Close your eyes for a moment and allow yourself to be taken on a journey. You’re in Iceland’s charmingly serene capital Reykjavik. Now, take a 428-mile drive out east and eventually you’ll come to the coast of Mjóifjörður. Here lays an isolated bright orange lighthouse overlooking the Norwegian Sea. It is this very lighthouse that Amiina travelled to in 2009 (amongst other unusual locations) to play a series of specifically composed concerts for a handful of lucky fans. Four years later, the band have recaptured the magic of those performances and recorded the tracks for the rest of us to hear.
Previously the string quartet that backed Sigur Rós, this is Amiina’s first release since parting company with their contemporaries. Obvious similarities still remain, but where Sigur Rós tend to throw in the kitchen sink, Amiina strip things back to a bare minimum. The Lighthouse Project is sonically as humble as it is vulnerable, and that is all part of the attraction. 'We felt it was important to convey the intimacy of the original performances' read the inlay notes – and in that they have prospered. There’s a real sense that the girls are playing this in the tiniest of spaces and it’s all just for you. With no post-production tricks or overdubs to be seen, what you hear is what you get.
Opener ‘Perth’ primes you for what’s to follow; guitars intertwining with glockenspiels, electric pianos dancing playfully with glass harps. It’s as if each sound is summoned to the lighthouse, never outstaying its welcome. ‘Hilli’ follows suit; a bowed saw takes the lead melody over a delicately picked autoharp, whilst enchanting vocals eventually take centre stage to push the ethereality of the moment that little bit further. Elsewhere, Amiina do justice to the Lee Hazelwood penned track ‘Leather and Lace’ - a baroque lullaby that flirts between major and minor without ever losing its allure, as if regaling an as yet untold story from the lighthouse’s past.
If Amiina were trying to bring us to the lighthouse, rather than bring the lighthouse to us, then they have succeeded. True, there’s a feeling that everything is a little too polite; too benign. But there is a tranquil quality to the band that beckons you like a ship to a beacon, but is never forced upon you. The fairy-tale of the lighthouse still holds its mystery, and is told through instrumental music alone and that is to be celebrated. Apart from a handful of photographs provided with the artwork, we have only our imagination to piece together its history.
And thus, Amiina have certainly taken positive baby steps to distance themselves from Sigur Rós without forcing an abyss between them. They aren’t quite the volcanic eruption that the post-rockers are these days, but then they were never meant to be; they’re just here to help dissipate the ash cloud.
7Adam Follett's Score