sigur rós were formed by jónsi, georg and the former drummer ágúst in 1994. they were later joined by kjartan and when ágúst left the band after the recording of ágætis byrjun in order to pursue a career in graphic design, he was replaced by orri. sigur rós hail from iceland, and rightly claim to bring you the beautiful landscape of their homeland with their music. it’s impossible to justify it with words, you have to listen to it to understand. check out the downloads page and listen to some tracks.
the band consists of jón þor (jónsi) birgisson (vocals, guitars), kjartan (kjarri) sveinsson (keyboards), orri páll dýrason (drums) and georg (goggi) holm (bass). they create a remarkable sound considering the basic instruments used. jónsi often uses a cello bow to play his guitar, resulting in an effects-laden, atmospheric, totally unique sound. his voice is probably the most unique thing about sigur rós. a falsetto somewhere between thom yorke and a choir boy. the band have released three albums so far, plus one remix album (von brigði – recycle bin). the first album, which has not been released outside of iceland, is called von (hope) and is quite experimental and ambient.
the band really found their feet with their second album, the masterpiece that is ágætis byrjun (a good beginning). the album was subsequently released in the uk in august 2000, and since then has also been released in north america through mca records. the band are signed to fat cat records in the uk and have released two singles through them, svefn-g-englar (sleepwalkers) and ny batterí (new batteries). the band saw a large amount of critical acclaim throughout the world in the second half of 2000, particularly in america. this resulted in a frantic hunt by major us labels to secure the rights to their material in america. large quantities of cash were offered, although in the end the band chose the deal which gave them most artistic freedom. this was with mca records. the band toured north america for the first time in april and may 2001, and the vast majority of the dates sold out straight away. perhaps due to the hype in the american media, the shows were attended by many big name celebrities, somewhat to the band’s surprise.
sigur rós released their third album in october 2002, entitled ( ). the lyricless and titleless album was a darker, rawer and less accessible follow up to ágžtis byrjun and came out to favourable reviews around the world. the album sold well and even reached #52 on the american billboard chart. the first track from the album was released as a single in may 2003 and reached the #9 spot in america’s nielsen chart. sigur rós have now sold over one million records worldwide.
the band has produced three videos, two for songs from ágætis byrjun and one from ( ). the band’s first video, svefn-g-englar, was released in june 2000. the video features members of the perlan theatre group, an icelandic group of downs syndrome actors who regularly perform in iceland. the second video, for viðrar vel til loftárása, was released in september 2001. this remarkable video is set in the 1950’s and follows the story of two young boys. the end of the video features a football match involving the boys, with a surprising and monumental climax. the band’s third video, ‘untitled 1’ (aka vaka), was directed by the highly respected italian director and photographer floria sigismondi, and was released in february 2003. the video was a considerably dark affair, featuring playing children in a post-apocalyptic playground covered in black snow, where they must play under the protective guise of gasmasks. the video garnered mtv’s attention and was awarded the best video of 2003 at the mtv europe music awards.
earlier this year, sigur rós embarked on an extensive european and american tour where they played some of their biggest capacity venues to date, including the apollo hammersmith in london and radio city music hall in new york city. this spring 2003 tour marked the last time the band was accompanied by the amina string quartet, who had recorded ( ) with the band and frequently accompanied them in concert since 1999.
sigur rós took a well-earned break last summer, after which they joined radiohead to write music for the modern dance piece split sides by merce cunningham. the band have begun work on their fourth album, which looks to be more accessible than their previous outing. the album is expected to be released in late 2004 but nothing is definite at this stage.