Words Will Oakeshott.
Photo Credit: Dark Mofo/Jesse Hunniford,2019.
Image Courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
First and foremost, it is essential that this writer admits and forewarns the readers interested, that there is an abundance of bias in the following article; it must be revealed that Sigur Rós are unquestionably an outfit that have enhanced myself and my adoration of music for well over a decade. The grand textures of soundscapes employed in their incomprehensibly genius post-rock sound that miraculously transports the listeners’ senses to other universes and, most importantly, the outstanding indecipherable vocals that capture emotion so flawlessly without utilising English – it is honestly paralysing in the best way possible.
The voice and integral part to this astronomical Icelandic outfit Jónsi has also released music outside of Sigur Rós, one such project with his partner Alex Somers simply entitled Jónsi and Alex. Through this artistic venture came the creation of their book and soundtrack Riceboy Sleeps – a record which eludes what was known about Jónsi and to be forthright, not particularly well. However, time has tested this creation and it has aged well, like a fine wine one forgets about. On its 10 year anniversary, it almost seemed necessary to have it performed abstractly and through a different medium, not in its acoustic rendition as originally created, but a far more “grand” scale and at arguably the best festival in Australia, Dark Mofo.
Dissimilar to a Sigur Rós experience where there is a transparent but peculiar calm that their bewildering live show projects, on this night though, there was an inescapable and discomforting tension in the atmosphere when the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Jónsi and Alex took to the stage. A disturbing, smoky, nightmare-ish beauty that was approaching painful – truthfully, it is exactly what Riceboy Sleeps does, it infects and actually agitates those who witness it, but in a VERY blissful effect.
As glorious as the musical DNA between Jónsi and Alex is, and it is phenomenal, the original album is mostly acoustic – but this production was orchestral. To the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, you have thankfully distorted those who were exposed to this interpretation for the better; what was displayed and executed faultlessly has improved the perception of those lucky enough to partake. The precision, elegance and resulting hypnotism had a capacity venue beyond fascination – it was slightly frightening.
The nine songs unveiled were presented nearly ceremoniously; an eerie yet alluring showcase that created its own disquieting atmosphere. There were times where it felt that gravity did not exist for minutes at a time until Jónsi and the choir’s collective voices brought the Federation Concert Hall back to Earth. There is a state of exhaustion entitled the “lucid dream” and in reality, that is what this show was.
Even after time has passed, this scribe is still shaken, as many other attendees most likely are at this point. This wasn’t an experience, it was enlightenment; this wasn’t recreation or re-imagination – it was matter of factly, revolutionary.