Sigur Rós release "Hvarf-Heim"An album with 2 titles because it is
in effect,2 separate but complementary entities. 2 front cover 2 discs."Hvarf"
is a 5 track electric studio record comprising of unreleased and collectable
rarities.In fact the word " Hvarf" means "disappeared". "Heim" is a 6 track
acoustic record,comprising delicate new unplugged version of some of Sigur
Ros' best moments.
Hvarf and Heim are twin
Sigur Ros records, released in support of the band's first ever film, Heima.
They will be released together on CD on Nov 5, 2007. It's more complicated
than this, but effectively Hvarf is the electric side and Heim is the
The five tracks that make up 'Hvarf' are new recordings of songs taken from
various points in Sigur Ros's history. Three of them have never been
released on record before, either because they were not recorded in the
first place, or because they were recorded and then not included on a
finished album. The other two, 'Von' and 'Hafsol', are radical reworkings of
songs from the band's first (pre-Kjartan, pre-Orri) album, with latter being
available in limited form as the b-side to the UK single of 'Hoppipolla'.
'Hvarf' (say "kvarf") means "disappeared", which is what almost happened to
this material… It also means "haven", which kind of links it to the concept
of 'Heim' (see below)…
'Salka' nearly made it onto the '( )' album, but ended up on the mixing room
floor at Real World Studios in the early summer of 2003. Named after Georg's
eldest daughter, just as 'Untitled 1' was known as 'Vaka' after Orri's
daughter, 'Salka' was played live extensively during the touring both before
and after the nameless record. It's a great tune and hard to say why it
hasn't made it onto record thus far. But, hey, that's been rectified now…
'Hljomalind' was known by everybody involved as 'Rokklagid' ('The Rock Song'),
until the band had to come up with a proper title for this release. It was
briefly called (in English, at least) 'The Rabbit And The Prince', but
no-one really felt comfortable with that. The Rabbit was Kiddi, who managed
the band at the time the song was written and ran Hljomalind, the indie
record store on Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavik 101. The Prince was Valli,
roadie, fly-poster and friend to the band. Kaffi Hljomalind is now an
organic joint that serves the kind of latte you can't drink two of without
suffering a panic attack.
The song was written for the first session off the back of the 'Agaetis
Byrjun' album. It was recorded for a possible EP with producer Ken Thomas at
Ridge Farm Studios, but the band didn't really like the way it turned out
and it got shelved. The song was scarcely performed live, and when Ridge
Farm later shut down, even the master tapes disappeared off the surface of
the earth. As a result 'Hljomalind' was almost written out of the script.
Truth be told, Sigur Ros are a little bit sensitive about 'Hljomalind',
considering it a bit too simple and formulaically structured to get through
the quality filter, hence the softly jibing 'Rokklagid' nomenclature. It has,
however, had a habit of sticking around, taking on some sort of legendary
status among fans, and since, after Hoppipolla, everyone thinks Sigur Ros
are a pop band anyway, it was thought that they could put the tin-lid on
that reputation with this three-chord wonder.
I Gaer (2000)
Known until recently as 'Lagid I Gaer', 'I Gaer' means simply "yesterday",
which seems entirely apposite given the nature of this particular project.
Written after 'Agaetis Byrjun' in the same flurry of activity that birthed 'Dánarfregnir
Og Jar Afarir' ('Funeral Announcements And Deaths') and 'Bíum Bíum Bambaló'
(interpretations / cover versions used on the B-side of the 'Ny Batteri' EP
and 'Angels Of The Universe' soundtrack), it forms part of what is
internally known as Sigur Ros's brief Prog Rock excursion, which pretty much
began and ended with these songs.
'I Gaer' has been played sporadically over the years, largely around when it
was first written and more recently on the Summer 2006 tour of Iceland. It
remains a highly dramatic and effective piece of music and a time capsule of
a direction the band flirted with and then abandoned. Feel that Hammond!
In 1995 Sigur Ros were scarcely off the concept board. Jonsi, Georg and
drummer Agust Gunnarsson hadn't even grown their hair yet, let alone cut it
off again. Kjartan was still a way off being a band member, although he
would soon join them live - and had himself glorious, gender-defying tresses.
'Von' would shortly be the title track of the first Sigur Ros album (1996),
but the version that the band would slowly perfect live – especially after
Orri and amiina came on the scene, towards the end
of the last century – would completely eclipse the nebulous, gossamer
delicate version on the original record.
This rousing and beautiful live arrangement would become much sought after
as a peer-to-peer item, but has remained steadfastly out of the official
canon until the boys recorded again it in the wake of the session for 'Takk…'.
'Von' means "hope".
Finally recorded back-to-back with 'Von' a couple of years ago - partly in
order to get the manager off their back, who was forever suggesting that we
should give the people what they want and make these two long-held live
favourites available - 'Hafsol' is the only real rival to 'Poppsong' ('Untitled
8') as a potential Sigur Ros set closing out-and-out rock song.
Lead by Georg's innovative use of drum stick on bass strings, 'Hafsol' has a
mantra-like quality which builds gradually until a mid-song mini dam-burst
of energy signified by amiina's emphatic pizzicato strings. Thereafter
things continue to escalate until, with dizzying abandon, near cacophony
threatens to engulfs the song towards the end of an exhausting 10 minutes,
out of which emerges Kjartan's shrill penny whistle coda.
If you seek out the version of 'Hafsol' (as it was then called) on 'Von', it
is pretty hard to even identify it as even the same root material. It's fun
The six songs that make up 'Heim' are acoustic versions of material taken
from all four Sigur Ros's albums. They were recorded in Iceland either
during the band's summer 2006 tour or early this spring. All songs are live
A couple of years back, when the idea of making the live film that would
become 'Heima' was first discussed, it was agreed that there should be a
live album to accompany it. When the band came to listen back to the
material that had been captured on the road, however, it was stripped down
acoustic renditions of songs that caught their imagination, rather than the
electric versions, which always seemed inferior to the album recordings.
Actually, the unplugged scenario had been pretty much imposed on the band,
there being no power at some of the locations. Four of the songs here (Vaka,
Samskeyti, Agaetis Byrjun and Heysatan) were played acoustically on the road
during the summer tour, with the remaining Staralfur and Von, being first
interpreted for a protest concert against a planned road development next to
the band's studio in the artistic community of Alafoss, back in February
'Heim' means "home".
'Samskeyti' is that rare thing, a Sigur Ros instrumental. When the band used
to play it live around the '( )' album (on which it became known as 'Untitled
3'), Jonsi would sit on the floor holding an e-bow to the strings of his
guitar making it sing in his place. Here a mordant harmonium leads us
towards Kjartan's super-pretty, circling piano motif, while violins provide
the "lark-ascending" top-notes.
This version was recorded at the Gamla Borg community hall, an hour or so
outside Reykjavik in April '07, after the audience for the late afternoon
concert had already left.
'Staralfur' is one of those Sigur Ros songs that everyone just loves, but
for the longest time they didn't play live. A highlight of their
break-through album, 'Agaetis Byrjun', it – along with the similarly admired
'Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa' - didn't get performed for the longest time, with
the band saying they couldn't do justice to the studio recordings.
Eventually, however, they relented, and 'Vidrar…', at least, became a staple
highlight of the band's set. 'Staralfur', on the other hand, only made it
into the set infrequently, despite sounding fantastic and always being
hugely-anticipated by audiences from the opening piano note.
To hear it played at all is something special. To hear it played
acoustically is something that only the handful of people who were either at
the Alafoss protest or Gamla Borg show have had the pleasure. This recording
was made live on the floor of the band's studio for the film.
The song that started it all. When Sigur Ros decided, on the spur of the
moment, to take a detour from their filmed tour of Iceland to go and play at
the protest camp at the Karahnjukar dam - which would soon flood many square
kms of pristine Icelandic wilderness close to the East Fjords – they took
almost nothing with them.
A small generator had been dug into a shallow hole to provide minimal power
for the performance, but since the protest was against a dam built to
provide electricity for an American aluminium smelting plant, the band
decided to go unplugged for the first time in their career.
They played to a hardy audience, numbered in the tens, performing the few
songs they had worked out acoustically, but it was watching the lone camera
recording of 'Vaka', with mountain wind whistling in the mic, that decided
them on the acoustic route for this project.
The version here is not, in fact, the raw, Karanhjukar recording, but
another exterior version made outside the band's studio in April 2007. If
you listen closely you can hear the birds singing and detect the
pitter-patter of the rain getting harder as the song moves on. The amiina
girls were so fearful of their old violins, violas and cellos warping in the
wet, that they ran off inside the second the tape stopped running. Hush, you
can perhaps discern their delicate footfalls…
'Vaka' used to be known as the first track on the album with no name - or 'Untitled
1' on '( )', if you like – within the band and on set-lists it has always
been known as 'Vaka'. And so it is here.
'Agaetis Byrjun', as far as I am aware, was never performed live until last
summer. And still has only been played a handful of times in far-flung bits
of Iceland. This take was made in an empty community hall at Vik,
anti-clockwise round the South coast of Iceland from Reykjavik. It's the
version you will be able to see in the 'Heima' film.
The title track from one of their best-loved albums, it's no secret that 'Agaetis
Byrjun' means "an all right beginning" or "a good-ish start". You could say
The final song on the band's most recent album, this version of 'Heysatan'
was recorded in the middle of absolutely nowhere out on the Western tip of
the West Fjords at the bizarre Outsider Art folly in Selardalur
(www.pbase.com/tcom/image/73411523). This proved to be an appropriate
setting for a song about a happy death in rural isolation.
Interestingly, 'Heysatan' contains the only words in English I know of in a
Sigur Ros song (and surprisingly a strange example of product placement in
this most anti-advertising of bands), when Jonsi sings of the moribund
farmer falling from his "Massey Ferguson" tractor…
This live acoustic version of 'Von' was recorded the same day as 'Samskeyti'
at Gamla Borg in April 2007. The idea is that it provides a counterpoint to
the electric version found on the other side disc of this collection.
Amazing, isn't it? You wait 10 years for a decent recording of 'Von' and
then two come along at once!