Sigur Ros’ live shows have long been heralded as sublime experiences, with the Icelandic band’s ambient rock growing from a whisper to a raucous thunder. But with the band on indefinite hiatus and lead singer Jónsi Birgisson enjoying a successful solo career, fans who long for that live experience will have to make due with INNI, Sigur Ros’ first proper live album packaged with an accompanying concert film shot by Vincent Morisset. While the opportunity to see the band in person might not present itself in the near future, INNI is a stellar taste of the live Sigur Ros experience.
Recorded at the end of the band’s 2008 tour promoting Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, INNI pulls heavily from that album and its predecessor, 2005’s Takk, giving shorter shrift to Sigur Ros’ early catalog. These later albums showcased a growth in the band’s sonic approach, with the icy, alien ambience of the early work morphing into sweeping orchestral epics. For this tour, though, the band bypassed these embellishments (including string quartet and tourmates Amiina), an approach that brings Sigur Ros back to the droning, ethereal beauty that grew its popularity in the first place.
Fans who lamented the band's shift will be rewarded, but those drawn to the fuller arrangements might find some songs lacking in splendor. “Svefn-g-englar” from Ágætis Byrjun still sounds heavenly, though, with Jónsi’s croon gliding atop hazy, distorted guitars while “E-bow,” from 2003’s ( ) retains its majestic drone. Only Takk’s “Hoppipolla,” perhaps the most triumphant song the band has ever recorded, falls flat, lacking the exuberance of the recorded version once it’s stripped of its orchestral trappings. It’s a small bump, though, in an otherwise first-rate presentation. Fans can only hope it’s not the last live document produced by Sigur Ros.