In 2007, Icelandic band Sigur Rós released Heima, a full length feature capturing a series of free and impromptu concerts filmed across “the furthest flung corners of their homeland” in 2006. Superbly shot in several breath-taking locations by Canadian film director, animator and long-time fan of the band Dean DeBlois, the documentary sees the band revisit and re-orchestrate several songs from their back catalogue as well as explore their connections to the Icelandic cultural and geographical landscape.
The performance of the song “Á Ferð Til Breiðafjarðar Vorið 1922” reunites Sigur Rós with Icelandic singer Steindór Andersen (b. 1954) with whom they first recorded the song (under the name “Hugann seiða svalli frá”). The latter was released along with 5 other songs on the limited edition Rímur Ep in 2001. The band had also worked with Steindór and Icelandic composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson on Odin’s Raven Magic (2002), a grandiose orchestral and multimedia adaptation of the 14th or 15th century Norse poem “Hrafnagaldr Óðins”.
Steindór Andersen is a traditional rímur singer:
Rímur are narrative poems which generally tell stories of Icelandic heroes and epic battles which have been passed down generations in Iceland through word-of-mouth since the 14th century. Rímur were regarded as a performance art; a good rímur chanter would engage his listeners with his clever rhyming schemes and catchy melodies. Rímur were performed on winter nights when inhabitants sat occupied by their work (making clothing from wool, wreathing horsehairs into ropes, cutting tools from wood, etc.) For seven centuries, this was Icelanders’ only branch of entertainment and it’s only recently that this tradition has dissolved.
The clip above is the unedited full-length version of the song. In the original documentary version, the song is interspersed with a short interview during which Jónsi describes his first meeting with Steindór Andersen:
[…] just in a small room and [in his] deep voice he started singing these rhymes for me and something connected inside me […] I was kind of interested in this tradition and “old shit”…It’s so beautiful I think.
In the context of Heima, this rendition of the traditional ríma “Á ferð til breiðafjarðar vorið 1922” powerfully underlines the direct link between Iceland traditional narrative poetry and Sigur Rós’ post-rock aesthetics.