Artist Name: Sigur Rós
Members: Jón Þór Birgisson, Georg Hólm, Kjartan Sveinsson, Orri Páll Dýrason
Album Year: 2012
Active: 1994 – Present
The collective Sigur Rós stand as a guiding light for all musicians striving towards creating an atmospheric, and ambient sound. Throughout the entirety of their music, nothing ever feels rushed or forced, and merely leaves you pondering how such long and intricate tracks could be made by four simple people. “Ekki múkk” comes from their sixth and most recent album ‘Valtari’, one of ten tracks on this delicately pure creation. Sigur Rós became renown internationally after their third album ‘Ágætis byrjun’, with Jónsi’s falsetto vocal style and the group’s ability to almost instantly exude such strong emotions gathering them a large fan-base.
The combination of their front-man Jónsi‘s peculiar appearance as a result of being blind in one eye, and his high-pitched, ethereal voice gives the collective a definitive surreal and mysterious appeal. Yet despite certain interest in the band being dependent on mere curiousity, Sigur Rós most definitely validate their place in the music industry with incredibly immersive, unique and touching music. Most intriguingly perhaps is the group’s decision to use the ‘nonsense’, unintelligible language ‘Vonlenska’, or ‘Hopelandic’, using it with the intent to express emotion with mere sounds and language that doesn’t necessarily translate to anything. Separate to Sigur Rós, Jónsi has released quite a lot of his own solo music, with certains tracks like his cover of MGMT’s ‘Time to Pretend’ drawing much attention.
In a some-what awkward interview with BPPNPR, the band discuss the process for creating such diverse, and atmospheric music. They say that never did they “set out to make a certain type of music”, that simply what they made was what “happened naturally”. Struggling with annoyingly general questions, they still managed to narrow down on the simple fact that together they just wanted to “make music”. Never did they “expect anything” like the fame that has found them, that they just created what they felt they wanted and needed too.
A goosebump-inducing performance of ‘Ára Bátur’ at Abbey Road Studios:
Artist Name: Air
Members: Nicolas Godin, Jean-Benoît Dunckel
Album: Moon Safari
Album Year: 1998
Active: 1995 – Present
The electronic-ambient French duo Air consists of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. Their name is an acronym of the phrase ‘Amour, Imagination, Rêve’ (translated to Love, Imagination, Dream), and under this they’ve released upon us all 7 albums over the past decade and more, as well as several remix compilations. The pair work quite often with director Sofia Coppola, responsible for the film ‘Virgin Suicides’ which includes their probably most well-known track ‘Playground Love’.
The sound that comes from Air differs quite dramatically from track to track, yet all the while building off a consistent electronic, ‘dream-pop’ structure and sound. A song like ‘Cherry Blossom Girl’ reflects their ability to write and sing a lyric-based track while still keeping their trademark crazy instrumental solos (whether it be flute, saxophone, guitar, keyboard, etc). Yet a track like ‘Alone in Kyoto’, from the soundtrack of ‘Lost in Translation’, reveals their true talent in being able to create effortlessly flowing, ambient instrumental music.
When interviewed by Last.fm on whether they have interest in other artistic areas, Godin comments on the danger of “an artist’s ego”, and the delusion that “anything you make” will be good. So whether we see them involved in screenplays, or films or not it really doesn’t matter, given the calibre of the music they’ve given to their fans.
The entire of Air’s most recent album, ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune’:
Talking Heads gradually become known for the avant-garde nature of the band publicly, especially of their front-man and main lyricist David Byrne. In a quirky mock-interview he conducts with himself over the release of their ‘Stop Making Sense’ concert DVD (below), he shows us through his mockery that Talking Heads aren’t another media-manufactured, profit guzzling sell-out band. When asked when they will tour again (by himself), Byrne says “When there is something new to say”. Yet it’s funny how 18-years later Byrne stayed true to this sentiment, refusing to tour with ex-band members after their mini-reunion in 2002 because he saw it as simply profiting off the band’s name.
Throughout their incredible influence of American ‘New-Wave’, primarily through the 1980′s, Talking Heads left a significant mark on the industry. So much so in fact, that the globally-recognised band Radiohead adopted their name from the TH track ‘Radio Head’ from their 1986 ‘True Stories’ album. In 2002, each of the four members were inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’, where together they played a few of their major hits after having disbanded in 1992. Rolling Stone placed four Talking Heads albums in their ’500 Greatest Albums of All-Time’, and ranked them #100 in the ’100 Greatest Artists of All-Time’.
Only 5-minutes of TH’s 1984 ‘Stop Making Sense’ Concert will make you a fan:
Their surf/punk-rock sound was that of the most “compelling music” of the 1980′s, to quote David Bowie, and acted as major inspiration for iconic artists such as Kurt Cobain and many others. It was their 1993 break-up that allowed Nirvana to complete the job that Pixies had started; to ignite a wave of alternative-rock throughout the UK and across Europe. Their construction of seemingly simple, yet now-infamous tracks like “Here Comes Your Man” or “Where Is My Mind” reflects the purity of their dynamics as a band, despite the conflict they at times had with each other personally. Much of the controversy that surrounded Pixies had to do with the direction of the band’s music at the beginning of the 1990′s. With bassist Kim Deal wanting to incorporate more of her own songs into the band’s live shows and albums, tension began to form between her, Francis and Santiago, leading to their split.
Pixies brought us emotionally roaring choruses, and warming imperfect melodies with rememberable, quirky lyrics from the combined minds of four musically-gifted musicians. The 1991 album ‘Trompe le Monde’ was their last-released album before the break-up, despite their reformation in 2004 to play several incredible live shows across the UK and Australia for the first time. Rumours of a reunion album were quickly dismissed through, revolving around Kim Deal’s reluctance towards the idea. Yet speculation began to stir during May, 2011, after Santiago told ‘The Guardian’ that after they finish touring, it could “be time”.
Time to just sit back and wait.
An iconic performance of ‘Hey’ in 1988, at the Town & Country Club, London:
An advocate for underground-music, Kurt Cobain is one credited with bringing widespread recognition to Daniel Johnston. After photographed wearing one of his trademark ‘Hi, How Are You’ shirts at the 1992 MTV Music Awards, speculation on the man exploded. In an era before the internet, this was a gigantic, yet momentary, spotlight on Johnston, where beforehand his only notoriety had come from handing out his cassettes to people at shows. At the time though, Johnston has just been released after a year being forcefully institutionalised. The reason? While being flown by his father in a small two-seater plane, Johnston suffered a manic delusion and believed he was Casper the Friendly Ghost. He then went on to wrestle for control of the plane, took the keys from the ignition and threw them out the window. Luckily, his father was able to crash-land amongst some trees, almost killing them and leaving the plane in shreds.
The insanity of Johnston’s life is uncontrollably mesmerising, and I can only beg that more people watch the incredibly-made documentary on him, ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’. The documentary covers the breadth of his life, his personality, his music, his idols and his dreadful, suffocating delusions. It covers his obsession with the Beatles, and John Lennon especially, a love reflected in his track ‘Lennon Song’. Johnston is an actual rarity, not with his own take on a genre or style, but just simply attempts to control his demons through an avenue he knows how too; music.
Johnston’s MTV performance, completely nervous, but with an adoring crowd:
B.B. King’s mother left his father before he’d grown past age 10, and was brought up by his religious mother and grandmother. It was a preacher who saw King’s interest in the guitar, and taught him his first ever lesson; teaching the E, A and B chords. His mother died when King was 10, and his grandmother at 15, leaving King to take control of his own and barely survived on a pitiful working salary. ‘We were poor people’ King stated to David Letterman in an interview about his life & childhood, confiding that always he was hoping that ‘one day we’d be better off than we were then’. This innate drive of King hasn’t left him still at age 86, where he still tours the globe and performs, having seen over 15,000 performances and only 3 months of holiday in 48 years.
Being an early pioneer of blues on electric guitar through his methods of fluid string bending and bringing an almost noble class to soloing, King is a pure musician’s musician. Guitar-God Jimi Hendrix listened to his father’s B.B King albums as a child and gives credit to him for his blues-styled method of playing, which of course led him to the no.1 guitarist spot by ‘Rolling Stone’. Yet King proudly and almost obviously declares himself as a ‘Sinatra-nut’, respecting him greatly for how many ‘white-only’ venues he brought black-artists into.
Other known musicians who credit B.B. King as their influence are George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter and figuratively every blues-inspired guitarist to-date.
The King of Blues presenting ‘The Thrill is Gone’:
Despite their dominative genre and intimidating attire, the eight men (nine before Paul Gray’s death) that make up Slipknot are actually fairly down-to earth, approachable people. A pure example of how easy it is to pre-judge. Over 10 years since album no.1 and having lost and gained multiple members, Slipknot still tour and create their music. “Success means nothing to us”, but it will be success that will “make us stop”.
Considered pioneers of new-wave American heavy metal, Slipknot have their devoted cult following and for good reason. Instrumentally, Slipknot are far superior than many adorned artists and bands, regardless of whether their music appeals to the masses or not.“I’m not pretty, I’m not cool, I’m fat and ugly and proud so fuck you” Chris Fehn confides in an interview, drawing from their “I AM HATED” track, encapsulating their music and perhaps why so many find it easily-relatative to themselves.
An example of the power Corey has over his audience at Download 2009:
Being a man of such instrumental diversity, Tiersen has left a distinct mark on minimalist scene in France during the 90′s and 00′s. Tracks like “Le Valse de Amelie” and “Comptine d’été no. 3″ have become widely recognisable, especially amongst pianists for their enjoyment to learn and play. When interviewed and questioned in Copenhagen on what inspires him; Tiersen answered that he has “no inspiration”, but rather “to know music is to know something quite abstract”, and to express this is to “forget all clichés and habits” and to merely channel emotion through his music. He remarks on how his skills as a child being forced to learn violin and piano have indeed supplemented his musical expression, yet Tiersen states how it was essential to his work. “You have to find a balance” he warns, a balance between skill and honest construction; as talent can “help you to be free” although can “turn you into something bad”.
“my time is a piece of wax, fallin’ on a termite. That’s chokin on the splinters”, leaves you hopelessly pondering implied meaning, whilst unbeknown to you the tune of the slide guitar gets stuck in your head. “Girl” to me is a favourite, that or “Gamma Ray” or “E-Pro” with it’s abstract film-clip. There really is too many hits from Beck that personally I want to add here, if anything, you have to watch his performance of “One foot in the grave” at the 1994 Glastonbury festival. The video just shows Beck at his rawest; absorbing total attention alone on stage with a harmonica which he ruthlessly dominates, with an orgy of music-lovers stamping in awe to his preach-singing. Beck has additionally recorded remixes of notable artists, such as his coarser rendition of “Seven” by David Bowie. Beck has developed a distinct cult audience, finding support in those who favour his musical experimentation with an array of instruments, such as incorporating electro-acoustic stylistics into his song development through sampling. The multi-instrumental talent of Beck is proved on stage, with him having substantially learnt how to play simple guitar, bass, and drums, to more obscure instruments like a melodica, vocoder and glockenspiel.