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expansive icelandic weirdists and pro-dental fishing and anti piss-and-bollocks

iceland is, of course, a strange and wonderful place: the swathes of fire and ice, the world's highest per-capita of miss worlds and chess grand masters, the tasty snack items concocted from reindeer haunch, guillemot breast and cod's cheek. indeed, the nation's grandour and idiosyncrasy is a pretty perfect backdrop to the imperious tones of native quartet sigur rós.

'yes, we are influenced by the landscape of iceland,' says keyboardist/guitarist kjartan sveinsson as the rós wagon heards down toward reykjavík. 'but it is unconscious. we go and see this country a lot – as you can see it is a wonderful place. we have all these big empty places where no-one lives – glaciers and lava, and that is very good. the sky is so big in this country!'

iceland's expanse and majesty does seem to reverberate through sigur rós' music – a stately, profound sound that occasionally draws close to spiritualized, mogwai and godspeed you black emperor!

aged between 21 and 24, the band have been together for six years. 'ágætis byrjun', the latest of their three albums to date, recently spent six weeks at number one in the icelandic charts, and excerpts of this triumph can be sampled on the band's 'svefn-g-englar' ep, currently available in britain on fatcat records.

the sigur rós sounds revolves around frontman jón þór 'jónsi' birgisson, a man notable for both his remarkable keening vocals and effects-laden guitar played with a violin bow. these frankly extraordinary sounds are deftly augmented by multi-instrumental kjartan, drummer orri páll dýrason and bassist georg holm. the latter is nicknamed 'white fang' after his alleged ability to catch trout with his teeth.

previous recordings benefitted from titles like 'viðrar vel til loftárása' ('a good day for air strikes') and have been sung in both icelandic and jónsi's own linguistic creation, 'hopelandish', although they may break into rock's very own lingua franca in the future.

'yes, I think we will try singing in english next', says kjartan. 'until now we have released records just in icelandic, so we have sung only in icelandic – and hoplandish.'

as snow and the night come down, the band's thoughts turn to the previous evening's show – a deeply impressive, film-assisted spectacular enacted in reykjavík's premier cinema.

'yes, we like to play somewhere nice,' concludes kjartan. 'we stay out of pubs – places that stink of piss and bollocks.'

(roy wilkinson)



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