Amiina (EH)

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edwardhancox_dlAmiina is one of those Icelandic bands that never seem to disappoint. Always able to produce sublime, beautiful music at the drop of a hat, I never miss an opportunity to see them live.

I once saw them play a concert in a record store in Reykjavík on a damp, unseasonably warm day in January. The tiny room was packed to the rafters, as the band played a wide variety of instruments, including the lesser-known saw, to produce the most beguiling harmonies and melodies. I left that little shop with a handful of CDs, a head full of tunes and a sincere appreciation of the magic of Amiina live.

They’ve managed to capture the essence of their live shows in The Lighthouse Project, released this summer. I don’t know how I managed to miss Amiina performing in a lighthouse, during Icelandic summer, whilst arctic terns wheel outside, and oystercatchers pace the grass. Damn. I would love to have been there, for one of those special performances. Never mind, The Lighthouse Project is the perfect souvenir to remind me just what I missed.

Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir from the band managed to spare a few minutes to tell me about the lighthouses, puppetry and the use of a saw.

For the new listener, how would you describe your music?

It’s always difficult to describe one’s own work… but I guess I would describe it as instrumental music colored by the instruments we use and from methods from the string quartet, jazz, electronic music, among others...

What is The Lighthouse Project all about?

Back in 2009 we went on a trip around Iceland playing lighthouses and other intimate and unusual places. We had tailored a few songs to fit small spaces and small audiences, and basically packed a van and drove around the country to some pretty remote areas. We documented the journey and concerts, by photographing, filming and recording regularly along the way. After we came back the project sort of got lost in a drawer, not resurfacing until late 2012, when we decided to re-record the songs in a live setting, and collecting the material from the original journey into a release.

I would say that the project could have only worked in Iceland, and that Iceland is a key character throughout. Would you agree?

Well, I think we could easily have done a similar journey from one lighthouse to another in a different country. Of course it wouldn’t have been the same, but in my mind it’s the lighthouse and what it stands for that is a main theme in the project. I think lighthouses have a sort of gravity that pulls in a similar way wherever they are located. They are fascinating structures.

Which was your favorite lighthouse?

I think I would have to say Dalatangaviti. The journey there through Mjóifjörður is breathtaking.

Are there any plans to take the project out on tour?

No, we kind of did this one backwards—first touring it and then a few years later releasing it!

I really like Amiina branching out into the world of theatre and puppetry. I caught the Latitude show where you soundtracked a silhouette piece. How does this sort of collaboration come about? Do you enjoy them?

We’ve been doing more projects like that lately. For example just a couple of weeks back we were in Paris for a film project, where we composed and performed a live score to one of the Fantomas films that are celebrating their 100th year anniversary this year. It’s something we enjoyed very much and will hopefully do more of in the future.

Are Amiina gradually shaking off the Sigur Rós string section tag? Or do you not mind this?

We don’t work with Sigur Rós anymore, so people will probably associate us less and less with the band. But it will always be a part of our past and we don’t feel a need to hide that!

Is there any saw playing on the new project? I don’t think the saw is used enough as an instrument.

Yes, the saw has such a great voice! We’ve been using it quite a lot lately.

What is next for Amiina?

This year has been very productive for amiina, and all of us individually in the band as well, so we have lots of new material to work with. A new album just might happen next year!

Edward Hancox – edhancox@live.co.uk

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.