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The Music of The Glacier

by Mike Singleton - Mikeydred about a month ago in album reviews
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A Dip Into The Beautiful Sounds and Images of the Icelandic Band Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós - Music of the Glacier

Falling Into Sigur Rós

I once heard the music of Sigur Rós described as glacial, but in a very positive way. The band hail from Reykjavík, Iceland so that is probably not an unexpected description. All their songs are sung entirely in the constructed language Hopelandic (or Vonlenska in Icelandic)., but sound absolutely beautiful.

They have been active since 1994 and consist of singer and guitarist Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson, bassist Georg Holm, and keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson.

They have an ethereal sound, with frontman Jónsi's falsetto vocals, and their use of bowed guitar, plus they incorporate classical and minimal aesthetic elements

The Music of Sigur Rós

I often do playlists for bands and I suppose this will include some songs that are favourites of mine, but I want to talk about their albums and the feel of their music and the effect it has on me..

I often play it while I work and there is no skipping and sometimes you don’t even know what you are listening to because maybe it has no title and no words or nothing that you can sing along to.

I will include a few videos so you can listen as you read but am going to concentrate on the two albums in my CD rack that are handy for me. although these were released in the last noughties, but the band are still producing music today and you can investigate on their website and Youtube Channel.

Before the albums, this is about a four hour DVD set that I love watching.

Following their 2006 world tour, Sigur Rós arrived home and embarked on a free and unannounced tour of their native Iceland, 'Heima' is a two-disc document of this tour. The set includes interviews with the group that explain why the gigs take place in such unusual and rural 'venues' on the outskirts of Iceland. These include school halls, town halls, disused dams and small fields. As the reasons for playing at these locations are explained you realise that Sigur Rós are very aware of Iceland's geography, history and culture and are reluctant to let Western influence spoil a deep, rich tradition.

This is a beautiful set and is available to stream on the band's website here, but the DVD is well worth an investment if you would prefer a physical copy. There are lots of excerpts on YoutTube and the band's channel is well worth a visit and includes some full albums to stream, but I will include the trailer for “Heima” here.

Sigur Rós - () - The Third Album

The album's title consists of two opposing parentheses, representing either the album's two halves or the idea that the album has no title, leaving the listener free to determine it. The band have referred to ( ) as Svigaplatan, which translates to "The Bracket Album".

In the credits of ‘Heima’, it is referred to as The Untitled Album. The outside packaging of ( ) consists of a plastic protective sleeve with two parentheses cut out, revealing the image printed on the CD case underneath. There are four versions of this cover art, which consist of modified photographs of nature around the band's Mosfellsbær studio, sold in four parts of the world: Europe, the United States, Australia, and Japan. The back of the packaging shows an image of a sleepwalking boy, adapted from a photograph by John Yang.

() comprises eight untitled tracks, divided into two parts. The first four tracks are optimistic, while the latter four are bleak and melancholic. The two halves are divided by a 36-second silence, and the album opens and closes with a click of distortion. The album's songs are entirely in "Hopelandic", the made-up language used by the band. ( ) reached No. 51 on the Billboard 200 chart.

When you put this album on you are just taken in by the sound. It could be a film soundtrack but it is an experience with Jonsi’s “Hopelandic” soaring words matching the music.

From the cutout sleeve and almost rice paper booklet, this is an example of how to present music in a time when CD was the norm.

Sigur Rós - Takk - The Third Album

“Takk” comes in a beautifully aged card sleeve, and the songs are more recognisable than “()”, though “()” is more of a whole where “Takk” is wonderful pieces that flow into each other.

When the bass introduction to “Glósóli”, the second song comes in it gives me goosebumps, and the song grows and soars and you don’t think this can get any better, but it is then followed by “Hoppípolla” which I believe means hopping or jumping puddles in “Hopelandic”.

This was used for the BBC's “Planet Earth” series presented by Sir David Attenborough and is probably the band's most famous song with that gorgeous descending piano motif offset by Jonsi’s vocals. A true classic.

The album debuted at number 27 on the US Billboard 200, selling 30,000 copies in its first week.

Unlike its predecessor “( )”, the album's lyrics are mostly in Icelandic, with occasional elements of Vonlenska ("Hopelandic"). The songs "Andvari", "Gong" and "Mílanó" are sung entirely in Vonlenska. Moreover, the song "Mílanó" was written together with the string quartet Amiina.

Rhythmically, Takk... makes extensive use of changing time signatures. In the track "Andvari" for example, the main melody repeats itself every 27 beats, with stress on beats 1, 5, 9, 11, 16, 20 and 25. This could be rendered as seven bars of 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5 and 3 beats respectively.

Against this, there is a steady counter-rhythm of triple time, which could be rendered as eighteen bars of 3/8 time per 27-beat cycle, also known as a phrase.

Sigur Rós - A Conclusion

I do hope that if you do not know the band this will make you want to dip in and investigate. The band's website has a lot of information, music and video to whet your appetite.

I know I have only included two albums and a documentary in sharing Sigur Rós with you but there is a lot out there for you to discover yourself.

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Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

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Comments (4)

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  • Phil The Animalabout a month ago

    I am a huge fan of Sigur Rós

  • Mariann Carrollabout a month ago

    Love this 🥰You write so many stories, I can’t keep up with them. Thanks for introducing me to so many gorgeous music . Very peaceful

  • Rick Henryabout a month ago

    Great information and detail. Back in 1999 I checked out Sigur Rós because their name was listed alongside Bjork's name. I did not care for them. But since my tastes have grown and matured. I am now definitely ready to appreciate Sigur Rós.

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago


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