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ágætis byrjun

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recording ágætis byrjun

sigur rós around the release of ágætis byrjun in summer 1999. drummer ágúst had just left the band and orri had yet to be recuited.below are some interesting excerpts from articles and interviews with the band around the time they were recording ágætis byrjun. among other things, the band mentions that the recording process was quicker than usual and that they would've liked to have had more time to finish the album, which the band describes as "pretty good" and "could have been better".

morgunblaðið 7 september 1997

on preliminary recordings

according to jón þór, sigur rós have already begun preparing their next album. the band expects this album to be less dark than the new album [von]. jón þór: "actually we have already begun recording the next album. but considering how long it took to record von, i don't think we should say anything about when it will be released."

on new band members

sigur rós is a trio and according to jón þór the band plans to keep it that way, as they are a very tight knit group. "three is a great number and i don't think we can imagine adding another member. we do have an assistant, a boy named kjartan, who has helped us a lot. he's performed with us at a lot of concerts and has added a fourth dimension to the band."

undirtónar review, october 1997

concert review

...most of the songs played at the concert will be on the band's upcoming album. jón þór says he can't say when the album will come out. after all, the new album [von] took 3 years to finish. the band expects the upcoming album will be more delicate than von.

kjartan sveinsson accompanied the band on stage playing flute and piano. jón þór: "he is mostly a session player and although doesn't write the songs with us he's an essential component to our live act."

morgunblaðið 9 august 1998

on the recording process

sigur rós is now in the studio recording songs for their next album. they begin recording the bass and drums and will then start working on the arrangements. jónsi says sigur rós's recording process isn't the typical one, as in writing and rehearsing songs, then recording them all in one go. sigur rós's recording process is more time consuming, as von's unusually long recording time would suggest. jónsi says they've decided they're going to record next album more quickly this time. "i promise the album will be released before the new millenium," jónsi says and smiles.

fókus 28 may 1999

on ágætis byrjun etc.

jónsi: "we set out to make a party hit [on von brigði]. we were going to top bubbi [icelandic pop icon] and make three albums in one year. the new album [ágætis byrjun] was supposed to come out last christmas but it just wasn't ready."

when do you think it will be ready?

jónsi: "when we are satisfied, when we feel it works and everything comes together right."

and has everything come together right?

georg: "it's as good as it can be with the time and money that we have. it could of course have been even better. but yeah, it's pretty good."

what kind of album is it?

kjartan: "it's just another rock record. all the songs will be hit singles."

jónsi: "yeah, in 2010 maybe. when radio dj's have wisened up. the songs are probably a bit too long for radio. the shortest song is five minutes."

georg: "we rather imagine people listening to the album sitting at home. it's not really a radio album."

morgunblaðið 30 may 1999

on rehearsing for icelandic opera house concert
georg: "we find it a bit difficult to do the same thing twice so we often have trouble rehearsing songs for concerts. we use the rehearsal time to write new songs instead of rehearsing the old ones, so we usually play more new songs at concerts."

jónsi: "it would be a lot more fun if we could play only new songs at the icelandic opera house. we're always kind of getting ahead of ourselves. when we were promoting von we mostly played songs from ágætis byrjun, and we'll mostly be playing new songs when we promote ágætis byrjun."

on ágætis byrjun
recording ágætis byrjun didn't turn out to be as time consuming as recording the band's last album, von. still, some of the songs on ágætis byrjun are over two years old. the band began rigorous recording sessions last august and quickly finished recording the song's foundations, with the goal of releasing it around christmastime. they soon realized they wouldn't manage to finish the album so quickly.

jónsi: "we know when our music is ready, we can feel it. and it wasn't ready." kjartan agrees and adds that although the album is now being manufactured overseas, they wished they had had a bit more time. it's hard to let go of the songs.

on arrangements
the band arranged the strings on the album themselves. to accomplish this they used a computer program and printed out the notes for the musicians. jónsi: "it was an educational experience. it sounded completely different than we thought it would." he says and laughs. the brass players, on the other hand, were asked to improvise following the guidelines of a certain mood.

on fine-tuning
as on von, the songs on ágætis byrjun will be bridged together to construct the album as a whole. according to the band, the album went through several changes at the last minute. in the album's first edit there was an abundance of extraneous sounds and elaborate transitions between songs but these were reduced in the final stages. the band says they came to realize that they were overdoing it.

on packaging
the band's demands of near perfection are not limited to their music; sigur rós feels the album's packaging is no less important. the band members have designed the album's booklet and sleeve themselves, which was unusually complicated in construction. "the outside has to be as good as the inside. there has to be consistency," agree the band members.

morgunblaðið 30 october 1999

on side projects
jónsi: "we write all our songs together but we've all been working on different projects on our own. for example kjartan just wrote some music for the student theatre. i'm always doing something on my own. i'm recording sounds from a washing machine right now."

laundry music?

jónsi: "should i tell you what i'm doing? i record the sound from the machine's cycle from start to finish. then i'm going to sing choir boy vocals over the spinning sounds, in the same tone."

what will the album be called? "jónsi and home appliances"?

jónsi: "yeah i guess so. someone should invent a word for the sounds that all these home appliances make. i mean the music that they make."

on flugufrelsarinn lyrics
the lyrics in flugufrelsarinn seem to be based on memories, is that true?

jónsi: "flugurelsarinn is from our ex drummer's, ágúst's, childhood memories. he was in the countryside when he was little and he was always saving the flies from the town stream. the song is about these memories."

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