Thanks largely to the success of Björk and Sigur Rós, Icelandic music has now gained a substantial international profile, associated with ethereal melodies, thumping beats and passionate, occasionally loopy performers. Ari Alexander’s documentary profile of the scene provides a tasting menu of performance footage and uses a plethora of talking heads – the musicians themselves plus academics, journalists and visitors (including, briefly, an apparently tired and emotional Damon Albarn) – to offer a potted history of Iceland’s rich musical heritage and a contemporary snapshot of a cottage industry going global. From the opening minutes – camera skidding over far-below glaciers and an interview with the nation’s head druid (also a composer and Sigur Rós collaborator) – Iceland is established as a place apart, but while those with an interest in the music should find much to enjoy, neophytes may be dissuaded by a somewhat self-congratulatory emphasis on the scene’s continuity and community (contemporaries mucking in on each other’s sessions, established artists happily giving newcomers a leg up). That said, early footage of Björk as a pubescent post-punk pixie-rocker is great.
Friday December 16 2005