Sounds of Space - Sigur Rós Live - By Volume

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Sounds of Space – Sigur Rós Live

…euphoric cheers and the occasional “That’s fucking Jónsi!”. That said it all.

Author: on September 4, 2013
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Thanks for letting us play here. Nice place.

Jónsi Birgisson’s first intelligible words prompted laughter from the several-thousand strong audience, a welcome mid-set release of all the pent-up emotions that had been stirring through the music. Certainly, there’s something special about Jodrell Bank as a live music venue, home to the Lovell Telescope, once the largest (now third-largest) steerable dish radio telescope on Earth. Enclosed from the rest of civilization, out in English countryside, the environment’s embrace of the transcendent – both in terms of the music played and the astrophysics conducted – became a near-tangible sensation. “Nice place,” indeed.

Nik Colk Void

Nik Colk Void

As we walked through the Science Arena area of the site, we poked our noses into different tents and exhibitions, marveling at the grandeur of the Lovell construct before settling down to some space-themed children’s word searches. At around 4.30pm, the first artist was billed to perform – Nik Colk Void, known for her Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void contributions. Though Factory Floor’s much-anticipated debut was but a week way, Void took to the stage with two others, playing more experimental and exploratory sounds. The trio followed the general trend of playing guitars with bows over the evening, though they’d use drumsticks too. Their abrasive, polarising noise was something more unique to them, and some in the afternoon crowd did seem put off by the sound, though I found them to be one of the more interesting acts playing. Jarring and grinding should seem mechanic, yet the imperfection of their set gave it life; Void would smile and laugh with her band mates as their set came off as more of a jam session, showing that this music didn’t have to be so serious after all.

Unsurprisingly, more of the audience were open to Daughter’s music. Daughter have quickly risen in popularity and it seems they haven’t quite caught up with themselves yet – the group seemed shy of anything but getting on with the music. After punching through with “Amsterdam”, they settled in with some interaction: “We’re really awkward, we don’t talk much.” A couple of anecdotes about imagining the telescope firing lasers in the vein of the Death Star later and it’s, “I told you we shouldn’t talk, because we just talk shit.” Though they lean much more into the folk field, Daughter seem to share traits with The xx: The use of spaces and vacuums between notes as effect, as well as a knack for blurring the lines between happiness and depression by way of songs and lyrics.

The elongate wait in an otherwise pleasant setting.

The elongated wait in an otherwise pleasant setting.

Unfortunately, our experience of Poliça’s set came from a food stall queue. Waiting around one hundred minutes for a pizza is not something that should happen, especially when it eats away two intervals of  an hour-long set. The only silver lining we could take was how good the sound from the stage was, as we listened to Poliça’s indie-synthpop-R’n’B compound tore through the air. Album highlights “I See My Mother”, “Lay Your Cards Out” and the storming “Violent Games” sounded at least as good as on record, and the Minneapolis natives shared new material from the forthcoming album, ditching some of the R’n’B for Deus Ex techno and West coast funk.

Jodrell Bank being the space observatory it is, Sigur Rós were introduced by an especially-prepared piece crafted from the venue’s own archives of sounds of space, weaving together travelling spacecraft noises and signals from a spinning dead star, among other things. The three band members were accompanied by a host of live additions, adding an orchestral dimension, while the field of glowing bulbs enshrouding them provided a memorable light show. Naturally much of the focus was on the frontman, Jónsi Birgisson, whose falsetto matches his recorded croons.

Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

The band’s seminal post-rock discography hit as a relentless freight-train overwrought with its cargo of serotonin, dopamine and overbearing hormonal overload. Unable to do anything but stand and experience Birgisson’s sometimes Icelandic, sometimes gibberish vocals over a flood of strings and isolated piano, the audience was paralyzed, transfixed on a band whose sets can essentially exist as greatest hits compilations nowadays. Classics from Takk… appeared as did more recent productions “Varúð”, “Kveikur” and “Brennisteinn”. There was room for songs that weren’t a given too; “Ný Batterí” and “Olsen Olsen” added to the emotional barrage. An audience stood paralyzed beneath light rain and dark sky in wide-eyed bliss, silent apart from the odd eruption of euphoric cheers and the occasional “That’s fucking Jónsi!”. That said it all.

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