Sigur Ros is a band I am not all that familiar with. Despite my very wide and varied taste in music, they’ve existed on the periphery of my music listening. Certainly not for any dislike of their work, it’s just never come to pass that I’ve explored their discography to great detail. Yet, when I heard they were coming to Berkeley I said to myself “Self, you need to go see this concert.”
So I did.
It was wonderful.
My friend who came along was completely unfamiliar with their work*, and as we had dinner I struggled to find a way to describe it. Ethereal, atonal, harmonic, counterpredictable… soudscape… ? I’m still not sure I could do a good job trying to give a sense of it**. Rhythms and melodies and achingly haunting and otherworldly vocals, sung either in a made-up language or Icelandic (which, given I don’t know Icelandic, may as well be a made up language) such that it becomes part of the overall sonorous experience. Just three band members with a few instruments (including a guitar played with a cello bow) that managed to fill the entire amphitheatre to the brim with their insistent sound. Powerful, powerful stuff.
And backed by some really great visuals, using a hanging, transparent, pair of curtain/lattice of LEDs that could “project” imagery plus a convergent (forced perspective) grid of LED tubes that all combined to produce a panoply of effects: rolling clouds, lighting, fireflies, scrolling grids, columns of fire, geometric birds, and just overall spatial effects.
All rendered even more perfect by the outdoor venue.
Not knowing most of Sigur Ros’ music, and thus hearing so much of it for the first time in such an environment like that, made for an incredibly intense and fun evening. I just flowed into continual discovery, journeying along with them and getting lost into the soundscape. I don’t think it’ll ever become an intentional habit to go to concerts without knowing the artist’s work inside out and backwards, but for the concert last night it was perfect.
And now I will be sure to fill the gap in my collection with their albums.
A great evening of great artistry, and a wondrous experience that will linger.
* And he purposefully didn’t seek it out to have this be his first experience with their music be at the concert…
** Wikipedia helpfully categorizes them as post-rock, experimental rock, ambient, art rock, and dream pop. Yeah, I’m not sure that really helps. Sigur Ros sounds like Sigur Ros.