Frontline World

ICELAND - The Future of Sound, January 2003


THE STORY
Synopsis of "The Future of Sound"

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK
World Music's Global Reach

VIRTUAL MUSIC TOUR
Sample Sounds From the Edge of the World

FACTS & STATS
Learn More about Iceland

LINKS & RESOURCES
History, Culture and Unique Approach to Energy

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Kitchen Motors Apparat Trabant Mum GusGus Sigur Ros
Sigur Rós Sigur Rós Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós [Si-gur Rose]
Translation: Victory Rose

"Untitled #4," off the album, ()

Sigur Rós aims at inducing a dream-like state. The band's lyrics are scarcely comprehensible but they're meant to resonate emotionally by the way they're sung. In an age when music critics struggle to peg artists as prepop, postrock, something-or-other incarnated, Sigur Rós creates its own distinct music that plays with the boundaries of electronica and rock.

Sigur Rós defines its own approach to performance, from strategic lighting -- their live performances sometimes rival theatrical plays and at other times occur by candlelight -- to songs sung with no clear lyrics.

The band uses conventional instruments in unconventional ways. A cello bow on a Les Paul rides under an occasional drumstick thumping the bass. Amid a family of strings, organ, white noise and his signature bowed guitar, Jónsi Birgisson's haunting falsetto glides atop orchestral waves.

Sigur Rós challenges listeners to create their own definitions -- as evident in their recent release, an untitled album that features eight untitled tracks with a white cover and minimal design. There's no title on the record because there's no title. It's as simple as that. The musicians offer up the album as a textbook for listeners who would like to write their own lyrics and create their own interpretations based solely on what they hear.

Band Members
Jónsi Birgisson (vocals, guitars)
Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards)
Orri Páll dRason (drums)
Georg Holm (bass)

Fun Facts
• Sigur Rós was named after Jónsi's little sister, Sigurrós, born around the same time the band was formed.
• The band declined to play on The Late Show With David Letterman owing to the short time slot. They were offered three to four minutes. Their songs are usually seven to eight minutes long.
• Sigur Rós' album Ágætis Byrjun reached No. 1 not long after it was released in Iceland in the summer of 1999 -- and it remained on the charts for nearly a year. According to The New York Times Magazine, in a country of roughly 300,000 people, the album has sold 16,000 copies in Iceland, the equivalent of selling 16 million in the United States.
• Sigur Rós sings in a mixture of Icelandic and Hopelandic, an invented language that consists mainly of sounds.
• Jónsi's using a bow on his guitar is purely accidental. The original intent was for Georg to use the bow on his bass guitar, but that turned out to sound simply awful.


Discography
Von ("Hope") 1997 (Bad Taste)

Von Brigði ("Recycle Bin") 1998 (Bad Taste)

Ágætis Byrjun ("A Good Start") 1999, Iceland (Bad Taste); 2000, Europe (Fat Cat)
Angels of the Universe (soundtrack featuring Sigur Rós and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson) 2001 (Fat Cat)

Nart Nibbles 1999, Iceland; 2001, foreign (Kitchen Motors/Edda Media) (a two-disc compilation featuring nearly 100 minutes of improvised music with just nine songs; in addition to a piece by the Apparat Organ Quartet, Sigur Rós' Jónsi appears on "Helvitis Symphony no. 1 for 13 Electric Guitars")

Sigur Rós photos courtesy Aerin Wilson

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