Meltdown Competition: Sigur Rós
Queen Elizabeth Corridor, London
sixteenth June 2023
Sigur Rós debut a brand new orchestral present at Meltdown on the identical day as surprise-releasing their first album in a decade. Nils van der Linden experiences a double celebration at Royal Competition Corridor.
It’s an enormous day for Sigur Rós. This morning they surprise-released Átta, their first album in a decade. This night they start an formidable tour that sees them carry out new tracks, rejuvenate acquainted favourites, and resurrect not often heard classics — with the assistance of a 41-piece orchestra.
Admittedly the concept of a band teaming up with classical musicians is nothing new. Everybody from The Who to Def Leppard have finished it, with various levels of sincerity and success. However few teams are as suited because the Icelandic trio to a full-scale collaboration with the London Up to date Orchestra. The ensemble and their conductor Robert Ames are an integral a part of the brand new LP in spite of everything; they delicately imbibe what singer/guitarist Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson describes because the “actually sparse, floaty and exquisite” new music with much more bleakness, extra hope, and extra magnificence.
“We needed to permit ourselves to be a bit dramatic and go far with these preparations,” Sigur Rós’ returning multi-instrumentalist Kjartan “Kjarri” Sveinsson defined within the Átta press launch. However, with most of their albums having featured orchestrations, they know the worth of restraint. “In fact, it’s important to watch out to not go full Disney on it,” he advised The Guardian. “You’re enjoying with feelings, however you don’t wish to force-feed it. It’s not like foie gras.”
So, just like the LP, every part about tonight’s Meltdown efficiency is extra refined than you’d think about when the stage is totally filled with individuals, chairs, music stands, cellos, violins, double basses, french horns, kettle drums, trombones, a grand piano, and doubtless a glockenspiel or two. There aren’t any florid musical detours, nothing as gauche as a bassoon solo or self-indulgent as a flourish of piccolos. There aren’t any grand statements from Jónsi, Kjarri, or bass participant Georg Hólm. (Characteristically no person says something and, cocooned by the LCO, the trio are typically obscured as they casually go about enjoying their very own devices as a part of the ensemble. Jónsi even takes to crouching, out of sight, when not required to sing.)
There’s no glitzy symphonic pops staging — a lot of the temper is created by the glowing of the acquainted bare lightbulbs squeezed onto the Royal Competition Corridor stage. And when final had been you greeted at a gig by the very nice, very Icelandic odor of wooden burning?
It’s in opposition to this backdrop, and throughout two hour-long performances separated by an interval, that Sigur Rós solid their spell, starting with the sweeping Blóðberg. Named for the intense pink “creeping thyme” that contrasts the grim, colourless landscapes of their homeland, it units the tone for the brand new album and far of what follows tonight. Ylur (contrasting Jónsi’s fairly vocal with some melancholy, nearly menacing strings) and Skel (complementing moments of quiet introspection with cinematic swells of violins) additionally characterize Átta’s magnificence. However, as on the album, it’s 8 that’s essentially the most lovely, most devastating, most certainly to convey involuntary tears.
Starálfur is simply as shifting by staying true to the unique’s association (together with the bits the place it’s simply Hólm on acoustic guitar) and is only one of many songs from Sigur Rós’ again catalogue to make a return after years within the wilderness. With The LCO in tow, the band can revisit their subtler, richer, extra orchestrated moments. So tonight there’s nothing as thunderous as Svefn-g-englar or as forceful as the center a part of Sæglópur. And there’s no love for the apocalyptic Kveikur (the album recorded whereas Kjarri was out of the band).
As a substitute we get three standouts from the elegiac Valtari, which the group as soon as described as “an avalanche in sluggish movement”, together with the startling dwell debut of Varðeldur that begins with numerous orchestra members singing quietly and ends with that round piano riff performed to a completely silent auditorium. The stark, funereal Untitled #5 – Álafoss will get its first airing since 2001 and stays a masterclass in restraint, pairing Jónsi’s slowly intensifying falsetto with brass and strings that take simply as lengthy to climax. Von, not heard in live performance in over 15 years, has much more gravitas than the dwell rendition on Hvarf.
And the all-hands-on Hoppípolla, surprisingly not performed in a decade, will get the complete Technicolor remedy — full with a giddy waltz detour that makes the unique sound prefer it was recorded beneath a railway cross. It’s simply one in every of a number of “hits” (tracks that completely everyone within the venue recognises inside three notes) that Sigur Rós drop into the set. Untitled #1 – Vaka and Untitled #3 – Samskeyti are specific spine-tingling standouts. Stuffed with anxiousness, all spiralling out of the stress inside Kjarri’s fantastically minimalist piano melodies, they’re the proper expression of this experiment. Three buddies who’ve identified one another since they had been youngsters, who perceive one another so nicely they barely want to talk when writing new music, are actually enjoying as one with 41 classical musicians.
Phrases by Nils van der Linden. You possibly can go to his creator profile for Louder Than Warfare right here. He tweets as @nilsvdlinden and his web site is right here. He hosts the weekly Temper Swings present on Louder Than Warfare Radio.
Photographs © Victor Frankowski.
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