What kind of music is Sigur Ros
If you see Sigur Rós live for the first time, you ask yourself whether singer and guitarist Jón Thór Birgisson is actually aware of what kind of string instrument he is holding in his hands. Birgisson works his guitar lovingly with a violin bow. Similar to its compatriot Björk, the quartet enchants its listeners with a soundtrack that is as confused as it is disturbing.
A genre definition turns out to be practically impossible, which is also due to the fact that the Icelanders in their early days put a fantasy language over their floating sound. Of course, this is calculated: Singer Birgisson wants the listener to think for himself and for the music to set off a mental cinema.
The unusual band from Iceland was founded in 1994. In addition to singer Jón Thór Birgisson, two other young men from Reykjavík are responsible: Georg Holm (bass) and Ágúst Gunnarsson (drums). Although Sigur Rós do not strive for the superstar existence at all, they are already on the best way there a little later.
Of course, they don't want to be pigeon-holed and compared with any other bands, which is not an easy undertaking for the music journalists with their sound anyway. Three years after the band was founded, the first album "Von" was created. This is already offered by the trance-like sound collages with which Sigur Rós will soon impress half the world.
After keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson completed the band in 1998, the troupe barely escaped a breakup for just one year when drummer Gunnarsson Sigur Rós left. The three remaining ones quickly get up again.
With renewed energy, as well as the new drummer Orri Páll Dýrason, they record a new album, which leads to a new hype initially in Iceland, and when released in August 2000 in the rest of Europe as well. "Agaetis Byrjun" (means something like: "a good start") inspires and enchants its listeners straight away.
When even the British Radiohead were impressed by the extraordinary sounds and the fascinating voice and invited the four musicians on their tour as support, they soon found even more fans. There couldn't be a better start for a band.
America, too, is starting to hear about the exploits. MCA was awarded the contract because Sigur Rós saw it as the most likely guarantee of her artistic freedom, which is undoubtedly important for the future. In 2001 people in the New World celebrate the sound of the quartet. Its most prominent fans include Trent Reznor, Beck and David Bowie.
In 2002 the Icelanders released an album without a title with "()", the songs were also given no names and of course there were no lyrics in the booklet. A former swimming pool near Reykjavik was chosen as the location for the recording. They pursue their most important concept with the usual remarkable persistence: all that counts is the music. The celebrated return of the album will be followed by tours through Europe, America and Japan.
Before the new EP "Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do" is released in July 2005, Sigur Rós, again together with Radiohead, will perform the soundtrack for the dance production "Split Sides" by New York choreographer Merce Cunningham in 2003 in Paris and New York. They improvise for 20 minutes each to a previously recorded backing band, on which, among other things, Cunningham's voice and footstep noises can be heard.
The EP, which consists of the three sections "Ba Ba", "Ti Ki" and "Di Do", serves as a harbinger for the studio album Takk ..., which will be released in autumn 2005. In the meantime, the band is not only celebrating their tenth anniversary, but is also switching to the major label EMI. Already in July 2005 the Icelanders will present their new compositions in Germany.
There is something very special for all fans in November 2007: In addition to the double CD "Hvarf / Heim", a documentary DVD for the band's Iceland tour in summer 2006 will be released. During their trip through their home country, they play open-air concerts in tiny villages, abandoned fish factories and discarded oil tanks. Everything seems beguiling and strange as usual.
A new studio album will follow in June 2008. It's called "Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust", Sigur Rós have already presented the new songs at the summer festivals. The recordings with super producer Flood (The Killers, Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins) take place in New York, Reykjavik and Havana. The title translates appropriately: "With a ringing in our ears we play endlessly." The album was recorded live and in a short period of time in the early months of 2008.
Sigur Rós is not the only creative outlet of the singer Jón Thór Birgisson. Apart from the band life, Jónsi has been developing visual art together with his partner Alex Somers since 2003. The music designed for this initially serves more as an accessory, but is increasingly becoming the focus.
When Birgisson is not busy with Sigur Rós, the two create their heavenly acoustic melodies as Jónsi & Alex. In 2009 they released their first LP entitled "Riceboy Sleeps", as both artists originally called themselves.
However, two projects still seem to be insufficient for Jónsi. In 2010 he released his solo debut "Go", on which he not only sang in English, but also opened the trademark sound of Sigur Rós even more to electrified pop.
For fans of the first hour it should have been a relief when the four Icelanders released their live album "Inni" in winter 2011, which, despite its prismatic view, is once again committed to the sublime post-rock crescendos. "Inni" is also an orchestrated harbinger of the sixth studio album "Valtari", which is aiming for a return to old values after the severe Icelandic capitalism crisis.
At the turn of the year 2012/2013, keyboardist Kjartan left the band to devote himself to his family and his own music projects. The new band structure of vocals, guitar, bass and drums releases a creative explosion. While there are still four years between "Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust" and "Valtari", "Kveikur" will be released a year later in June 2013. Much more aggressive, it stands in clear contrast to the previous works.
But Sigur Rós remain as fascinating and intangible as the natural beauty of their homeland. The rest of the decade, however, took the band down much more confused paths. After amusing guest appearances in the very different cult series Simpsons and Game Of Thrones, isolated appearances will not follow until 2016.
Birgisson, Holm and Dýrason announce that they want more new material to emerge on stage and take shape - just like in the early days of the band. In 2017, they will go on a world tour as a trio for the first time. No strings, no horns. The 2016 single "Óveður" has been joined by three more new pieces that combine the band's early phase with newer electronic trademarks.
But in September 2018 the trio project came to an abrupt end: Orri Páll Dýrason was accused of sexual assault via Instagram. The incident is said to have occurred back in 2013. In a statement, the drummer rejects the allegations. In consideration of the image of the band, however, he also announced that he was leaving the band.
In just a few years, the band's line-up has halved. Bassist Georg Holm and especially singer Jónsi then continue to devote themselves to their remix project "Liminal", which they started earlier in the year. The results are several playlists with musician friends who, in addition to their own material, also ambientize unpublished Sigur Rós compositions.
Further remix albums will be released on Record Store Day, which also contain fragments of the still unreleased new compositions. A lawsuit for tax evasion was followed in 2019 by the announcement of a comprehensive "Ágætis byrjun" anniversary set. In 2020 Jónsi, who now lives in the USA, will release his second studio album, "Shiver".
In the meantime, Sigur Rós remains musically silent, at least until the tax problem that has actually been dealt with catches up with the band again: The band announces the 18-year-old orchestral work "Odin's Raven Magic", which will appear on CD and vinyl for the first time in December 2020 .
Box sets, reissues, live albums: it seems that Sigur Rós has gradually reached the phase of musical inheritance management. The band's release policy is quite similar to their musical expressiveness: Thunderous noise is often followed by oppressive silence. Will this dreary uncertainty prevail? Jónsi answered the question about a dissolution in 2019 as follows: "Yeah, yeah, yeah I don't know, now, probably not."
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