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Jónsi & Alex - Riceboy Sleeps (XL)

6 August 2009

JÓNSI & ALEX AKA RICEBOY SLEEPS (it’s a confusing name situation) is partners JÓN ÞÓR BIRGISSON of SIGUR RÓS and ALEX SOMERS of PARACHUTES. This album, which is connected to their 2006 book, has been in the works for five years, and it’s easy to imagine that it finally saw completion because Sigur Rós’s recent move towards more straightforward pop leaves less room for gentle soundscapes such as are found here. The music sits somewhere between composer JOHANN JOHANNSSEN’s indie-friendly minimalism and Sigur Rós’s quietest moments, tuneful but developing over longer time spans than pop songs. The string players of AMIINA have a big part in this album, and a choir intones (apparently) wordlessly on occasion. The distinctive sound of Birgisson’s voice is heard only once. When keyboards sometimes predominate, MAX RICHTER and, inevitably, BRIAN ENO also come to mind. The way the droning, slowly percolating textures are electronically treated is redolent of the fuzzy friendliness of laptop ambient, while the arc structures sound completely composed and their long, slow crescendos will sound familiar to post-rock fans, but with mirroring decrescendos instead of pounding climaxes. The quiet majesty of these tracks may not be for everyone, but there’s a good chance this will end up being the most beautiful album of 2009.