Archive for the ‘Sigur Rós’ Category

[ATTENDED: June 16, 2017] Sigur Rós

Sarah and I saw Sigur Rós last fall. We both agreed that it was an incredible show.  So when I saw that they were coming back around and playing at the Mann Center, it was hard to pass up the chance to see them again.

It was ostensibly  the same tour, except that it was not exactly the same tour, and not exactly the same show.

It was still just the trio of jón þór birgisson (jonsi), georg holm, and orri páll dýrason and like last time, Jonsi was on vocals and (violin bowed) guitar, Georg was on bass (and more) and Orri was on drums and keyboards.  But they shifted around, with each of them playing other things during the show.

About the previous show I said

The show was perfectly orchestrated with a spectacular light show.  It was arranged into two acts with a 15 minute intermission.  I have often complained about bands who don’t change their set list from night to night but there is no way they could change this–the precision of everything, the complexity of the lights and music–this was more of a stage show than a concert.

Well, they did change things up a bit for this series of shows.  It was actually a little shorter with two fewer songs.

But the big distinction is that there were two new new songs.  In addition to the new songs they played last time, they added two more new ones.

About the previous show I also said:

As soon as the band started playing and Jonsi started singing, I was rapt–Totally caught up in the music which sounded amazing in Radio City Music Hall. It feels like they have speakers all over the room, their sound and which simply envelops the audience.  I usually like to take some pictures of exciting moments of shows but I didn’t even touch my phone during the show–I was absorbed from the first notes.


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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2016] Built to Spill

2016-10-08-22-25-14Fifteen years ago I saw Sigur Rós.  A few days before that show I was supposed to see Built to Spill, but 9/11 happened and I skipped BtS.  So here it is fifteen years later and I get to see Sigur Rós and BtS a few days apart once again.  I also happened to see Built to Spill almost exactly one year ago today, so it was fun to do it all over again,.

This was my first time in the legendary Stone Pony.  I was shocked by how small it was and how strangely laid out it is (quite wide and not very deep).  I could have been within a few feet of the stage but when I varied I saw that even though the ticket said 7, BtS wasn’t going on until 10, so I scoured the venue and a saw a small riser to the back right.  I went up there and stood in the front of it, effectively three feet above everyone.  And I had a perfect view of the stage, so I stood there the whole time.

And boy am I glad.  The floor scene was a madhouse.  I was right above what was essentially the only way in and our once the club had gotten really packed.  People were squeezing past this small opening all night long.  And during the third song, a fight broke out–punches actually thrown!–because someone got in someone (both men of course) else’s way.  I even beer or something thrown in my face.  Stay classy, Asbury Park.

Unlike the previous show, BtS was only a three-piece.  Last show I marveled at Doug Martsch including two other guitarists to share lead duties, but I loved the fullness of the sound. I wasn’t sure what I would think of the band as a three-piece (my friend Jay informed me of the trio set up a few hours before they went on, so at least I was prepared–although I was bummed that Jay couldn’t make the show).

I was a little unconvinced about the sound of the three-piece when the band started.  But that turned out to be a mixing issue.  The drums were too loud, the bassist was inaudible and then Doug was himself.  But by the second song it was perfectly balanced and sounded amazing.

And once the sound was perfected, it came down to setlist.  And that was amazing–this setlist was almost entirely different from my previous show.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 5, 2016] Sigur Rós

2016-10-05-20-25-57I saw Sigur Rós play live fifteen years ago.  It was their first world tour and one of their first shows in the U.S.  And it was magical.  It is one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever seen.  For some reason I’ve never looked into seeing them again.  Until this time.  Some six tours later, Sigur Rós decided to strip down from a multi-piece band with orchestra (when I saw them they had some extra players but not a full orchestra) to just a trio: jón þór birgisson (jonsi), georg holm, and orri páll dýrason.

I never feared that the three of them wouldn’t be able to recreate the beautiful sounds, but it wasn’t until they were playing that I realized that all of that music–that expansive, enveloping sound, was coming from just those three guys–and I have no idea how they did it.

For the most part, Jonsi was on vocals and (violin bowed) guitar, Georg was on bass (and more) and Orri was on drums and keyboards.  But they shifted around, with each of them playing other things during the show.

The show was perfectly orchestrated with a spectacular light show.  It was arranged into two acts with a 15 minute intermission.  I have often complained about bands who don’t change their set list from night to night but there is no way they could change this–the precision of everything, the complexity of the lights and music–this was more of a stage show than a concert.  (more…)

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mtwolfMt Wolf breaks with the tradition of the Lullaby by playing their song in a hotel room!  This is the band’s single.

It’s a 6-minute beautiful song notable for singer Sebastian’s Fox’s soaring falsetto.  His voice is really quite amazing.

The second guitarist plays the quiet melody and then Fox plays a kind of solo over the top of it. After the initial falsetto of the first verse, the second verse shows the range of his voice, as he starts a little lower before soaring the heights once again.  The band has a female backing singer who actually sings high notes that are lower than his.

By four and a half minutes the songs starts to rocks out (and no doubt the room next door starts to wonder WTF)

The feel reminds me a bit of Sigur Rós, with that kind of soaring intensity.  This is definitely a love it or hate it song, but I think it’s quite beautiful.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Grand Shattering”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I don’t know poets very well. A. Balkan is a poet whom I had never heard of.

Imagine my surprise to find out that his essay was the most dramatic and exciting and went in directions that I never would have guessed.

He says that when his twin daughters were born, he and his wife were exhausted from all the work.  So his family and friends invited them t0 a cabin where they could relax and have other take care of the kids for a couple of days.

Sounds ideal.  Except that on their second day there, a tornado came through and destroyed the cabin they were staying in (for real!)  Fortunately they were not in it. (more…)

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tny6.16&23.03 cvrSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do (2004).

babaI didn’t realize that this was a soundtrack to Merce Cunningham’s dance piece Split Sides.  That doesn’t really change my opinion of the music, although it does make me wonder just what kind of dance this would have been.

There are three tracks on this short EP.  The primary instrument seems to be the music box.  There are no real vocals on the album, except for what sounds like sampled children and a few spoken words in the final track (the words are the title of the EP sampled and thrown around, apparently spoken by Cunningham).  Of course, it’s not all music box, there are synths and interesting percussive sounds (what sounds like the winding up of said music boxes).  The first two songs are quite similar, with the second being a bit more fleshed out.

The final track, with the sampled words, sounds much different and feel a bit more aggressive, although that is all relative of course.  The whole EP is about 20 minutes long.  Of all of Sigur Rós’ varied output (singles and EPs) this is probably the least essential one that is all new music.

[READ: November 8, 2013] “City of Clowns”

I had printed out all of the New Yorker stories that Alarcón had written because I enjoyed his previous ones so much. This was the first and I was blown away by how good it was.

It is a long and somewhat complicated story.

It opens with Oscarcito going to the hospital because his father died the night before.  He finds his mother mopping floors because his father’s bill was unpaid.  And in that very first paragraph, she introduces her son to Carmela—the woman whom his father left them for.  She was mopping the floor with Oscarcito’s  mother.  He is confused and enraged by this.

His half brothers are also there.  He had never met them before, preferring to stay away from his father’s other life.  But he saw them in front of him and clearly saw that they were related to him.  But the most galling thing was that although he was the oldest of all the children, they were clearly the chosen children—after all, his father stayed with them.

Then we learn about his father’s life.  He was born in Cerro de Pasco and moved to Lima when his young family was still young.  He worked hard in semi legitimate businesses and then brought his family to the city.  Young Oscarcito, age 8, loved it.  But his mother hated missing her family in Cerro de Pasco.  And now they we reliving with his father who was practically a stranger. His father worked hard and succeeded, but he was rarely home (more…)

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holoSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-() (2003).
rosAfter a staggeringly successful tour, Sigur Rós took some time off. They returned about four years after their successful album with ().  I like to think they were trying to make it easier for English speakers to not have to pronounce their Icelandic words, but perhaps they were just being more difficult.  For they have made an album title that is hard to search for and hard to say.  To make it worse, there are no song titles on the record either.  (Although the band did have I guess unofficial titles for them):

  • 1.”-” (“Vaka”) 6:38
  • 2.”-” (“Fyrsta”) 7:33
  • 3.”-” (“Samskeyti”) 6:33
  • 4.”-” (“Njósnavélin”) 6:57
  • 5. “-” (“Álafoss”) 9:57
  • 6. “-” (“E-Bow”) 8:48
  • 7. “-” (“Dauðalagið”) 12:52
  • 8. “-” (“Popplagið”) 11:43

While looking for these song tracks, I learned that a lot of people think this album is mopey and depressing.  And I couldn’t disagree more.  I find the songs to be wonderful builders of drama.  Track 1 opens with lovely piano and vocals.  It’s a pretty melody that is punctuated with odd, squeaky voices.   Track 2 is slower, with a nice guitar melody instead of pianos. Track 3 opens with organs and more lovely pianos.  The pianos are slow which I usually don’t like, but there’s something about the simplicity and solitariness of their pianos that I find really captivating.  I love that it is repetitive and building, edging towards a dramatic conclusion.  Track 4 has low drumming that propels the echoing song.

Each of these 4 songs is around 7 minutes long.  And while they are not vastly different from Ágætis byrjun, they show the band experimenting within the form.  Also, Ágætis byrjun contained several different styles mixed between their epics, whereas this album is all epic.

After the 4th song there is 30 seconds of silence.  Which signifies something of a change for the second half of the album.

Track 5 is the slowest, saddest music on the album.  But it builds slowly, growing out of that sadness with a cathartic explosion at the end.  Track 6 opens with very loud drums (the percussion is spectacular on this album) and drones.  It builds and builds with more catharsis at the end.  Track 7 is the 12 minute epic that opens with organs and washes of guitars.  The opening is slow but you get the sense that it is building towards something–there is tension in the music, especially when it shifts to a minor key around 3:30.  It takes over 4 minutes to get to the chorus.  And then the song repeats and builds again.  The end is an unholy racket until Jonsi is left singing by himself.  It’s incredibly satisfying.  The final track is 11 minutes long and opens with an upbeat guitar sound.  It’s a good song and then the drums kick in around 6:20 and the song gets even better.

So yes, this is a long album full of long songs.  And none of it is in English.  Not exactly a pop seller, and yet there is something magical about the music on it.

[READ: October 10, 2013] A Hologram for the King

I had been putting off reading this book because I didn’t really like or get the title.  Sarah laughed at me when I said this, because the title is very explicit, but I honestly didn’t know what it was supposed to mean.  My mind reeled with the metaphorical possibilities.  So imagine my surprise when the title is indeed very literal.

The book is about a man named Alan Clay who is an IT sales person.  He will be doing a presentation–which will include an interactive hologram–to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.  So, a hologram for the king.  Simple.

And indeed, the story is quite simple.  I had read an excerpt from it in McSweeney’s 38 and enjoyed it quite a bit–not realizing that it was from this book, of course.  The excerpt has been changed since then but most of the elements have been incorporated.  About the excerpt I said:

a man named Alan is on a flight to Saudi Arabia for business.  We learn through the course of the chapter that he has very little money left, that he is divorced and that his daughter is now fighting with her mother (his ex-wife).  He composes letters in his head to her trying to figure out the best way to placate the scenario.  But he also knows how important this deal is, both for him and for his daughter who needs money for school.  So he tries to put everything out of his mind so he can sleep.  There’s a lot of wonderful details in this chapter.

None of those details have changed, except we don’t really see as much of the flight.

Alan has landed in Saudi Arabia after not sleeping for 60 hours.  He misses the shuttle bust to KAEC (pronounce cake) the King Abdullah Economic Center.  So he calls for a taxi.  Instead, he gets a young man name Yousef who drives him the 60 or so miles to KAEC.  Along the way, Alan and Yousef talk a lot and they hit it off. Yousef has been to America (he studied for a year there) so he understands Americans.  He also has no hope for the future of the KAEC.  Alan likes Yousef and is dismayed by his attitude about KAEC, but finds him to be enjoyable company (Yousef enjoys jokes and, as a salesman, Alan is full of them). (more…)

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goSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-untitled #1 (Vaka) (single) (2003).

19Sigur Rós lay dormant for a while after their successful tour and then they came out with the album ().  The album tracks were also untitled (although the band did have names for them).  This single was released as a 3″ disc and then as the version I have which has the same four songs and a DVD.

It was called variously “Untitled 1/9” or “Vaka” and it contains 2 or 4 songs.   The first song is “Vaka.”  Song 2 or 2 through 4 are called “Smáskífa” (or (untitled #9)).  It was originally listed as a 12 minute song but has been broken up on both releases as 3 shorter songs:

The first one is a slow mournful section, with Jonsi’s voice manipulated somewhat to make it sound a little creepier than it normally does.   The second part opens with the voice presumably sped up making it even higher pitched than normal.  Then comes the beautiful slow piano. The third part consists of slow, repeated synth notes and ends with what sounds like more of Jonsi’s singing, but slowed down.  It’s not the most inspired song by the band, but it shows them playing around with sounds a bit more.

The official track listing is

  • Untitled (Vaka) 6:43
  • Untitled (Smáskífa 1) 4:38
  • Untitled (Smáskífa 2) 2:47
  • Untitled (Smáskífa 3) 4:22

[READ: December 2, 2013] Go

This is an excellent book for learning about graphic design, whether you are a kid or an adult.  Even though I feel like I know a lot about graphic design, I learned some fundamentals.  Kidd explains not only how but why things work as they do.  And he begins but upending conventions (just look at the cover which should give you pause).

If you don’t know who Chip Kidd is, he is an amazing book jacket designer.  Some of the most beautiful jackets were created by him.  And, even though I’ve been a fan for a while, I didn’t know that he designed the cover for Jurassic Park (and made all of the iconography for the subsequent movies).

He talks about the history of design (from nature to man-made), showing how we learn things from nature and then proceed to produce beautiful things (I enjoyed his quick trip through the highlights of man-made design from the Book of Kells to the Obama logo).

He talks about simple tricks for making designs stand out like using very small or very large pictures, inverting images, using vertical or horizontal lines, and emphasizing light and dark.  [On a purely fun bit of coincidence, he designed the cover for Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito.  I just read a review about the book by David Foster Wallace last week].  I also really enjoyed the way he plays with images and dpi. (more…)

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