JONSI & ALEX – RICEBOY SLEEPS (EMI, 2009)

Fantastic musical ventures have formed out of two people in love. We have: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Bjork & Matthew Barney, Handsome Furs, Mates of State, etc… All of these aforementioned artists tend to be on the loud, messy side. Each collaboration being marked with the same roller coaster of emotions that come with relationships coupled with the push and pull of the collaborative effort. With Riceboy Sleeps, however, Jon Por Birgisson, lead singer and guitarist of Sigur Ros, along with his partner, musician/visual artist, Alex Somers, create a project that reminds us of how blissful love can be. They do this, however, without all of the cheesiness of that last part of that sentence.

Sometimes I don’t give Sigur Ros enough credit. That is saying a lot because I give them A LOT of credit. When I first heard that Jon Por Birgisson was making an ambient record, I thought, “well, that makes sense”. The first half of almost every Sigur Ros song before 2006 starts off as a quasi ambient track as guitars are bowed gracefully and Birgisson’s voice coos sweetly. So, this felt like a natural extension from what they were already good at. But I was blown away at how Jonsi & Alex really know what they are doing. I would consider myself a pretty huge fan of most things that fall in the ambient/drone category. So, I can usually tell when someone is faking it, or is using “ambience” as a cover for musical deficiency. But seriously, Riceboy Sleeps has it firing on all cylinders. From the organic sounding electronic manipulation and earthen sampling a la Jasper, TX, to the layers of beautiful synths by the way of Stars of the Lid. The gorgeous strings, courtesy of fellow Icelanders Amiina, give the a lot of warmth. The highlight track by far is “Boy 1904” with it’s stirring Chorus sung by an all boy choir. Beautiful. But probably what makes this (long) album so compelling is the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and easy grace that permeates the entire record. This is another one of those albums where if you aren’t paying attention you miss it. It is a little strange that such an obscure genre would be visited by artists from such great heights

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