Right out of the gate, I’m going to come clean and let you know that I’m reporting on a project that I’m not even convinced that I completely understand. Fortunately, like an endless number of other technologies that we have at our disposal — including, but not limited to, the car that you drive, your cell phone, Pop Rocks, and even the internet — this one doesn’t necessarily require any deep understanding of why it works for you to simply be able to enjoy how it works.
Since their formation in Iceland over 2 decades ago, the ethereal experimental music outfit, Sigur Rós, have been garnering legions a fans by producing work that reaches well beyond any imagined confines or limitations. While it seems that most bands that have been labeled with the post-rock descriptor tend to reject the label, unwilling to embrace such a restrictive classification, that title was born out of the basic concept of using standard rock instrumentation in a manner that literally breaks free of the common usage, structures, and rhythms associated with them. For lack of better terminology, I feel like the their utilization of bowed guitars and waves of powerful shimmering sound may fall within that categorization used to represent something that pushes beyond categorization. For their 3rd studio release in 2002, the band titled it ( ), didn’t provide song titles for any of the 8 tracks, and separated the first half of the album from the second with 6 minutes of silence. As for the lyics, they sang in Vonlenska, or “Hopelandic,” which is a made up language of gibberish that, structurally, sounds roughly like Icelandic, just so that people like myself, who speak neither, would never know the difference. The release came with blank pages to write down your own interpretations of the meaning behind the songs. All of this is just working as further evidence that art can be fully appreciated on an emotional level, without ever understanding exactly what it means in a more technical or scientific sense. After all, that’s exactly what makes it art.
That being said, if you did ever want to know the inspiration behind all of the groups endlessly beautiful soundscapes, one would have to speculate that their home of Iceland definitely plays some level of role in how they approach their compositions. In 2007, Sigur Rós, released the film, Heima (meaning “Home” in actual Icelandic), documenting the bands return to their home country the year before to perform in various locations, including outdoor performances and shows in small villages. If you haven’t seen it, see it. You don’t even have to be a fan of the music to appreciate what I can only describe as the greatest possible promotional tool for tourism to the Nordic island country. The landscapes are beautiful and, while I was already interested in visiting before, that desire has eaten away at me since seeing that film, knowing that, someday, I have to make it a reality. Their latest project takes that concept of blending their otherworldly soundscapes with that majestic landscape even a step further.
Last month, half-a-million people logged into a live-stream that lasted more than 24 hrs, taking place over the longest day of the year. The “Route One” project, referred to as a “slow tv” event, consisted of the group recording the entirety of a drive around Iceland’s coastal ring road at a consistent 60km/hour, the beauty of their native land unfolding to a “live generating soundtrack created in real time from the band’s new song ‘Óveður.” A couple of weeks back, a condensed version of the project was released in the form of 5-minute time-lapse video, but today, the band has decided to release the entire thing in a 360-degree video format, along with an integrated iOS audio app. Since this is the area where things gets a little wacky, I’ll just post some excerpts from the press release directly, for you to read for yourself.
Sigur Rós have launched the entirety of their 24-hour ‘Slow TV‘ event Route One on YouTube 360 video today. Viewers are now able to experience the full journey round Iceland’s ring road in 4k, creating their own experience as they go.The 360 video is accompanied by the simultaneous release of a free Route One iOS audio app, which interprets and evolves the musical structure of the band’s new song ‘Óveður‘ in a unique way each and every time it is played. This is the same Bronze tech that was used to generate the soundtrack to the live Route One broadcast in real time. Now it is available for everyone to play with at their leisure.There are a limited number of signed Sigur Rós Google Cardboard headsets on which to watch the 360 available to win via the band’s socials and sigur–ros.co.uk/routeone
A much more in-depth breakdown of the project can also be found in the form of an interview with the band over at TheVerge.com.
You can check out both the standard 1080p HD and/or the 360-degree versions of the video below. Unfortunately, if you’re using Safari for your browser, you’re gonna need to change that up, buddy — the 360 isn’t supported.