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- Sigur Rós »
Everyone inside the movie theatre is still. It is as if all of us, a lucky few hundred or so, inside the British Film Institute have put aside time, because in here, it doesn’t matter. Instead, it is the four lads that comprise Sigur Rós, cuddling their instruments a few feet away, that do. They are here for a short acoustic set before a screening of Heima, the new concert-flick about their two-week Icelandic tour last summer that essentially thanked their beautiful but out-of-the-way home for the support. In addition, the lads have with them an accompanying double-disc set, Hvarf-Heim, which complements the film: one disc is the soundtrack, essentially, whilst the other contains a breezy slew of acoustic tracks that strip bare the atmosphere of Sigur Rós, revealing the central nervous system behind it all.
So, how good are those discs? Well, that, along with everything else – the hype and anticipation of seeing a stadium-sized band in a tiny movie theatre – does not matter here. (Besides, the review proper can be found here.) It is all clutter, and Sigur Rós’ music alleviates such clutter. It is wide-open and as far-reaching as the horizon. It is beautiful stuff, indeed, and as such, it is demanding. We all silence the chatter when the lights dim in the theatre.
The guys emerge and sit at their instruments. They utter a quick and fragile “thank you” to everyone in the theatre and launch into ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ from their second full length that shares the same name. I blink, and all feels blurry; a piano is tickled in tandem with a guitar strum. Wire brushes are fluttered carefully over a ride cymbal. It is all rather quiet, but this silence is moving. This is usually a song drenched in all things soundscape, but here it is simple, restrained and quite frail. I have never heard it this way: fragile, dripping at the seams and nearly broken. Usually guitarist Jon Thor Birgisson is bowing the strings, whilst making faces at the atmosphere protruding each melody. This time, all is quiet.
‘Heima’ follows, somewhat predictably. I love this track, but it sputters without the bellowing nature usually sweating from its melodic innards. The song winds through one piano line that moves up and down an octave, beautifully indeed, but identically each time. Still, I am stuck to my seat because one-by-one, removing the layers in Sigur Rós reveals a new Sigur Rós. This sounds as the band is rehearsing at home, strumming in a cabin beside a lake in Iceland or rolling through chords in a bedroom somewhere in Reykjavik. The glamour is gone, and what is left is fraught, really fraught; still, this is menacingly melodic.
They end with ‘Njosnavelin’, or at least that is what it sounds like. Yup, three songs and that is it, almost twelve minutes’ worth from start to finish before showing the movie. Still, three is better than nothing, and I do love this song, but in an acoustic setting, it is not as powerful. I wish it was; sitting down, staring. Every inch of me wants to dive into their storm, that weather-induced coma that is Sigur Rós. But this is too real. Too ordinary. And it is their last song of the night. I guess everyone is here to see the movie, but a few more songs would have been nice, or maybe even a full set. That still would get us back on the Tube before it closes, while giving enough time for the movie. Oh well.
So, how was the movie you ask? It was predictable. It will enthuse any Sigur Rós fan, confuse those who know nothing about Iceland – there were a lot of leprechaun-like nature shots in the cinematography - and do little for everyone else. It was a tad self righteous, almost like an Icelandic tourist council promo video, but as to be expected, the music and scenery was beautiful. Iceland is special, and so is Sigur Rós. Just wish they showcased that a bit more tonight in the flesh.
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