P1010945When I wrote about Sigur Rós coming to Miami I made an off-the-cuff reference to fans who let the tears loose at the sound of frontman Jon “Jónsi” Thor Birgisson’s voice (An interview with Sigur Ros’ drummer ahead of the band’s first Miami show [go through to the Miami New Times interview, too]). It was something I had heard in passing, and I could not remember a specific reference. I could have even just made it up, as I believe the Icelandic group’s music is some of the most stirring I have ever heard. It’s the way they know how to build up music. It’s assembled with such care and patience that albums such as 2002’s ( ) earns the ecstasy of untitled track 3 (AKA “Samskeyti”) because of the two untitled tracks before it (“Vaka” and “Fyrsta”). It takes a full 15 minutes before a pretty, looping, driving piano melody appears, but it’s only as good as it is because of the investment in the rather ambient, amorphous, restrained bits of music before it.

Jonsi fronting the ecstatic finale of Sigur Ros in Miami. Oct. 9, 2013. Photo by Ana Morgenstern.

This and cover photo by Ana Morgenstern.

The other night, at the Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park, I noticed the band work that subtle magic that ultimately affected me. It was during the fourth number of the night when it felt like I stepped across a line in my consciousness.

“Glósóli” from 2005’s Takk… was coming toward its finale. After building up from sporadic, light bass string plucking by Georg Hólm, a light twinkling bell melody and the surreal muddy crunch from either a sampler or one of the band’s many percussive elements, the song soared to heights of layered ecstasy. Jónsi bowed at his electric guitar, creating a wall of sound like a ghostly wind rolling over a distant mountain. The song went double time, with more elements of percussion piling up and pounding along. Guitars joined in the din until it all became a sort of white noise that still had musical scale, growing higher and more ecstatic. As Jónsi repeated a phrase, “Og hér ert þú, Glósóli,” extending the “þú” with each refrain, I realized I could cry. I did not need to know what he’s saying. It was all about the sensation. The decision to allow the tear ducts to open was as easy as opening a door and relaxing into what greeted me on the other side.

Here’s the video for “Glósóli”:

You can read my full review of that night by clicking on the image below shot by Miami New Times’s photographer Monica McGivern:

Sigur Ros at Klipsch Amphitheater, Oct. 9, 2013. Photo by Monica McGivern

Sigur Ros at Klipsch Amphitheater, Oct. 9, 2013. Photo by Monica McGivern.

Sigur Rós’ tour continues with a stop in Mexico City and London in a few days and then a European leg in November:

Oct. 13  – Corona Capital – Mexico City

Oct. 18 – Maida Vale – London


Nov. 16 – O2 Arena – Dublin, Ireland

Nov. 18 – Usher Hall – Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Nov. 19 – Capital FM Arena – Nottingham, United Kingdom

Nov. 20 – Brighton Centre – Brighton, United Kingdom

Nov. 21 – Wembley Arena – London, United Kingdom

Nov. 23 – Rockhal – Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Nov. 24 – Jahrhunderthalle – Frankfurt, Germany

Nov. 25 – Mitsubishi Electric Halle – Dusseldorf, Germany

Nov. 27 – Baltiska Hallen – Malmo, Sweden

Nov. 28 – Spektrum – Oslo, Norway

Nov. 30 – Hartwall Areena – Helsinki, Finland

You can find tickets to any of these shows by visiting the band’s touring page here.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
Sigur Rós: (L-R) Jónsi, Georg Hólm, Orri Páll Dýrason. Photo: Ryan McGinley.

Sigur Rós: (L-R) Jónsi, Georg Hólm, Orri Páll Dýrason. Photo: Ryan McGinley.

One of the concerts of this year we’re most looking forward to is Sigur Rós’ overdue visit to Miami. It’s scheduled to cap the Icelandic band’s current U.S. tour, which kicked off on Sept. 14 in Detroit. Last Friday, I suddenly learned I had the chance to chat for 10 minutes with the band’s longtime drummer/percussionist Orri Páll Dýrason, thanks to Live Nation and the “Miami New Times” pushing their agent for an interview.

The group was in Philadelphia and Dýrason was about to head in to rehearsal. I had many questions, but could only go superficial with such limited time— a bit sacrilegious for a band I have been following from the start, but it was a nice opportunity, so pardon if this post jumps from one topic to another. There is a link to a more cohesive piece at the bottom of this post, which gets into much more subject matter and opens with a rather in-depth description of Sigur Rós’ music.

One new song from the band’s seventh album,sigur-ros-kveikur-album-cover Kveikur, which saw release earlier this year, appeared conspicuously absent from the set list prior to this tour. The brilliant, soaring “Rafstraumur” seemed like a no-brainer for inclusion in the live sets. “Actually, we’re rehearsing it now,” Dýrason revealed, “so when we get to Miami we will play it.”

Dýrason joined Sigur Rós before the band recorded ( ), or what he calls “the brackets album.” He explains, “I was in another band, and we were sharing our rehearsal space with Sigur Rós. It was in 1990s, when they were finishing Ágætis Byrjun. They were still working in the studio when Agust decided to quit, and the guys asked me if I wanted to join.”

He said it was not a hard decision to join the band. “Probably after the first rehearsals that we did together [I decided to join],” he said. “It was nice from the beginning.”

Currently he and singer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Thor Birgisson (a.k.a. Jónsi ) and fellow founding member bassist Georg Hólm are the band’s core. Keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, also a founding member, left the band before they recorded Kveikur, a dynamic, powerful album released earlier this year that stands as another distinctive record in the brilliant, varied catalog of Sigur Rós.

The band’s previous album, the mostly hushed Valtari saw release the year before, in 2012. But don’t let its subtleties deceive you, Dýrason sigur-ros-valtarisaid it was an album long in the making. “It was very quiet,” he agreed about the record, “and we had been working on it since 2005. Our earliest recordings are from 2005, and we were adding to that album kind of slowly. First we wanted to do a choir album, only with choirs, but we only did two tracks like that, but that was kind of stiff and boring, so we decided to do a more experimental album.”

There had been rumors of a scrapped ambient-like album the band had been trying to prepare before the band’s hiatus when Jónsi indulged in a solo career of some merit (Read: Jonsi [of Sigur Ros] gets poppy). I asked Dýrason if any of those lost recordings made it on to Valtari. “Yes,” he said. “There’s one song actually, um, I think it’s ‘Valtari.’”

There’s much more to read of my interview with Dýrason. Yesterday, the “Miami New Times” ran a profile piece as a result of this short chat, which includes more on Kveikur, an aborted percussion experiment by Dýrason and Jónsi’s blacksmith father, the departure of Sveinsson and their first Miami performance providing backup to Merce Cunningham. Read it by jumping through the “Miami New Times” logo below:

Miami New Times logo

The tour continues through Oct. 13, when the band will play a rare show in Mexico City. I will be at the Miami show, which I may write a review about. To see all tour dates visit their website (that’s a hotlink).

I leave you with “Rafstraumur.” Play it for yourself and hear why this will make for quite a gorgeous performance live:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Those on the Sigur Ros mailing list got a surprise video clip in their in-boxes yesterday from the preeminent rock band of Iceland. Lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Jón Þór Birgisson, aka Jonsi, had been busy the past couple of years on solo work, while the group he fronts seemed off in hibernation. Well, here they come, again:

Heralded with the four-letter Icelandic word Inni, turns out this indeed brings together the worlds of cinema and music, as this happens to be a teaser trailer for yet another Sigur Ros film. The project will have it’s premiere at Venice Days today, a self-described “autonomous section” of the Venice Film Festival. This new video document of Sigur Ros is directed by Vincent Morisset, who also brewed up the obscure Arcade Fire documentary Miroir Noir (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon ).

Guess what? Full live clips have been up on YouTube since March. Looks like it will look gorgeous on the big screen:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Official Go cover art.

You can hear Jonsi’s new full-length album Go two weeks ahead of its official release by going to National Public Radio’s music website.

Based on one listen so far, this is– as I predicted in my Dec. 8 entry offering a free download from the up-coming album– a much easier to digest release than the lead singer of Sigor Ros has ever come up with.

It opens with “Go Do,” which starts with a nice surprise: Jonsi’s breathy alto is parsed out to break-beat electro-like affect. It’s complimented by a chirpy flute and the mushy, pounding throb of a drum beat. The song winds up swelling to familiar dreamy Sigur Ros heights. Oh, and he is indeed singing in his faux language of coos and chirps.

It’s fun music for the most part (and lots of it is in English, too), and I’m excited to hear the vinyl version. Jonsi has certainly invested in odd, organic instrumentation that should sound nice on the old hi-fi. I might as well do my pre-order now because this is some of the sweetest music Jonsi has conjured up and very good for short attention spans (it clocks in at only just a few seconds over 40 minutes).

I should also note you can order a digital version of the album and a limited edition on his website.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

So it has been a while, I know, but without further excuses (or, better yet, none at all), I’m real excited by Jonsi’s (vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Sigur Ros) new website jonsi.com. The last Sigur Ros album, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, was probably one of their weakest in their history (or I just haven’t listened to it enough, as their other albums, except maybe Takk…, took months for me to click with).

Earlier this year Jonsi, a.k.a. Jon Thor Birgisson, did a collaborative record with Alex Somers of Parachutes called Riceboy Sleeps, which was mostly an atmospheric, ambient work. It was nice for background noise or to fall asleep to, but that’s about all.

Now, Jonsi has teased us with the most straight-forward pop song of his career, and he sings in English. “Boy Liliko” opens subtley with soft, shimmering chimes and aching strings. It’s a familiar sound for fans of the Icelandic collective, but then Jonsi sings. Now that I have finally heard him sing in English, he sounds a bit like Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate). With the vocals, the music coheres into a driving, sweeping song held aloft by fluttering flutes, pounding drums and hyperactive strings. It’s so light, loud and lofty that it sounds like it belongs somewhere among the clouds.

You can download “Boy Liliko” for free from his site, through the link provided, and check out pictures and videos of the making of the album, which he has entitled Go.

I have high hopes for the accessibility of the album, but I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that it will have a true sense of the quirky creativity of Sigur Ros (by the video on jonsi.com of Samuli Kosminen, also of Sigur Ros, using a suitcase for percussion, I think there should be nothing to fear). Something nice and light from this band, even if it’s just a side project, would be welcome.

Adding to the hype, the manager for Sigur Ros sent out an email praising the work thusly:  “I think we are beginning to sense that maybe Jonsi has created something super special here. More than that in fact, I think he has created something really special here. I’m not sure I’ve felt this excited about a project since the time I first heard Agaetis Byrjun, right back in 1999. Holy fuck. Are you ready?”

He also shared the tracklisting:
Go Do
Animal Arithmetic
Boy Lilikoi
Sinking Friendships
Grow Till Tall
Around Us

(Copyright 2009 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)