Sigur RÃ³s, Iceland’s second largest music import, makes music that is … just sweet nothingness. It’s ambient, it’s completative, it’s emotional. It’s not for everyone. Wiki describes it as post-rock, experimental, dream pop–all of that would be correct. And while my attention span until recently hadn’t had the capacity to fully appreciate the niche genre they’ve made for themselves, I knew that would change the moment I found out that I could put myself in their shoes.
Thankfully, I was made aware of through 9rules that the quartet had made a film. Heima is a documentary on the series of free concerts Sigur RÃ³s performed throughout their homeland after touring the world over in 2006 (releasing on DVD on November 20th, Stateside).
I was ecstatic to learn that Heima was showing at the American Film Institute Festival at the Hollywood Arclight*. After some more research, I found they were also screening the film at The Vista** theatre in Silver Lake–complete with a live performance. Not so at the Arclight.
Eventually after even more research, I found out about their MySpace *cough* Secret Show, also at The Vista. I was to go to Amoeba Records in Hollywood and pick up a wristband two days prior with a printout of my MySpace profile with MySpace Secret Shows as my top friend. The time slot they gave was 3 hours long, but everyone knew better. Well, if one didn’t, he should have. 😉
When I arrived at 5:50 the line had wrapped around the building and was almost to the entrance of the parking lot. That’s about 200 feet. Fortunately I had made it in time before they ran out–with about 60 spots to spare. My friend G made it too and I was able to get in line again with his girlfriend M’s profile print-out. We were set.
The regular AFI screening was at 8pm and cost $25. Our Secret Showtime to be at 10pm and the cost was free (or time spent researching and standing in line at Amoeba, whichever you prefer). We stood in line starting at 9pm with fast food in hand while doors actually opened at 10:45. We didn’t get front and center, but we did get center–and we were happy with it. To our surprise, we noticed Bradley from Project Runway Season 3 sitting in the row in front of us because if you didn’t know, all designers must have good musical taste?
After an introduction by Dean DeBlois, the director of Heima, Sigur RÃ³s played 5 songs before the screening started. They started off with Ã¡gÃ¦tis byrjun. The melodies and melancholy were overwhelming with emotion. Simply beautiful. Despite that none of the musicians have been classically trained, I could sense the great musicianship in the quartet–loud and fast ensemble is always easier to play, anyway. (The video gets cut off at 3 minutes because the song is actually 8.)
Against the backdrop of Los Angeles superficiality, Heima humbled me with the heart of the Icelandic people. I long to see the beautiful, awesome landscapes documented in the film. Vastly stretching, bright green grass. Fjords, plateaus and broken glaciers. The simplicity of moods and emotions became so evident in the intention of their work to me. I came away with the knowledge and appreciation of a people and music I had been seeking to understand. Below is an example of the mystery exemplified in one of their albums, ( ):
In 2002, their highly anticipated follow-up album ( ) was released. Upon release all tracks on the album were untitled, though the band later published song names on their website. All of the lyrics on ( ) are sung in Vonlenska, also known as Hopelandic, a constructed language of nonsense syllables which resembles the phonology of the Icelandic language. It has also been said that the listener is supposed to interpret their own meanings of the lyrics which can then be written in the blank pages in the album booklet.
Anyway, if you even somewhat appreciate Sigur RÃ³s’ music, this beautiful documentary is a must-see. 🙂 You will definitely walk away with a higher sense of appreciation.
* The Arclight is a “moviegoers multiplex” in that it plays no commercials, doesn’t allow latecomers into a theatre once the film itself has started, has actual employees give a schpiel about the film before it starts and urges the viewers to let them know should there be any problem with lighting or sound. Elitastic.
** The Vista, however, is one of those lesser-known charms of Los Angeles. It’s a single theatre much like the red carpet premiere spots in Westwood, but since it’s set at Sunset Junction on the border of Silver Lake–a community known for its kitsch–it’s given a unique flavor. The decor has an Egyptian feel and as part of their remodel a few years back, they’ve taken out every other row so everyone has ample leg room.