Ambient | 68 min
Of all the cultural contributions Iceland has made to the world, one of the most beneficial has been its musical influence. Within the past 20 years, a steady stream of innovative music has poured out of Iceland, including bands like The Sugarcubes, Björk, Slowdive, Sigur Rós and múm. Although these bands vary in style, something about their music has transcended boundaries, emitting a surreal power that is almost as barren and beautiful as Iceland itself.
Among the most popular bands to emerge from Iceland is Sigur Rós (Victory Rose), a post-rock band known for their hauntingly powerful songs. In 2003, lead singer “Jónsi” Þor Birgisson and boyfriend Alex Somers created “Riceboy Sleeps” as an artistic venture, experimenting with various forms of visual art. However, as time went on, the duo began their foray into music, recently releasing their debut album, “Riceboy Sleeps.”
For fans of Sigur Rós, “Riceboy Sleeps” will be a pleasant surprise. The album encapsulates the same otherworldly frailty that initially won fans over; only here, it’s more condensed and prevalent. Guitars are eschewed in favor of lush strings courtesy of Icelandic quartet Amiina drowned in warm swaths of reverb. Jónsi and Alex naturally play off of each other, and the emotional impact their chemistry has on their music is drastic.
The album begins with “Happiness,” a somber yet hopeful string piece. The song slowly crescendos until the weight of the piece eventually leads it to collapse on itself, leaving the listener with a sea of static and the embers of a distant piano. Other highlights include the crackling warmth of “Atlas Song,” the choral “Boy 1904” (arguably the best track on the album), and the breezy, peaceful “Sleeping Giant.”
“Riceboy Sleeps” is the soundtrack of a faraway time that may be lost somewhere in the deep night of winter or the cool spring breeze. Not everyone will enjoy it, but for those who prefer an ambient sound, it will prove to be an unforgettable album.
For people who like: Sigur Rós, Ólafur Arnolds, Enya, and Stars of the Lid