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dvd magazine review of 'heima'

sigur ros seemingly emerged out of nowhere (or iceland to be more accurate) back in 1999 with their sublime, ethereal second album, 'agaetis byrjun', which sold a staggering 600,000 copies internationally. even the last bastion of averageness, q magazine, was impressed, calling it "the last great record of the 20th century". the praise was even more surprising considering that sigur ros sing their songs in hopelandish, a magical made-up language of their own concoction! until it was revealed otherwise, fans naturally assumed that the band were singing their songs in their mother-tongue! strangely enough, their infatuation with gibberish lyrics doesn't actually take anything away from the band's awesome music. the band spent three tough years touring the album and plotting its eagerly anticipated follow up. however, when the noticeably darker album called '( )' came out in 2002, fans were disturbed by its gloomy (although admittedly impressive) song title-less nature. nevertheless, their reputation continued to grow, and when 2005's impeccable takk' emerged, fans were able to fall in love with the band all over again. as their profile got bigger, the band's soundtrack-friendly clamour helped them tap into a bigger audience thanks to aural appearances in the life aquatic with steve zissou, vanilla sky, 'csi: crime scene investigation', '24' and the bbc's own 'planet earth'. however, with their status at an all-time high the band retreated home to iceland in the summer of 2006 and decided to start work on a project that attempted to dig beneath the strange surface they had constructed and give the public a glimpse inside their weird world. accompanied by oscar-nominated director dean 'lilo & stitch' deblois and a 40-man crew, the band decamped to 15 far-flung locations scattered across iceland. the concert film follows them as they travel to long-deserted 'ghost towns', beautifully-desolate national parks, tiny town halls and bizarre outside art exhibitions; culminating in the largest gig not just of their career, but in icelandic music history. so, as well as a musical tour-de-force, heima (meaning 'homeland') also acts as a wonderfully offbeat advert for the icelandic tourist board! these gigs were free to anyone who turned up, and those who did make the effort to travel off the beaten track surely didn't go home disappointed after witnessing the glacial slow-burning treats on offer here. arguably sigur ros's enchanting post-rock isolation has never sounded quite this lovely. singer jonsi birgisson emotes like a frozen angel, whilst his quietly-bombastic bandmates twinkle in the haze. ecstatic crescendos undercut with moments of molten feedback seal the deal in impressive style. the dvd is bolstered by a second disc including full-length performances of all of the songs featured in the main film, plus a handful of extra tracks and even a preview of the previously unreleased new song 'heima'. elsewhere there is also a photo gallery, an audio commentary courtesy of the band's manager and a behind-the-scenes featurette. (if you feel like splashing out, heima is also available in a lavish hardback special edition package, which includes a 112-page book of photographs and retails at 24.99!) overall, i can't recommend sigur ros's strange musical brew, and indeed this film, highly enough. lovely stuff.

(tom leins)



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