their time is now: sigur rós - icelandic superstars who are quite possibly away with the fairies...
"the elves.." sighs sigur rós bassist georg holm. 'why do they always have to bring up the elves?'
hailing from the isle of volcanos, auks and bjork, horribly handsome sigur rós (comfortingly pronounced sigger ross [or not] and roughly translating as victory rose) are already fatigued by the whimsical preconceptions of british journalists about their native floe. a top ten album for almost a year in iceland, their ágaetis byrjun (a good start) finally gets a uk release this month.
'magazines always want to photograph us in front of a geyser,' moans naughty eyed keyboardist kjartan sveinsson. 'but its a cliché to us: like photographing an english band in front of tower bridge.'
utterly kookiness-free, sigur rós build a slow, rapturous wash of atmospheric, melodically overpowering rock from the simple stuff of bass, drums (piloted by silent, chimney sweep-sized orri páll dyrason), organ and jimmy page style electric guitar/violin bow interface. cocteau twins, early verve and miles davis' in a silent way spring to mind. singer/guitarist jón thór birgisson (sporting an intense aura and - currently - a cockatoo frond of sticky-up hair) wails in a tongue part-icelandic and part made-up. he calls it hopelandish.
'the country really affects us as persons;' concedes sveinsson, ' and musically too. its a big horizon and i think its good for your mind. everywhere you turn is the sea, hundreds of km of lava, black deserts and glaciers. it makes you humble.'
top sigur rós facts: sveinsson can build violins, holm's dad is a q subscriber and jónsi birgisson isn't looking over your shoulder, he's blind in one eye. emphasising the odyssian aspect of their musical mission, they once took their transit substitute citroen ambulance to denamrk and back, via the faroes, and had their vehicle ripped apart by customs, who thought they were smuggling heroin.
'we want our music to spread everywhere,' says sveinsson, 'but we dont want to be famous. for many years there's been so much....crap going on. musicians haven't been sincere, but i think its changing for the better. that will be good for us.'
later, in a reykjavik bar part-owned by damon albarn, sigur rós seek the advice of the capitals rock aristocracy: namely ex-sugarcube einar orn benediktsson and avuncular, one-time psychic tv bloke hilmar orn hilmarsson. the young band (youngest 21, oldest 24) are buying a house in which to record, in splendid isolation, their next album. but the details of lawyers, surveyors and the like are new to them.
'there's one other thing you have to be careful of', warns einar, weirdly. 'when i built my house, nothing would go right. even the drill head we used to break up the rock kept melting. turned out it was the hidden people, getting in the way. i had to negotiate with them, move them into a pile of stones in the garden...'
'er..the hidden people'? 'you know...the elves.' anyone know the icelandic for 'd'oh!'?