Last Night: Sigur Ros at Bayou Music Center
If you ever want to feel like you've completely taken leave of Planet Earth for a couple of hours, might I recommend a ticket to a Sigur Ros show?
The Icelandic group has amassed a considerable following, enough to almost fill Bayou Music Center Tuesday, on the furthermost fringes of rock's avant-garde. Heavy on bowed guitar, pipe organ, and electronic adornement, the music every so often erupts like one of the geysers in the band's volcanic homeland.
Meanwhile, the singer Jonsi has a voice like a cross between a eunuch and a humpback whale and sings in a language he supposedly made up, called "Hopelandic." There is also an existing term for this, "glossolalia," defined by dictionary.com as "incomprehensible speech in an imaginary language."
That might be closer to the truth. But if your eyes have already glazed over, give me a minute.
Fans who are big on pure sensory experience (or certain psychotropic drugs) will find a lot to like in a Sigur Ros show. It's dark. The stage looks like a metal forest with dozens of candlesticks topped by soft electric bulbs. An overhead screen the length of the stage showed an array of Northern Lights, underwater tableaux, entire galaxies and a hooded and masked figure that looked like the Imperial spy droid tailing Luke Skywalker's party to the Mos Eisley hangar in Star Wars.
The music was equally immersive, amniotic even, appropriate because another onscreen image looked like a giant fetus. The keyboards, horns and strings created a harmonically lush landscape, while the bowed guitar forcefully injected more than a little dissonance.
They can also create crystalline music-box melodies that feel as ephemeral and delicate as a spiderweb. Considering the black-clad musicians and all the electric candles onstage, the slower numbers came off as especially ceremonial, even ritualistic. I don't mind telling you once or twice I worried I had somehow joined a cult without even being asked.