Photo: iTunes Festival 2013
This year’s all-star iTunes Festival line-up reads like a who’s who of the leading voices from all of music’s wildly varying corners. Scan between the likes of Gaga, JT and out jumps piano perfectionist Ludovico Einaudi or, in this case, Icelandic giants Sigur Rós. They’re masters of their craft, to the extent that anyone attempting to mimic their elfish cries and orchestral surges would give up within a second.
Tonight’s Roundhouse bill brings in two acts, as it happens, both experts at shunning potential contemporaries. Poliça, with Channy Leaneagh’s trembling vocal effect knowhow and whatnot, stick out like a sore thumb. Throw in two percussionists instead of your standard guitar-bass-drums line-up and that’s two extreme novelties. The test of Poliça’s support set is making sure these little charms don’t wear off.
Channy barrels about the stage with effects seeping out of her microphone. Some sleight-of-hand pitch shifts go head to head with the pulsating, percussive ‘Dark Star’ and ‘Form’; both highlights from the band’s ‘Give You The Ghost’ album. Things have turned since said release: ‘Tiff’ features Justin Vernon on record. Live, it forms into a terrifying, bass-centred beast. Few build-ups to headlining sets come so sinister.
Sigur Rós are sent onstage with a customary, slightly inappropriate iTunes 60-second countdown. They’re more suited to pitch-black darkness and a distant siren, when it comes to entrances. Still, they embrace the occasion. Jonsi Birgisson goes full-on frontman for ‘Hoppípolla’. Needless to say the set’s centrepiece proves quite, well, ‘Hoppípopular’. But there’s arm waving, mouths agape - and that’s just from Jonsi himself. Material from ‘Kveikur’ is less accommodating. Like a hellish undercurrent sweeping the Roundhouse into devilish rapture, the title-track comes accompanied by visuals of storms wreaking havoc on dusky forestry. If they’re trying to make a point, it’s heard loud and clear.
Throughout their seven albums, no matter how terrifying these songs are prone to becoming, Sigur Rós still exist to stand out. Their music is peerless by default. For starters, it’s tricky to bundle together the string quartets and leagues worth of glockenspiel-type instruments gracing the stage here, to help recreate their sound. But again, you’ve this constant progression - witnessed especially when a recent song like ‘Isjaki’ sounds colossal compared to the otherwise epic staples ‘Svefn-g-englar’ and ‘Vaka’. Their evolution constant, Jonsi and his band of cloaked bandits will stay untouched for several years to come. That’s a certainty.