Sigur Ros – [DVD]

Sunday, 23 December 2007

After watching the “Planet Earth” series on the Discovery Channel, I get the same feeling of bewilderment and awe as I do when I watch Sigur Ros’ first-ever live DVD, Heima. Although, instead of hearing Sigourney Weaver describe never-before-seen hunting habits of glowing vampire squid, you hear the sounds of one of today’s most gifted musical groups. And the unblemished imagery of their homeland—Iceland—contests the most breathtaking African migration scenes filmed from high above in HD, no less. It might seem a little peculiar to make such comparisons, but it takes the entirety of the opening credits for your mind to attempt to comprehend what it’s about to witness.

Heima means ‘At home,’” keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson says during the credits as the band appears to be silkscreening merch—only in Iceland the “merch guy” needs to be a master calligrapher. It’s just a subtle, humble indication of the care and precision each and every viewer will enjoy during this 97-minute journey.

The idea for Heima began when Sigur Ros decided to make a live concert film in the likes of favorites such as Pink Floyd: Live In Pompeii and Live on a Summer’s Day. The idea seemed easy enough—considering the subjects of the film—but it didn’t come without its trials and tribulations. The initial footage, which was supposed to be edited by director Denni Karlson, wasn’t living up to the enigmatic nature of the band and their surroundings. The next move was to hand off the footage and directing credit to Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch) to turn gold into, well, more gold.

That relationship began at the Hollywood Bowl, where they found out that the Academy Award-nominated director was a fan of the band. So it was agreed that 120 hours of footage get shipped to DeBlois, and then it was just a matter of waiting to see what—if anything—would come about. After careful scrutiny, DeBlois had more footage shot and added, including interviews with the band, newer, more cohesive imagery and some digital effects that only add to the overall mystery that is Sigur Ros. He turned this idea into something organized and, at times, completely overwhelming. There’s a scene where the camera slowly pans over a barren landscape only to stumble upon an abandoned airplane half-buried in the mud. There are flashes of engines and screams of terror interrupting the serenity, which jars the soul a bit, but also helps you juxtapose your senses, allowing you to think deeper than you were a moment ago. And this is just watching it on TV. Just imagine if you were one of the lucky few that heard from a friend or neighbor that Sigur Ros was playing a free show at your local abandoned fish factory.

What made that even more extraordinary is that virtually anyone could come watch the shows—grandparents and toddlers, fans and non-fans, cats and dogs. According to the band, only two of the eight shows were publicly announced. It is so incredible to watch a band accustomed to complete control in their live shows play in front of townsfolk in a banquet hall as if they were a wedding band. The faces of the people say it all. Purely captivated. No one blinks. No one coughs. They just sit there politely soaking in the sincere, unadulterated music.

They play songs from all four albums, as well as the previously unreleased “Gitardjamm,” which is filmed inside a once-thriving herring oil tanker in the far West Fjords. This scene stirs up the ghosts of the past with added footage of previous workers who lost jobs and moved elsewhere to feed their families. Other songs heard are first-time live recordings of “Vaka,” “Staralfur,” “Agaetis Byrjun” and “Von.” Other locations had them playing at outsider art follies, sylvan fields, unlit caves and Asbyrgi canyon, which according to legend, Odin’s mythical eight-legged horse put his hoof to ground at Asbyrgi, creating the huge horseshoe shaped canyon. That is much more interesting than playing the venue where Vince Neil pissed on the stage.

The only thing that can really be said about Heima is that it a visual representation of what your soul feels while experiencing Sigur Ros. The imagery of their home is far beyond what most of us call “home,” and gives you a slight indication of how a band so understatedly brilliant can exist. Surrounded at all times by flawless beauty, where even three nails sticking out of a broken fence post is enough to melt your heart, Heima is more than a live DVD: it’s a voyage into the uncharted land of one of today’s most prolific, inventive and compelling bands. It’s time to see the other side of Sigur Ros, the side you’ll never get from trying to translate lyrics that that have no meaning.

Heima is out now on XL Recordings.
Hvarf/Heim is out now on XL Recordings.

More on Sigur Ros here:
More on Heima here:

Sigur Ros – Heima – Trailer

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