Weekly Soundtrack: Sigur Rós

By Anna Piszczkiewicz

Ethereal. Dramatic. Epic. These words describe the landscape of Iceland as much as they describe the experimental arrangements of Sigur Rós (pronounced See-Uhrr Rose).

This is no accident. The quartet from Reykjavik, Iceland, made up of Jón Bor Birgisson (vocals, guitars), Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards), Orri Páll Dýrason (drums) and Georg Holm (bass) wants to capture the beauty of their homeland in their music.

Over five studio albums, Sigur Rós have become pioneers with their own brand of ambient rock, that includes singing in Icelandic and so-called Hopelandic, an invented language they call “a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument” according to their website.

Sigur Rós are named after Jón Birgisson’s sister, Sigurrós, who was born in 1994, the same year the band formed. The name translates to “Victory Rose.”

Iconic and esoteric all at once, let’s begin the Sigur Rós showcase. First up, “Glósóli” off their landmark 2005 album Takk…

That’s the thing about Sigur Rós. Just when you think their dreamy soundscapes are the perfect background music, powerful arrangements come front and center, take a hold and you can’t do anything else but take it all in.

As always, it’s difficult to choose a favourite track but “Sæglópur” stops me in my tracks each and every time.

The band’s latest offering is Inni (2011), a live double album and performance film shot by Montreal filmmaker Vincent Morisset (known for Arcade Fire’s documentary Miroir Noir) over two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace, at the end of their last tour in November 2008.

Morisset’s pulsating black and white footage blends seamlessly with the band’s cinematic sound, making Inni an aural and visual threat. I sat right through the end credits when I first caught the concert film at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. And bought the set as soon as it hit store shelves.

Suggestion: Watch this one in full screen.

A few years before Inni, came Heima (2007), part documentary, part travelogue of the band’s Icelandic tour following their wild, international success.

It’s not as stylized as Morisset’s feature but it connects the band’s music to the majestic landscape they pay homage to in a simple, piercing way.

After a break lasting over three years, Sigur Rós will go on tour again starting in August 2012, playing Japan, Switzerland, Italy and Poland, among other places.

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