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A Taste of Icelandic Post-Rock

About a month ago, Glenn and I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Icelandic post-rock band For a Minor Reflection at the Ambassador of Iceland’s residence in Washington, DC. They performed there as part of a local endeavor to promote travel between the DC area and Iceland. They’re a great group of talented young guys who recorded their second album, Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu, in Sundlaugin, Iceland and Slogan Studios, Los Angeles in August and September 2009.

So what exactly is post-rock? Think Explosions in the Sky. If that doesn’t help, then imagine slow, intense, and spacey rock with inclinations towards orchestral and experimental song structures. Worried about being confused by Icelandic lyrics? Don’t be! For a Minor Reflection is instrumental, so speakers of any language can enjoy them! Well, except for the song titles, those are written in Icelandic… and when did this become an infomercial?

Anyway, For a Minor Reflection definitely makes for a unique listen. The first song that comes to mind is the one that actually kind of took me by surprise: “Sjáumst Í Virginíu.” For one thing, the title of the song means “See you in Virginia,” which, coincidentally enough, is where Glenn and I saw them live on the day that we interviewed them. For another thing, it seems like a very slow track that lasts fourteen and a half minutes. But even though it seems slow, the song gets incredibly fast and mind-blowingly intense in the blink of an eye.

The key to the song’s unique structure is the build-up, the constant evolution of sound while maintaining the same musical theme throughout. It starts off very minimally with just a little crinkling background noise and an electric guitar with a slight reverb that conveys the easiness of a ship drifting through space. Soon, extra little musical elements are slowly added one at a time and are slightly altered as the song progresses. Then suddenly, without even realizing it, you’re halfway into the song and it’s sonic chaos! The drums are pounding, and the guitars are screeching and wailing, and the ship you were drifting on seven minutes ago is now rocketing through nebulae, past comets and suns! And just as you catch your bearings in this whirlwind of roaring rock ‘n roll bedlam, the storm calms just as suddenly as it came. So you start to relax and get back into the easy flow of the music, and then it picks up all over again! It’s truly is like a mental rollercoaster ride through space!

Now apply that description to the entirety of Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu and you have an idea of what kind of an album you’ve got on your hand. There are slower, more laid back songs like “Fjara,” which is composed entirely of airy piano playing and classical strings, and then there are quicker, more intense songs like “Átta,” which has a punk energy to it. In fact, the drum intro to “Átta” reminded me of “Nitro (Youth Energy)” from Smash by The Offspring.

Want to know a few interesting facts about For a Minor Reflection that will reveal the story behind their music, like how they’re related to Sigur Rós? Check out my interview with them.

We also have an audio recording of the band performing live at the Ambassador of Iceland’s house, which can be downloaded below. The band wanted to assure everyone that the best way to experience their music is live in concert. If you listen to Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu, you’ll understand why; the intensity of their sound is something that can only be captured in the purity of an in-person, live performance. Unfortunately, since the luncheon at the ambassador’s house was a semi-formal event, they played rather quietly. And the concert later that evening was at a bad venue, so Glenn and I were unfortunate enough to not get the true experience.

And the music video for “A Moll” is something that must be seen. It was directed by Lorenzo Fonda, an Italian commercial director who created the video for free. Why? Because it’s an incredible song that filled him with artistic inspiration. Now watch the music video, and let me ask you a quick question once you’re done. Go on! Watch the video!

So here’s the question I pose to you: what were those large, billowy objects that you saw floating around? I thought they were clouds, but apparently they are grains of sand from Icelandic beaches filmed through a microscope. The director requested that Icelandic sand be sent to him for filming, and this music video is the result. Isn’t that cool!?

I said it before, and now you know why: For a Minor Reflection is an incredible band. Their music is filled with power and emotion, it’s inspiring, and it’s just plain interesting. For a taste of Icelandic music, you can’t do much better than listening to their particular brand of post-rock. Is it worth a trip to Iceland to see them? Probably. And I’m sure they’ll be performing in the United States again, so stay tuned!

Purchase Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu by For a Minor Reflection from the band’s online store, Amazon, or iTunes!
For a Minor Reflection – Fjara
For a Minor Reflection – Sjáumst Ã? Virginíu
For a Minor Reflection – Ã?tta
For a Minor Reflection – Fjara, Flóð, & Dansi Dans (Live)

Also, be sure to check out For a Minor Reflection on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, and SoundCloud.

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