Sigur Ros's Heima: An Icelandic Psychogeography

University of Technology, Sydney
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Transforming Cultures eJournal, 2009, 4 (1), pp. 172 - 198
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This paper examines the sonic geography of the Icelandic ambient rock group Sigur Rós with particular reference to their documentary film Heima, which documents a tour the group made of remote places in their home country. Known for causing some people to faint or burst into tears during their concerts, Sigur Róss music could be said to express sonically both the isolation of their Icelandic location and to induce a feeling of hermetic isolation in the listener through the climactic and melodic intensity of their sound. This is distinguished by lead guitarist Jónsi Birgissons falsetto vocals and Gibson Les Paul guitar played through reverb with a well-resined cello bow, heavily amplified drums, and the use of various types of keyboards, including church organ, minimally emphatic bass, and an all-female string section called Anima who play instruments such as xylophone, celeste, a glass of water, a musical saw and a laptop. Singing both in Icelandic and an invented language called Hopelandic (vonlenska), Jónsi, who is gay and blind in one eye, channels a striking form of glossolalia in his vocals which links the groups music to ambient rock predecessors such as the Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance.
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