Discovering the Dark in Sigur Rós’ Valtari Videos

O

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

When I saw Sigur Rós at Airwaves this year, I was surprised by some of the dark imagery that came to mind. I have always thought of Sigur Rós as very positive music. They are named “Victory Rose” after the singer’s baby sister; even their creepiest-sounding album, Von, means “Hope;” the song “Starálfur” provided the soundtrack for the rebirth of wonder in the movie Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; and when I first discovered the band, they weren’t even singing real lyrics, the songs were all in Hopelandic. But most of all there is the sound. How can music be dark when it sounds like sunlight shining through ice?

Well, Morningstar much? The first clue was an article that referenced some of their Icelandic lyrics, quoting “barbed wire stapled in my bleeding mouth.” I didn’t think about it much, and certainly didn’t bother to verify the quote. Next clue was in an interview with an Icelandic musician who claimed that the reason his black metal band worked with Sundlaugin Studios back in the Von days was that they assumed anyone who could write that music must be occultists. And then I saw them live and couldn’t stop thinking about the Holocaust.

Stage

Well, I may be late to the party, but apparently Sigur Rós send a lot of people to dark places. I’ve been following the Valtari Mystery Film Experiment from the beginning, but I got behind during all the Airwaves madness. Over Christmas I watched all the videos I missed, and I was shocked at how few of them tapped into the beauty of Sigur Rós’ ethereal, surreal sound. Instead, the collection mostly played like Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Film Festival, except without the funny.

Some of them were beautiful and dark, while others were dark and perverse. Most captured the inscrutable nature of the music, but there as often as not, I didn’t want to know the whole story. This one for “varuđ” by Jeff Ray in particular really cut me up. I guess technically, it’s a straightforward sci-fi short, but like the best science fiction, the focus is on the human experience and the impact is powerful.

If that one got under your skin even a fraction as much as it got to me, I owe you something beautiful. For something grounding, here is Henry Jun Wah Lee’s video for “dauđalogn,” filmed on Yakushima in Japan.

I doubt I’ll ever see Pacific Northwest Ballet adapt this one for the stage, but this one by Christian Larson seamlessly combining “ekki múkk,” “valtari,” “rembihnútur,” and “varúð” features some of the most powerful dance I’ve ever seen. I just love when dance extends beyond “steps” and becomes pure motion and shape; when it does that and still maintains narrative…wow. This one’s story of profound human connection and animal attraction is one of the most straightforward in the film experiment, but the experience is elevating. And hot.

The Valtari Mystery Film Experiment resulted in a lot of really great art, but for me it was exhausting to process so much emotion. I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch all the videos and have to judge them when the original dozen and five contest winners were so overwhelming. After binging on Valtari vids, I need some contrasting listening. I need something that’s bright and happy and straightforward. Like Anaal Nathrakh.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Discovering the Dark in Sigur Rós’ Valtari Videos

  1. Pingback: Discovering the Dark in Sigur Rós’ Valtari Videos | ChristianBookBarn.com

  2. Pingback: Recently Written | gemma D. alexander

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s