depressing and boring. no, just joking.”

2. glósóli

kjartan: “the bowed guitar actually came back on this album. i don’t actually remember exactly what we were writing but, a song wasn’t quite working and jónsi picked up the bow again and there it was. yeah. it probably was glósóli.”

jónsi: “it is really kind if crazy instrument. it’s like when a horse is untamed or something. it’s like trying to tame a horse sometimes, to play it is sometimes so wild.”

orri: “it takes a long time to get to the point. it just feels normal to us. we are doing it at our pace. it feels right to us to do it that way.”

georg: “when we started writing the songs, we knew where they were going. they were going to build up into something, an explosion in a way because they are sort of like stored up energy. we just start playing it softly and it just builds up into this explosion. and for us it just feels natural that the songs should be like that and i think for audiences when they listen to them i think they feel the energy and it builds up inside of them as well. when it finally explodes its great. it’s a fantastic feeling.”

3. hoppípolla

georg: “i think that we have surprised ourselves with a lot of the songs on the record. erm.. i wasn’t very surprised with hoppípolla because i think it really sounds like us. it started off as a tiny little sound bite and then became the song.”

kjartan: “hoppípolla is the only song that we didn’t write together in the pool. it was all done up here in the control room. we had a loop and we built a song about our endless loop – the loop in the beginning of the song. i’m not going to tell you where that loop is from.”

jónsi: “it is more like other sigur ros songs from ‘ágætis byrjun’ or something. if you took the space apart just upon a short loop from ‘viðrar vel til loftárása’ on ‘ágætis byrjun’. it’s just a short loop. we just took that and played it backwards and built a song from there. you know?”

orri: “it’s just a happy song. there is so much life in it. its very up beat and that’s nice. we’ve been joking that it could be an old coca cola advert or something like that.”

4. með blóðnasir

kjartan: “we kind of realised what kind of record we had in december. we laid down the order of the tracks quite early in the process, which we never do, you know in the mastering we always change the order up to the last minute. but this one was kind of different; we felt how it was supposed to sound right. yeah maybe it means that it is a good album.”

5. sé lest

kjartan: “we borrowed björk’s celesta for this record. it was great to have it. i think that ’sé lest’ was the first song that we used it on.”

georg: “we had always wanted to try a celesta and we’d never really… we had used a lot of glockenspiels and instruments like that but never a celesta. we tend to find a new instrument and then we write a song with that instrument. we might use it for all the songs, the next five songs that we write and then we might abandon it or we might find a new instrument it’s just, it’s… a loose process.”

kjartan: “we kind of had to restrain ourselves with the celesta, i feel. we could have gone much further with it. we had an orchestral bass drum in it and we had loads more stuff than there is now… it was kind of a studio song though we can play it live. we have added so many important orchestral bits on it so on… it might be hard.”

6. sæglópur

kjartan: “ságlópur is kind of the mad boat trip. and the weather, you know, tilted the boat, and the sailors er… kind of drowned at the end of the song – or got saved miraculously or something.”

georg: “i think we’re probably a bit surprised by sæglópur because it’s so rock and roll. i don’t think that we ever expected to write a song that was so rock and roll and still really like it and enjoy playing it. it is almost classic rock and roll even though anything that we do wouldn’t really sound like classic rock and roll. but the structure of the song is towards that direction. i think that most of the time if people ask us what kind of songs do you play we say rock and roll. but when we talk to each other we just say we make pop music. ”

kjartan: “i think the middle session, the power session, came first. i was just playing around with the delay on the piano. i thought actually that the piano was really tacky and really corny and i still do a bit. you know, really pop. it was kind of weird.”

7. mílanó

kjartan: “the record is quite full on and it is good to have a track like mílanó. mílanó starts off and ends very quietly, which i think is what the record needs.”

jónsi: “mílanó is especially long. it is kind of more like a jam session or something. or you know… an organised jam session.”

kjartan: “the string that i spent on the new album is really, really simple and i think that it is even more simple than on ágætis byrjun. it just works really well. it is not complicated at all. it is very simple. i am sure that i learned a lot from the amina girls. of course they wrote mílanó with us and that is their arrangement. their approach is very different and clichés are just forbidden with them. you know, clichés that i would happily use, and deliberately, but it’s something they would definitely call clichés, but work really well for me.”

8. gong

kjartan: “this album sounds much more optimistic than the previous one. when we were doing the previous one there was so much going on you know with us, as a band and as persons. things were going quite fast and we were really tired. after we did ágætis byrjun everything went so fast. signing record deals and meeting all these new people in a different country. it was a scary thing really. this album we had more time just to play around in the studio.”

georg: “you know, the strings on ágætis byrjun, it’s sort of like a fairytale record and we really enjoyed that. and the last record is more like a ‘grimms’ fairytale because it is very dark. so i think we wanted to do it again, because it feels happy. i think we were a bit sick of this depression.”

9. andvari

kjartan: “it’s a power ballad (laughs). you know like the scorpions.”

georg: “it was something that we were trying to work into gong itself for ages. almost from the day that we wrote it we were trying to work this little bit that we had into that song because we never felt that it fit. but, it should have been there. so on this record, it got a life of its own and became another song. even though it is a part of gong it is still something completely different.”

10. svo hljótt

kjartan: “i myself have emotionally connected to some music. that’s a very private thing for me i can’t really er… i couldn’t give that up or anything. no one can really ruin it for me because it is my thing. and i think that is very important when you are, you know, putting out music or delivering music to the world or whatever, that you don’t take that away from people. that is more like for instance when you put your song to a commercial or something and the song is going every twenty minutes on a tv stations and it is supporting a brand of some sort. that’s what really ruins music for people i think. it is just so personal, especially for people that are young and sentimental. also i think that people maybe forget it as well. you know that is these emotions that kind of are bound with the music.”

orri: “we are not trying to be spiritual, or anything. we are making music that moves people. trying. you know, we want to do that. you know that people get something out of it. maybe that is spiritual?”

kjartan: “sometimes we are playing our song or writing a song in the studio and we come back a day after and no one remembers the song so that’s a sign that the song wasn’t good enough, so we just forget about it.”

georg: “we write like you know twenty songs one month and we would remember three of them. sometimes we would just come in and play the same three chords or whatever, the same loop or the same riff for an hour. and i think that when we were writing the songs for this record we just came in and we all felt like we were doing something new. we are starting fresh, we had done the last record, we had toured it; it’s over and done with. it’s like almost four years of the same songs. so, it was like leaving something behind and starting over again.”

11. heysátan

georg: “when we were writing lyrics we all sat down and played the songs and listened to them to come up with ideas for lyrics. and the funny thing was that we all had the same ideas about what they were about because we could all see the same pictures in our heads. i think that heysátan was the first one that we sat down and tried to work out lyrics for. it was in a way as if somebody was dying peacefully.”

kjartan: “with heysátan my idea of it after we wrote it, was that there was an old man looking over his field, a big view over the sea or something, and he is dying. he is going to die. he is just lying on the grass, and he is going to die, but that is fine because he has had a good life. he is quite happy dying, actually. and that is what the song is to me. it’s kind of that emotion.”

orri: “he is really peaceful and he is dying and he is not afraid. yeah, it’s just a cute story about a man dying.”

kjartan: “are very different individuals, all of us, and maybe that is you know the reason that things work for us.”

georg: “our first record was called “hope” in icelandic. but i think “melancholy” is something we all feel when we are writing the songs. but in melancholy there is always this little bit of hope inside. it’s sort of a nice feeling. it’s ‘introvert”, is that the correct word? you feel inside yourself, you feel a bit down but you feel good about something, there’s something really nice, something warm, somewhere in the music.”

kjartan: “yes, this album would be our happy album.” (laughs)

jónsi: “it’s so hard to speak about something like this. it’s really weird.”

interview and film by john best and nick abrahams


written, produced and performed by sigur rós.

engineered, mixed and co-produced by kenneth vaughan thomas.
additional engineering by birgir jón birgisson.
recorded and mixed at sundlaugin, álafoss, iceland.

mastered at sterling sound, new york city by ted jensen.

all songs sigur rós (j þ birgisson, o p dýrason, g holm, k sveinsson)
except mílanó sigur rós and amina (j þ birgisson, o p dýrason, g holm, k sveinsson, h ársælsdóttir, ó j kjartansdóttir, e ólafsdóttir, m h m sigfúsdóttir, s sumarliðadóttir)

published by universal music publishing ltd.
except mílanó universal music publishing ltd and copyright control.

strings: amiina (hildur ársælsdóttir, edda rún ólafsdóttir, maria huld markan sigfúsdóttir, sólrún sumarliðadóttir).
string arrangement on gong by amiina.

additional strings recorded in langholtskirkja, performed by:
kristín lárusdóttir
júlía mogensen

stefanía ólafsdóttir
eyjólfur bjarni alfreðsson

ingrid karlsdóttir
gréta salóme stefánsdóttir
matthías stefánsson
ólöf júlía kjartansdóttir

brass performed by:
trumpets: eiríkur orri ólafsson
snorri sigurðarson

helgi hrafn jónsson
samúel jón samúelsson

össur geirsson

percussion/timpani on sé lest performed by frank aarnink

choir on hoppípolla performed by álafosskórinn. directed by helgi r. einarsson

cover design by: sigur rós, ísak winther, alex somers and lukka sigurðardóttir

takk … everyone