So with the confirmation that Icelandic post rock band Sigur Rós will be appearing in season 4 of Game of Thrones, ironically the Icelandic band will are currently filming scenes in Croatia, not their native Iceland. In response to this appearance I thought I would write a little about them. They are one of my all-time favourite bands; their music can be uplifting yet simultaneously haunting. This will not be their first team-up with a world famous television series, they also appeared in the Simpsons. Two of the main factors that contribute to this beautiful music are Jónsi Birgisson‘s falsetto vocals, which are stunning, mixed with the unusual choice of a bowed guitar. (Bowed guitar is a method of playing a guitar, acoustic or electric, in which the guitarist uses a bow to play the instrument, similar to playing a cello. In the past this technique has also been used by Jimmy Page).
Formed in 1994 it was not long before they gained their first music deal, releasing their first album in 1997, Von (Hope). Kjartan Sveinsson would join the band in 1998, he had formal training and this keyboardist would go on to help write some of the bands more complex arrangements. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the band quickly gained a lot of international fame through word of mouth about their album Ágætis byrjun, appropriately translates to good beginning, because from here onwards things would change. Sigur Rós’s music became used in many films and TV shows including but not limited too –
- Vanilla Sky (Where I first heard them)
- The Life Aquatic
- Queer as Folk (U.S.version)
- The Girl in the Café
- Any and more.
In 2001 the band released Rímur, this is a brilliant recording just not one of my favourites. The EP is six songs that have Icelandic fisherman Steindór Andersen recites traditional Rimur (a form of poetry/chanting) while the band accompanies him. In this way Sigur Rós have brought a little of their culture to the world and have enriched the musical pallets of all those who have listened to them. In 2005 they would release Takk, this is in my opinion one of the greatest recordings I have ever listened to. Rhythmically, Takk… makes extensive use of changing time signatures. In the track “Andvari” for example, the main melody repeats itself every 27 beats, with stress on beats 1, 5, 9, 11, 16, 20 and 25. This could be rendered as seven bars of 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5 and 3 beats respectively. Against this there is a steady counter-rhythm of triple time, which could be rendered as eighteen bars of 3/8 time per 27-beat cycle.
My love for this album was found in the song Hoppípolla, which was used in David Attenbourghs Planet Earth series, also once used in Match of the Day, I know everyone loves this song, but there is a reason for that, every time I hear it I cannot help but smile. The title translates as hopping in puddles and I won’t lie after a night out walking home with my headphones in, that’s what I did and is a weird but cherished memory of mine. Check out the video below.
I managed to catch them live a few years back at Oxegen in Ireland, they were amazing, the tent was full and for the first time all weekend the crowd shut up stood there and listened. Sigur Rós is not a band to be heard but a band that must be listened to, they bridge the linguistic gap by pouring so much emotion and beauty into their music and presenting it in such a unique style.
I could write pages more about their newer releases but I won’t, I want you the readers to go discover more for yourselves and hopefully when you do you will go jump in a few puddles of your own.