In case anyone’s missed this, Rob Fitzpatrick of The Guardian (UK) delivered a revealing interview with postrock pioneers Jónsi Birgisson (guitarist/singer) and Goggi Hólm (bassist) of Sigur Rós last month. The interview’s linchpin is the somber quartet’s double-live album and concert film Inni (directed by Vincent Morisset), whose conception was anything but immaculate.
It was meant to be finished and out at least 18 months ago, but no one liked the first cut.
“It was completely clean and boring and not how we imagined it all,” Hólm says.
“We all hated it,” Birgisson says. “And we were pretty brutal about it. But we felt like Vincent explained it one way and it turned out another. We all have such strong visions, we imagined something totally different. We’ve been playing together for so long, we don’t have to discuss stuff, we just know.”
The band were about to pull the plug on the project when Morisset showed up with a re-edited clip of Ny Batteri that he’d transferred from digital HD to 16mm film and reprojected and refilmed through, among other things, glass.
“It looked shitty and scratchy,” Birgisson says enthusiastically. “And I mean that as a compliment, it was a huge improvement. Our problem has always been that people are too respectful of our work. They don’t want to go too far and we hate that. We’d much prefer them to fuck it all up, to go fucking crazy. I mean, I’d never watch a live concert movie. They’re boring; all the same shit you’ve seen before. It’s hard to make it interesting.”
The concert film released on November 15th, 2011, on Blu-ray and is available now. The live album itself appears to have gotten a lukewarm review from Ian Cohen of Pitchfork (which I reckon is good enough):
[ … ] they heavily favor the material that came after 2005’s Takk, a crucial pivot where Sigur Rós started to be slotted into what might be considered “conventional” songwriting, or at least transcendence doled out more succinctly and frequently.
Succinctly transcendental or not, Takk was a bold new direction for the somber quartet. The ambient, symphonic rock they pioneered had a formlessness that pinned Sigur Rós to a class of endangered species. Which is ironic, considering their work is/was defiantly experimental.
The first sign of an artist’s impertinence is stagnation, or stylistic sameness. They had to grow — and sometimes growing means re-embracing conventional formulas. Still, you can’t argue that Sigur Rós presently fail to sound like themselves, no matter what they’re doing (that is to say, uniquely their own). What they bring to formula is postmodern reinvention.
And let’s be honest, where would Explosions in the Sky be today without pre-2005 Sigur Rós (barring the other postrock meat, Godspeed You! Black Emperor)? I say no more, of course, until I give the live album a spin myself. In the meantime (if you’ve got 9:30 min to spare), watch the somber quartet perform their track, Ný batterí, in a live format: