Iceland's own post rock, ambient band Sigur Rós kicked off their UK tour at Glasgow's SECC. With the promise of some new songs, this tour has been highly anticipated by fans all over the country. Sigur Rós have been a favourite of mine for the last 10 years or so, therefore it was no surprise that I was digging into the pre-sale tickets faster than anyone could say Hoppípolla.
Opening the evening (and indeed all other European dates) was Blanck Mass - an electronic solo project by Bristolian Benjamin John Power who is possibly better known as a founding member of Fuck Buttons. The music that Blanck Mass provides onstage is that of a repetitive, electronic, drone nature. One might say it's quite a brave act to put on in the SECC, or indeed anywhere that's not full of inebriated people. The more sober SECC was not so responsive and Blanck Mass was in danger of losing his audience entirely. Despite the majority of people not being aware that he was actually performing (the deep red stage lighting and smoke didn't help) he gained a small applause at the end of his set but no real applause in between movements. A brave, self indulgent performance in what I would call an unsuitable environment.
Sigur Rós plus a few of their other wonderful musicians graced us with their presence at 2100 hours sharp from behind a screen which had new projected imagery and artwork on it. They started off their 2 hour set with a new song called Yfirborð which briefly introduces the new sound of Sigur Rós - a progression into combining their much loved ambient music with a faster, almost techno 120bpm drum beat and some lower singing notes coming from Jónsi. The screen came down after three songs but the beautiful imagery and stage lighting continued; the imagery often related to each individual song, such as the people in white dressed as angels who feature in the music video for Sæglopur.
We were treated to more new songs further into the set such as Brennisteinn, in which the drums took a different approach again to create a somewhat industrial yet ambient song with some added enjoyable fuzzy bass lines. I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing many old (and also some unexpected) songs throughout their set such as Ný Batterí, Olsen Olsen, Vaka, E-bow and my favourite closing song for any Sigur Rós set, Popplagið, which was just all round incredible and a pleasure both on mp3 and live.
Returning to the stage as expected were Sæglopur and Hoppípolla, 2 popular singles. I don't think Hoppípolla has ever sounded so good live as it did that night. The unexpected was their second song of the night - í Gær. This song hails from an EP of rare and previously unreleased tracks that they brought out in 2007 to go along with the DVD release of their film Heima. It features a tuned percussion intro followed by possibly the loudest single snare drum fill I've ever heard in a live music environment. It then transcends into an epic, sweeping soundscape with beautiful guitar tones (of course, played with a bow) that make you wonder how they achieve such pleasing noises.
Overall, Sigur Rós were fresh yet wonderfully familiar, and I can say with safety that there is something rather exciting about the new music they are bringing to the table soon.