A Brooding and Magical Vision for Iceland's Breakout Troubadour
“I wasn’t planning on recording an album or releasing any of my songs,” says Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir. “I just called a producer and wanted to record one track. He liked the music and a few weeks later we released an album.” The resulting release Dyrd í dauðathogn became a record-breaking phenomenon after it was released in September 2012: the biggest selling Icelandic debut album by a homegrown artist, with one in ten of Iceland’s population now owning a copy. This month, the English language version of the album In The Silence was released on One Little Indian, translated by the American folk artist John Grant and featuring standout track “Going Home,” showcased in this otherworldly music video directed by local filmmaker and artist Máni Sigfússon. “I wanted to capture characters frozen in time, their surroundings changing around them as the world gets more distorted, all up until the point where they find peace and a new home,” says Sigfússon, who is currently collaborating on live concert visuals for Icelandic musicians Sin Fang and Högni Egilsson. Ásgeir is quick to attribute his success to his own home life and upbringing; both his parents are artists and all five of his siblings play an instrument. “I was starting writing songs when I was 10 and my father’s poetry was all over the house,” he says. “For this album, I wrote the music first, then he wrote the lyrics to that.”
“Going Home” / “Dreaming” is released April 7 and “Here It Comes” / “Heart-Shaped Box” is released April 19 for Record Store Day
Spring-Summer Pieces Are Brought to Balletic Life in an Interactive Short
The Elfin Icelandic Singer Gets a CGI Makeover by Shynola
The computer-generated portrait of ethereal singer-songwriter Emilíana Torrini floats and multiplies in the experimental video for her standout track “Tookah”, directed by pioneering British visual artist trio Shynola, aka Richard Kenworthy, Chris Harding and Jason Groves. “I loved the idea of being a creepy mermaid singing and luring the viewer into the dark,” muses Torrini, who has been nominated for four honors at this February’s Icelandic Music Awards. “To be honest if they said the idea was me playing a unicorn dancing on a rainbow, along with some gummy bears, I would have done it. I’m just glad it wasn't that.” “Tookah” comes from the album of the same name; the word was invented by Torrini to describe a subtle kind of emotional state or inner inspiration. “Happiness and love were things that always hijacked me but Tookah is something gentler, like a whisper,” she says. “It is gentle and breezy and peaceful with bags of humor.” NOWNESS spoke to Shynola, who have made videos for U.N.K.L.E, Blur and Radiohead and recently short film Dr. Easy for Warp, about this latest collaboration.
What was your inspiration behind Emilíana’s siren-like floating head?
Shynola: We’re fascinated by the idea of the ‘uncanny valley’ [when a computer generated image looks like a person, but not quite]. There’s something unsettling about it, yet you cannot take your eyes off it. This led us to cast Emilíana as some sort of mysterious CGI siren. Our hope is that you think it is both pretty and weird at the same time.
Did you take your visual cues from the music?
S: That’s always the guiding force behind every music video we make. It’s our job to make visuals that intertwine with the music, hopefully in unexpected ways. Quite often you see music videos where you could replace the sound to no discernible difference. To us that is a failure.
What’s it like working with Emilíana?
S: Singers often have a twinkle in their eye that’s hard to define and Emilíana certainly has that. A singing CGI model of their own head would freak most people out. She was more amazed than repulsed, thankfully.
Tookah is out now on Rough Trade.