Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Sigur Rós

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My first encounter of Sigur Rós wasn't. They were scheduled to play at last year's Haldern festival and Dan said they were supposed to be really good. We couldn't check that out back then as their gig was cancelled as they were still busy recording their new CD or something. They were replaced by some other unremarkable-to-bad band.

Cover of Agaetis Byrjun album Still I was a bit curious about them and treated myself to their then current Ágætis Byrjun album. As the band is from Iceland and sung in Icelandic on that album, I can't say anything about the lyrics. But there's enough to like about their music without understanding the lyrics. The music is very smooth and patient. It seems like it's floating. It's sounds coming and going rather than the normal beat plus melody stuff. Still it feels modern and exciting.

I guess that's a very bad description. It sounds a bit esoteric. And I suppose the music may attract such people. But I think it's perfectly sane. The best you can do for getting to know it is listening to it. Try the samples at amazon or at iTMS for example or watch their videos.

While I treasure the CD and like listening to it, I've heard my flatmates make remarks as "what's that whining coming out of your room?" Not a very nice comment, but what do they know? I like it, others don't appreciate it. What else do I have to report? I don't really know how the music is made. It sounds like instruments, electronica and vocals brought together to make a special sound. It's also one of the CDs that I really enjoy on my stereo at home but which sounds horrible on my (old and cheap) stereo at work. I knew there is a huge difference between the two – that's why I bought the new one, but this CD makes it particularly apparent. I've heard people say they "can't" listen to music on bad stereos. I'm not that spoiled yet but I certainly can't listen to Sigur Rós on my old stereo. I makes me nervous and spoils the CD.

Peel-off sticker on cover of ( ) CD Later last year I also bought the follow-up CD that's pretentiously named ( ). They started singing in gibberish instead of Icelandic. But they invented a fancier name for it. The idea seems to be that it's all about the music and not the text. Didn't change much for me in my ignorance of Icelandic. However, the concept went so far as to not giving names to the songs, the album's title and the album being almost completely void of text.

The CD is white and it's booklet is made out of patterned semi-transparent paper. The CD's box comes in a white/transparent plastic cover with the ( ) sign cut out. To perfect this, the sticker on the outer plastic cover with the CD name and bar code can – and should be – removed. Please remove after purchase. It's quite stylish.

And that's the keyword for their music videos. How would their videos be? I thought they'd be abstract, pattern things perhaps, subtle colour nuances, that kind of thing. But they aren't. It's people in there and they tell a little story. The first one I saw was the video for Viðrar vel til loftárása . It was on the FastForward show run by the White Stripes. It seems like an unlikely song for a music video as it is almost eleven minutes long on the CD. They boiled it down to about seven minutes for the video without doing too much harm.

Father and son from Viðrar vel til loftárása video It's beautifully and slowly filmed with carefully adjusted colours and – I suppose – quite a bit of effort on the setting and clothes. The story in brief: Boy likes/loves other boy and ends up kissing him in a public football game. The public, his dad in particular, are not impressed. The boys in question must be 12 or so. The atmosphere and imagery in the video make the father look very cruel and evil.

That's very brief, too brief, and drops many of the details and even important things that make this a good video. But giving an accurate representation would be a lot of effort and still fall way short of actually watching the video. Go look at it yourself. A lot of subtleties, a lot of context to be discovered.

From Untitled 1 Video. Kid with gas mask, Ash-man in background. The other video, which I saw yesterday for the first time is the video of Untitled 1 off the ( ) album. It's with kids again. Even younger kids which seem to be in a school-like situation. Again the kids leave a very innocent impression, while the teachter-type person seems evil and big. Then they go into the red outside where they have to wear gas masks and there are ashes (or is it simply inverse snow?) flying around of which they build an ash-man before playfully smashing a broken car. Seeing them jump around with the gas-masks on and wearing knit pullovers makes them look like cute aliens. One of them loses its gas-masks and sleeps/dies at the end.

Symbols associated with the album found in the video. A very odd video, but with features similar to the other one: Good use of colours, children are innocent/playful, the adult seems unfriendly, many little details, nice Scandinavian knitwear, usage of album related symbol in the video, potential for social critique and gravity.

Gravity? There's a lot of jumping, throwing and falling done in both video. All in slow motion. It looks like a celebration of gravity and the role it plays in the happy and tragic moments. But I may just be obsessed with gravity...

May 15, 2003, 0:34

Tagged as music.


Comment by brian: User icon

the ( ) album is on the iTunes Music Sonic Tubes of Love. =) it is gooooood. i’ve only listened on my sennheiser headphones tho, so i can’t comment on the stereo comparisons.

May 16, 2003, 17:21

Comment by ssp: User icon

Then the Music Store’s search feature is broken or works differently in different regions.

Neither ‘Sigur Rós’ nor ‘Sigur Ros’ nor ‘Sigur’ lead to any results here. After your comment I tried browsing for them and found an entry - without any albums in it - in the ‘Electronic’ section. (Of course spelled without the accent.) Odd.

I never thought about it as ‘Electronic’. Categorising music tends to keep people from finding it anyway, I suppose.

May 16, 2003, 20:34

Comment by Orri: User icon

Sigur Ros is an amazing, yet underated band. Their music can’t really be justified with words….Other than unearthly, dark at parts, raw, and beautiful. You have to listen to it to understand….

July 28, 2004, 3:53

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