Undeterred by that band-not- available talk, we hit the glacial streets of Iceland in search of SIGUR ROS. Words: Doug Johnstone
igur Ros are an elusive. mysterious bunch.
Rarely spotted in public. the Icelandic four-piece
obviously prefer to let their music do the talking. And what music it is. Their debut album in this country. xlga'lls Byrjrrii. was a revelation. Mirroring their home country's outlandish and extremely weird landscape. Sigur Ros‘ music is monumental. expansive. sweeping. grandiose. odd. individual and damned beautiful to boot.
Which makes it irritating is when they can't be tracked down to talk about it. ()ur interview falls through. The band have gone AWOL in Iceland.
The plan was to ask them about their forthcoming album and tour. The album — get this — is called ( ) and contains eight untitled songs all sung in the band‘s made-up language ‘lvlopelandish’. Fans are invited to submit interpretations of the lyrics to their website. A computer program then selects the most common phrases and ‘creates‘ the lyrics. As someone famous once said: 'l’rclenlious'.’ Moi'."
The only option was to head to Iceland to root them otit. The road from Kellavi'k airport to Iceland‘s capital Reykjavik is like another planet. Volcanic boulders abound. steam spews out the living rock. the air is painfully clean and the light is utterly unearthly.
Presumany these surroundings help inspire music such as 'Svefn-(i-Iirrglat“. xlga'tis livijjim‘s best-known track on account of featuring on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack. thus bringing the band a host of new fans including Brad Pitt. Dave (irohl and Macy Gray.
The Icelandic however. are the exact opposite of their extreme surroundings. Like anti-Americans. they are quiet. deadpan. prone to understatement and. mostly. quite. quite gorgeous. A pasty-faced sarcastic Scottish intisic hack stands out a mile.
Rumour has it that they have been tweaking their album at a place called Alafoss. a studio they converted from a swimming pool. on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It isn’t on any map. and no one’s heard of it. After extensive scouting. the outskirts of Reykjavik turnout to
be either impenetrable volcanic moonscape (with a golf
I go into the swanky restaurant I saw Bjork entering, only to be confronted by a menu containing guillemot and puffin
course set in it — that‘s some nasty rough by the way) or
humungous. ice-capped mountains. The only thing slightly swimming-pool like is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. It‘s great. and I splash around for ages. and although I am sung to spontaneously by a passing
choir in swimsuits and mudpacks. there‘s no sign of
skinny young men creating heavenly soundscapes. Damn.
()n a hunch I head to Kafl'ibarinn. a chic little shack of a pub. apparently co-owned by Damon Albarn. Although it‘s mobbed with the irritatineg beautiful people of Reykjavik. there‘s no sign of singer Jonsi Birgisson or his bandmates. ()r Albarn.
Next stop on an increasingly messy night otit is (iaukur a String. the club which is the centre of the Icelandic music scene and where Sigur Ros have played several times. Also. rather frighteningly. it‘s open till 7am.
At £5 a pint of Viking lager. it’s lucky I got loaded on duty free before I came otit. Through my drunken haze. I don‘t spot any ethereal soundscape purveyors. but I do unfortunately witness a dreadful band who are like the (‘ommitments-meets-the Specials. except worse. With squalling saxophone ringing in my ears and the sun tip already. I retire to bed.
Next day. unbelievably. I walk past Bjork in the street. Temporarily paralysed by the sight of the pixie goddess I fail to grill her for info. Later. though. I do go into the swanky restaurant I saw her entering. only to be confronted by a menu containing puffin. auk and guillemot. What the bells a guillemot'.’ l opt for puffin. Iiishy pheasant. l)o Sigur Ros eat here‘.’ Apparently not.
Knowing the band‘s propensity for odd gig venues. I spend the rest of my time hanging around cinemas. churches. theatres and museums (including the Icelandic Phallological Museum — a room of whales' cocks pickled in jars) btit to no avail.
It would seem Sigur Ros are as difficult to pin down as their sound. I'laving visited Iceland. the band‘s unique take on music does make more sense. however. (irandly breathtaking one minute. bizarrely quirky the next. it reflects the band's country and compatriots uncannily. Next mission. can I go looking for the Datsuns in New '/.ealand please‘.’
Sigur Ros play Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 3 Oct. ( ) is out on Mon 7 Oct on Fat Cat.
All the tribulations. pontifications and renovations in the wonderful world of music
JUSl WHEN YOU I‘HOUOHl the festival season was over. up conies another festival. Big Hg; World returns to Glasgow r" October wrth acts from a Suitably diverse range of destinations including Senegal. Mexrco. Sweden. Guinea. Indra. Colombia. Israel. and Cuba. This year's event wall run ll‘. tandem With the annual SI Cuba! celebrations.
lhe festival runs front 10 October until 3 November at a variety of venues featuring acts like Orchestra Baobab. NICKlO Creek. Snowboy and the l (llrr‘ Section and Yusa. lickets are available from the Royal Concert Hall: 01/11 3:33 8000. the Arches: 0001 0?? 0100 and the Iron' ()ldl 15024267.
THE KEEN-EYED AMONG you will have already spotted our autumn gig guide on page 14 which has all the highlights for the forthcoming live music deluge. Some late additons to the list include: Nina Simone, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, 11 November; Alabama 3, Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 27 November and QMU, Glasgow, 28 November; Gomez, Barrowland, Glasgow, 28 November and Disturbed, Barrowland, Glasgow, 4 December.
ONl‘ ()l Nl‘W S()()l llSll music's most active supporters. .Iirn Oellatlv. has a new slot on his Sunday nrqht snow or‘ Beat 100 called Beatbreakers ‘.‘.’ll|(2l‘. Will feature tracks and llll(}.'\.'l(“.'./S from new bands. Acts already scheduled to appear include Josephine. [)raw and Ashtor‘ lane. Anyone wrshrnq to l)(‘: considered for the slot should send (IDs to Jim (‘iellatly t"e Beatscene. Heat 100. lour Winds l’avrlron. la Pacific ()uay. Glasgow. ("not ll [3.
KING TUT’S WAH WAH HUT have unveiled a new look after a series of renovations. A £25,000 revamp has meant the upstairs bar has been moved to allow greater access to both the bar and the stage area and follows an upgrading of their soundsystem in 2001.
19 Sop—LS Oct 2002 THE LIST 45