ICELAND, DEFROSTED by Edward Hancox (SilverWood Books, 2013)
If I was commissioning a book about Iceland, I would want something that was more than a standard check list of places to visit and things to do.
I’d want a book that told me exactly why this small duck-shaped country is so unique, stunningly beautiful and how it comes to be blessed with the knack of producing so many stunning musicians.
And lo and behold, I don’t need to commission anything because Edward Hancox has just published almost exactly the book I’ve been looking for. The book was crowdfunded through kickstarter and hit the target in just six days, as clear an indication as any that I am not the only one looking for a book on this topic. Continue reading
SIGUR RÓS live at Castello Estense – Ferrara Sotto le Stelle – July 26th 2013
Jónsi may not have been anticipating a heatwave but he is a man who is prepared for all weather conditions.
On the drive to this show my dashboard display showed the temperatures on the motorway to be around 35°C. It was just as sweltering in the city centre for the closing concert of the Ferrara Sotto Le Stelle season.
Italians are usually in their element in hot weather but being packed into the outdoor concert venue in such conditions, even they looked sweaty and uncomfortable. The impressive Castello Estense makes for a magical setting for this most magical of groups but there is no escaping the fact that tonight it is fucking hot!
Jónsi and band were not brought up playing in heatwaves. On stage, sprays of cool mist help them survive the climatic challenge while we punters have to literally sweat it out for two hours. It is more than worth the minor discomfort for the privilege of seeing and hearing music as majestic and entrancing as theirs. Continue reading
Sigur Ros as seen at Brooklyn July 31, 2012.
Sigur Rós were the headline band on the third and final day of A Perfect Day festival in the picturesque setting of Castello Scaligero, in Villafranca on the outskirts of Verona.
The forecast was for rain and possible thunderstorms but, miraculously, it stayed dry for us punters packed inside a fortress where a full moon seemed to have been specially ordered to add to the atmosphere.
It was the first time I’d seen the band live, although from twenty years of consuming recordings + DVDs and ,after seeing Jónsi during his solo tour, I felt I had a fair idea of what to expect.
It was good to be among an audience to pay collective tribute to this unique group who have produced some of the most astounding and moving music over the past two decades. There’s no substitute for being at a concert and sharing the experience with other fans even if, nowadays, this means having to peer past a veritable sea of mobile phones and cameras held aloft as an obsessive digital-capture ritual.
By all accounts Valtari, the new album by Sigur Rós,was a difficult birth but on first listen you wouldn’t think so.
There’s such a delicate serenity about the eight tracks that it’s the closest I’ll come to having a religious experience.
It’s been four years since their last studio album (Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust) and Jonsi’s successful solo album made me fear this could be the end of the road. Thankfully the band have rediscovered their spiritual karma.
The strings and a girls’ choir mean that this will be a difficult record to pull off live but I have every hope they’ll have some surprises in store when they tour later this year (I’m seeing them at the Perfect Day Festival in Verona).
With the release last year of live album/film Inni, Sigur Rós announced that the band were heading in a new direction implying that the final show at Alexander Palace in London marked the end of an era.
With the success of Jónsi‘s solo album, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Icelanders had called it a day and finished on a high note.
Fears that they might be moving into glitch-pop or jazz-funk can be laid to rest with the preview track Ekki múkk from the new album die out on May 26th.
The video for the tune, by Jónsi’s sister, Inga Birgisdóttir, shows a ship floating slowly across but not on a glimmering ocean and , although the album title – Valtari – is the Icelandic word for steamroller, this is the kind of dreamy, captivating sound we know and love.
If it ain’t broken, why fix it? appears to be the message, which is a relief to me personally as I have tickets to see the band in Verona this summer.