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Sigur Rós – Route One

Sigur Rós, an Icelandic alt-rock/electronic band, ended 2017 with the release of their newest and possibly most ambient album, Route One. The record is named for Iceland’s actual Route One, also known as the Ring Road, which is a highway that almost fully encircles the island-country, and takes about 10 hours to complete (but I recommend a full week). The connection to this iconic highway does not end at the album title. Each track, of which there are eight, is named after a latitude/longitude coordinate corresponding to a specific location on Route One.

Iceland, which was shaped by equal parts fire and ice (through volcanic and glacial activity), is known for incredible vistas around every corner. Typically, a song explains its meaning through its lyrics, but in the case of this album, the meaning is expressed through the vision and mood of that tiny corner of the world. It is as much a visual experience as an auditory one.

At least, that is the goal. Most listeners will not be listening to the songs at their corresponding coordinates. However, I was lucky enough to go with my family to Iceland and hear half of the tracks on the album at their designated locations. My personal favorite was 64°02’44.1”N 16°10’48.5”W, which is located at edge of Lake Jokusarlon, also known as Glacier Lagoon, on the Icelandic south coast. An enormous glacier on the other side of the lake advances slowly toward you. As the glacier meets the lake, chunks of it “calve” and float free in Jokusarlon.

In this track, a slow, soft, and eerie melody is punctuated by a repeating series of small zoom-like effects until all the notes begin to dissolve into meaningless but ear-pleasing noise towards the end of the track. I found it It was difficult to connect the vibe of the track with that of the view; I never would have connected the sounds with icebergs on my own, so how did Sigur Rós reach that point? Did they all agree on the connection, or was only one person on board?

Amy, Miles, and icebergs at Jokusarlon

How a place makes one feel is inevitably personal, meaning the artists’ intention for every track in the album will rarely be understood by the listener. For that reason, despite the album’s quality and originality, it is best left as a one-time deal; a blip in the history of music that will be remembered for a long time.

I would highly recommend the album for fans of intense calm. The album can easily be used as a soundtrack for meditation, or for tasks that require a moderate amount of concentration.

Listen:

Or: Route One on Spotify

Below, I whipped up a map of Iceland showing the location of every coordinate/track title. Surprisingly, there does not seem to be a video in which someone has gone to every coordinate and recorded footage of the view so that others do not have to go to Iceland for this experience. However, Sigur Rós was kind enough to create a 3-part, 24-hour video taking the viewer the whole way around the Ring Road, with their album as a soundtrack for the trip. This is the closest we will get for now.

All the track titles of Route One, mapped:

From → Slow Jams

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