Something unexpected this way comes…

I hate that, you know, and I get quite grumpy when it does happen. As many of you might have guessed by now, my taste in music tends to the uncommercial, unlistenable, noisy and generally ignored. Every once in a while, however, something comes along that, despite attempts at studied resistance and feigned disinterest, niggles and worries at the edges until it finds a fissure, and then insidiously worms its way inwards. What starts as a barely-felt tickle gradually becomes a rash of itchy curiosity. Consequently, it won’t let me go until I’ve scratched it, often leading to profuse metaphorical bleeding.

So what’s managed to get under my skin this time, then? Simply put, the music of Jón Þór Birgisson, better known as Jónsi, the Sigur Rós frontman. What makes it doubly bizarre is that I am not that keen on that band’s music. How to explain? Maybe it has to do with the input from the other band members – their contributions tending to smooth any individual edginess. Whatever it is, when he’s in full solo mode something magnificent gets unleashed, an emotive quality that’s hard to pin down – and smiles back at you, knowing you’ll never quite be able to do so. A creature of legend made real, yet remaining insubstantial to the grasp.

Like that other Icelandic export (and professional mythical pixie-being), Björk, Jónsi’s music possesses an otherworldly intangibility, far removing it from anything remotely mundane. Which leads me to posit the question: what does Iceland do to its musicians? I ask this because there is no doubt in my mind that this northern isle infuses itself into the very marrow of its people, ESPECIALLY those that exhibit creative tendencies of any kind. Whenever I listen to some of either Jónsi or Björk’s music (in particular, the latter’s early solo material), an auroral iciniess and chill distance envelops me and creeps into my bones. Not surprising really, I guess, considering where they live.

Iceland is one of those countries, along with northern Scotland and Scandinavia, that tugs at my heart-strings in a way I don’t really understand. I usually put it down to a fanciful notion that because I was born into one of the worst snowstorms ever, in February ’63, I gained an automatic feeling for those places situated in colder climes. Consequently, listening to something like Jónsi’s songs (and anything on Glacial Movements Records, for instance) only plays upon those emotional strings even harder. It’s difficult to resist the call to dream of far-away ice and isolation – let it be known that this is what I crave above all else in this life: a life amongst the glaciers, geysers, volcanoes and the shimmering auroral displays. Maybe one day: in the twilight of my life I’ll get to meet the twilight country – it would constitute a fitting circularity, I think.


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