Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós announced they will be releasing a new album, Odin’s Raven Magic, on December 4. The band also released the album’s lead single, “Dvergmál.”The orchestral album features the Schola Cantorum of Reykjavik and L’Orchestre des Laureats du Conservatoire national de Paris and will be released via Warner Classics.
Sigur Rós said in a news release that the album is a collaboration between them and Icelandic music legend Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, as well as Steindór Andersen, a fisherman and one of Iceland’s most respected chanters of traditional epic narrative.
The orchestral and choral arrangements were largely done by former band member Kjartan Sveinsson as well as Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir from the band amiina.
The album was inspired by Himarsson’s interest in a chapter of Iceland’s medieval literary canon called Hrafnagaldur Óðins, or Odin’s Raven Magic. The story is about a Norse god with two ravens that flew over the Earth to survey and bring information back to him. It recounts a banquet held by the gods, in which ominous signs foretell the end of the world.
“Hrafnagaldur Óðins has lots of interpretation and implications that fire up the imagination… It’s a very visual poem, with images all about falling down, and a world freezing from north to south. It was an apocalyptic warning. Perhaps the people of the time felt it in their skins. Today, of course, Iceland is involved in environmental issues surrounding hydro-electric power and the destruction of the highlands. We are being warned again,” Hilmarsson said.
The single, “Dvergmál,” features a five-octave marimba built from stone by sculptor and artist Páll Guðmundsson. It opens with harmonic lines from the marimba and a glockenspiel playing a melody over it. Gradually more and more instruments come in, starting with a cello playing slow chords and an extremely low bass.
A drum set comes in and the song’s tempo picks up, right before the choir joins in, singing dissonant chords. The piece goes through waves of slow and fast tempos, ending with a return to the harmonic lines of the marimba and glockenspiel.
Sigur Rós has been famous in Iceland since 1994 and has completed eight albums and been nominated for nine awards. They are one of Iceland’s biggest musical groups.
In June, Julianna Barwick released the track “In Light” featuring Jónsi of Sigur Rós. Barwick said: “I think he has the best voice in the world, and hearing my voice with Jónsi’s is one of the joys of my life.”
In March of last year, the whole band was accused of evading around 151 million Icelandic Krona or $1.2 million U.S. dollars in taxes. A year before, the band had 800 million Icelandic Krona ($8 million) of their assets frozen by the government following tax evasion charges, but all charges were dropped due to a claim that their accountant made a mistake.
Odin’s Raven Magic tracklist
- Alföður orkar
- Stendur æva
- Áss hinn hvíti
- Hvert stefnir
- Spár eða spakmál