Monday, 7 December 2009

When In Reykjavik...

There's something to be said for listening to a song in the country where the artist hails from. This, I think, is true of all music, but I find it particularly true of Sigur Rós.

I first came to Iceland in early July of 2006. One of the main reasons I decided to make the (at the time) very expensive addition to the end of a six month jaunt around (much cheaper) eastern Europe was because of my love for 1) Björk and 2) (probably more significantly) Sigur Rós. That would have been about a year after the release of Takk... if my memory serves me correctly.

The meaning of their music first came through for me when traveling along the south coast of Iceland in a bus over the course of a summer day (meaning about 23 hours of sunlight) from Reykjavik to a little place called Vagnsstaðir, nothing more than a hostel at the foot of a glacier just near the coast, right off the Ring Road. The trip (which did take the better part of a traditional day) carried me over lava fields, past waterfalls, alongside meadows, to rivers full of icebergs and across a virtually treeless landscape with glimpses of ice and the sun beating down the entire time. I was listening to all of Sigur Rós' albums - von, ágætis byrjun, () and takk...

Going through that landscape (which is really incredibly surreal - it is unlike anything I have ever seen, mushed together into one place) listening to that music it struck me that the music sounds how the country looks, it feels how the country feels. They are brothers in arms, they coexist peacefully but I couldn't imagine one without the other. They are the perfect complement to themselves. It is, in a word, right.

This trip has been somewhat more urban, and shorter. Ultimately here as friends from Oz are passing through, I have stuck fairly exclusively to Reykjavik, with the exception of the obligatory Blue Lagoon trip (and how fabulous that obligation is.) There is very little daylight at this time of year (only a few hours separate sunrise from sunset) so the day trips out are harder to squeeze in. Plus, I've seen a lot of it before and seeing the country is not my primary purpose - it is seeing these specific people, an important distinction to make. I have found myself listening again to their earlier albums, but of course they have also since released með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, something I feel is quite a departure from the majority of their back catalogue, especially within tracks such as gobbledigook and inní mér syngur vitleysingur. It is entirely more upbeat and lighthearted for the most part (not that I would classify their earlier recordings as at all depressing or down, simply that the latest leans more into a category that could be defined 'pop') and I think it fits better this urban setting that I have been in for these last few days. It lifts pervasive darkness and removes you from what could otherwise be a very cold, depressing existence. Last night, whilst standing by the water's edge in a freezing cold wind at midnight, the tinny sounds of the first two tracks of their latest record blaring from a friends iPhone got us all dancing around and singing, despite the stinging feeling in my fingers and growing numbness of my face.

Iceland is, to me, this band, and this band is Iceland. My only true regret is that I have not yet managed to find Jónsi and put him in my bag to take him home as my ultimate future husband.

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