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Sigur Ros

Edinburgh Playhouse
Four stars

It's interesting to observe how two of Edinburgh International Festival's contemporary music acts have fared since they shared a tour together fifteen years ago that took in a Glasgow club date. Where Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who played the Playhouse last week, have stayed wilfully in the shadows even as they soundtracked a second dark age, Icelandic soothsayers Sigur Ros have retained an epic warmth that has seen them crossover into date night territory.

This is evident from the first of two nights at EIF, where the band's core trio of vocalist Jonsi Birgisson, bass player Goggi Holm and drummer Ori Pall Dyrason are all but hidden from view during the opening numbers. Lined up like maids in a row behind state of art 3D projections that begins with a moody blue forest before cascading into more interstellar imagery, the three eventually move centre-stage just as the meditative tone of the first two tunes splits wide open.

From there on in, it's a sepulchral barrage of swoon-worthy intensity that is as nuanced as it is immense. Where on one level Birgisson and co mine a solidly traditional indie-rock palette, on another, Birgisson's falsetto sounds at its tenderest like Jimi Somerville singing mediaeval madrigals. Such classicist flourishes come to the fore even more when Birgisson isn't singing in his self-invented Hopelandic, and plays bowed guitar in a way that resembles a dervish-like maestro. In contrast, while shades of Kate Bush creep into the piano-led numbers, at one point Birgisson holds a note so long that any would-be X-Factor diva could learn much from the exercise in a musical show of strength to savour.

The Herald, August 17th 2016

ends

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