There are few acts that are as timeless and impactful as Sigur Rós. With Jonsi at the helm, Sigur Rós has created some of the most immersive and explosive post rock jams you’ll ever hear. So it stand to reason that when Jonsi embarked on a project with his partner Alex Somers, that it would be a worthwhile exercise. The project entitled Riceboy Sleeps‘ sound centers on a more contemplative quality, eschewing the more epic rocking swings of Jonsi’s work with Sigur Rós. It instead opts to lull you in a meditative state where the emotional breadth of its intricate songs are in its instrumentation rather than Jonsi’s voice, which is an occasional glimmer instead of a focal point. Riceboy Sleeps was a deviation that not everyone was initially ready for.
Ten years later the album and the All Animals EP have aged amazingly, nestling themselves wonderfully in Jonsi’s catalog. The exude a completely different aura than his other works, a large part thanks to Alex Somers’ sensibilities. Together they have crafted something truly special and this short tour featuring the Wordless Music Orchestra brings that to the forefront quite well.
The most striking moment of the night came early on with the Jonsi & Alex Somers‘ All Animals. The duo introduced it to the crowd with the utmost sincerity and humility. They asked the crowd to find the Pop Rocks under their seats and wait for their cue to use them. At first it seemed like a joke, as they teased spending a lot of money on them. However it became evidently clear that this was to add to the experience. Literally any other group making such a request would seem corny, but in this instance and eventual delivery, it was inspired. There was a surprising realization of how everything would fall into place, but the new piece was an utterly breath-taking experience.
All Animals focuses heavily on the atmospheric nature birthed in Riceboy Sleeps, immediately placing you in a setting of a forest, wandering around and experiencing the orchestra recreating a sense of wonder. The piece drifts along longingly, find beatific highs and settling in somber lows where static pulses and woodland steps gently surround you. When the time came, the conductor turned and instructed the crowd to take in the Pop Rocks, which actually added a new dimension to the aural experience. This combination of performance and audience participation was striking and effective. While the candy danced and crackled the orchestra delighted once again in a moment where all the pieces swelled to a glorious peak.
After a short intermission, it was time for Riceboy Sleeps to mesmerize the crowd. It took little time for the music to engulf the Copernicus Center, which was an incredibly venue for this performance. It served the lush instrumentation well, letting the beatific soundscapes spread themselves out and allow for a detail depth to be heard.
Riceboy Sleeps is broken up into nine songs that instantly feel like a cohesive whole. As the evening traversed through its ambient compositions, it became clear that this was an idealized method of experiencing the album. This grand explorations of its themes and impressions may not have been feasible in its initial conception, but its growth over the years have allowed it to attain this incredible state.
Throughout the night, Jonsi and Alex stood in the middle of the entire orchestra, barely bringing attention to themselves as the seamlessly melted into the performance. In fact the only time it was evident that the duo behind the gorgeous sounds was present was during Jonsi’s vocal performances that were to put it lightly: magnificent. The audience was incredibly aware as they listened to the beautiful performances in near silence, save for a few moments early on where they could not help but interrupt with applause. This was especially true of “Indian Summer”, one of the few instances where Jonsi’s voice is unleashed and it’s long aching howl is so moving it’s impossible to let pass without showing your appreciation.
Everything about the performance fell into place perfectly. Jonsi expertly bowing his guitar alongside Alex Somers gently strumming his own, surrounded the Wordless Music Orchestra expanding the music’s reach while the stage lights smoothly matched the ambiance. The performance was incredibly organic and alive, delivering on the all potential of Riceboy Sleeps. As the night came to a close and the audience gave the musicians a standing ovation, it felt like a once in a lifetime event. I hope that Jonsi & Alex Somers continue on their collaborative project, either through more albums or an expanded tour because more people need to experience Riceboy Sleeps.