mon 06/12/2021

Album: Sigur Rós - Odin's Raven Magic | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Sigur Rós - Odin's Raven Magic

Album: Sigur Rós - Odin's Raven Magic

Music for Norse myths

A sense of poetic myth from Sigur Rós

Odin’s ravens Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) are the great Norse god’s messengers, at the heart of a myth that was borrowed in watered-down form for Game of Thrones. The myth inspired a suite of pieces by Sigur Rós and a star-studded group of Icelandic friends and collaborators.

Unreleased for many years, and only performed a few times, this recording from a Paris concert in 2002 will delight the band’s fans, as well as intriguing admirers of "post-rock" or contemporary classical.

The band’s moody and cinematic style is very much present: wide swathes of sound, conjuring landscapes without horizon and an all-enveloping mist reflect a sense of poetic myth rather than a well defined narrative. Here, accompanied by an orchestra of young French musicians, the scale is amplified, and rendered less exclusively electronic. Vocals are by fisherman and saga singer Steindór Andersen, in a gentle and soulful tone reminiscent of some Irish ballad singing. Jónsi’s signature falsetto is present as well, adding to Andersen's other-worldly quality. On “Spár eða spakmál” the two voices are intertwined in a way that is gently bewitching.

The melancholy mood, dangerously close to Nordic noir cliché, threatens to overwhelm, but is thankfully relieved with “Áss hinn hvíti”, a livelier track that features the magical sound of a stone marimba created by the artist Páll Guðmundsson. Sigur Rós lost two of its original members in the years following the creation of this piece, and they are a different band now. Inspired as they are by the force of pagan thought, Iceland’s musicians have followed a brilliant path of their own. Other notable contributors to this atmospheric suite include the musician Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson – an adept of Alister Crowley magic as well as high priest of the island’s ancient religion – and María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, of the avant-garde quartet Amiina. Legend, as well as contemporary belief, holds that volcanic Iceland is closer to the fire at the heart of the planet than most places. This, it is said, accounts for the remarkable concentration of creative talent that gathers in Reykjavik and beyond.  

The melancholy mood, dangerously close to Nordic noir cliché, threatens to overwhelm

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