Sigur Rós have released a new song, “Stendur æva,” from their upcoming orchestral album, Odin’s Raven Magic, which was made with fellow Icelandic artists Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, and Steindór Andersen.
“Stendur æva” (which translates to “stands alive”) is a sprawling cut that opens with a section centered around a hypnotic loop played on a unique five-octave marimba built from roughly hewn pieces of stone. Andersen guides the song through this first section before the song gives way to a glitchy breakdown that ushers in a more avant-garde section featuring lead vocals from Sigur Rós’ Jónsi. All the elements of “Stendur æva” coalesce at the end in a serene climax, with Andersen’s deep voice and Jónsi’s falsetto twisting together above a full choir and orchestra.
Odin’s Raven Magic was conceived and first commissioned by the Reykjavik Arts Festival in 2002 and was performed only a handful of times that year. The upcoming release — out December 4th on Krunk via Warner Classics — was taken from a live recording of the 70-minute score, performed at Paris’ La Grande Halle de la Villette. Former Sigur Rós member Kjartan Sveinsson largely helmed the orchestral and choral arrangements alongside Sigfúsdóttir, who plays in the band Amiina.
Odin’s Raven Magic gets its title from a chapter in Iceland’s medieval literary canon known as the Edda, in which a banquet held by the gods is marred by ominous omens of the end of the world. “Hrafnagaldur Óðins [Odin’s Raven Magic] has lots of interpretation and implications that fire up the imagination,” Hilmarsson said of the poem. “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.”