About time we left the USA for a while and visited Iceland again. Literally. Because this version of ‘Popplagio’ was recorded live in Iceland and is part of the exquisite ‘Heima’ film of Sigur Ros’s 2006 tour of their homeland.
Like practically all of Sigur Ros’s songs, ‘Popplagio’ is sung in Hopelandic, a language they make up as they go along but which is loosely based on Icelandic (see ABON 0040).
And like on most other Sigur tracks, here Jonsi uses his lyrics and vocals more as sound than words, communicating through feel and tone rather than vocabulary. How successful he is at this is demonstrated by the fact that he can borrow words and whole phrases from other Sigur tracks, that you’ve heard before, often several times before, yet manage to make them convey something completely different on this occasion. And on this occasion that something different eventuually becomes more terrifying angel of the apocalypse than the angel of salvation he more commonly suggests.
But if this is a typical Sigur track in its employment of Hopelandic and Jonsi’s voice, it is much more atypical musically.
Because this live version of ‘Popplagio’ – at least for its last eight and a half minutes, after the tempo steps up – is far less a vehicle for Jonsi’s singing and bowed guitar than other Sigur tracks. On this track the focus is equally on the pounding drums of Orri Dyrason, the almost Lemmy-like riffing bass of Georg Holm and the revelatory lead guitar figures that multi-instrumentalist, Kjartan Sveinsson, creates instead of playing his more usual keyboards. And in doing so they produce Sigur’s heaviest track and suggest three things:
Firstly that there is a louder, darker, heavier Sigur out there that could have been - could still be (please) – the basis for an equally entrancing but alternative Sigur music. Alternative to the wonderful but more delicate and ethereal path that they - and Jonsi as a solo artist – actually chose to follow after ‘Heima’.
Secondly, that Can’s 1971 masterpiece, ‘Tago Mago’ (see ABON 0128) must have sold at least a few copies in Iceland and that they were still knocking around by the time that the Sigur lads started listening to music.
And thirdly, that there really is very little in this world that can match the impact of a perfectly chosen guitar chord change. As demonstrated on this remarkable track, after precisely three minutes and ten seconds.
Only available on the visually stunning, musically breath-taking and emotionally life-affirming, DVD, ’Heima’. Which you can buy direct from the band themselves: SIGUR-ROS