Since everyone’s talking about the new Sigur Ros film Heima at the moment, it seems as good a time as any to talk about Amiina. For those who don’t know Amiina, you may have come across them as Sigur Ros’ string section – the musicians that lurk behind their Icelandic compatriots and add depth and resonance to that sound.
But these four women – Hildur Ársælsdóttir, Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir- are wasted if they only act as back-up to their more famous friends. Thankfully, they’ve been branching out on their own since last year, and a few months ago released their first album, Kurr.
Not for them though, the lure of changing musical tack to get more attention (say, adopting a singer, or putting in a few fashionable riffs). Instead they play to their strengths, which naturally is stringed instruments. Yet Amiina is not just Sigur Ros minus the waves of electric guitar and made-up language. They certainly don’t have the epic sound that they contribute to on larger stages. Rather, it’s lush yet understated. Strings sweep, but are subtly done. Nothing overbearing. It’s not just a string quartet either. Listen here to a perfectly played glockenspiel, celesta, harmonium, harp and even musical saw. And though are no vocals, there is some gorgeous wordless harmonising on Hilli and Kolapot.
Because of the quasi-classic nature of this music, it would be too easy just to have this on as background music while you do something else. But resist the temptation. Take time. Listen. Revel in the simple beauty of it all. Believe me, it’ll have you hooked.
Download: Amiina – Hilli
Download: Amiina - Seoul
Music aside, it also boasts one of my favourite covers of the year (that’s it at the top). What are they going to do with that huge knitted… thing?
It’s also worth saying that Hilli, my album highlight, is coming out as a single on 10 December. It’s notable because it features a version of the track with vocals by Lee Hazelwood, apparently the last he ever recorded. I’ve not heard this version yet, but it’ll be intriguing at least.