Published October 16, 2018
In early October, the stars aligned to grace Reykjavík with a performance by the elusive electropop band Frou Frou. Composed of musicians Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth, the band released only one album, ‘Details,’ in 2002. They had already disbanded by 2004, when their song “Let Go” was featured in the Academy Award-winning cult classic film ‘Garden State’ staring Natalie Portman and Zack Braff, which catapulted them into acclaim. This was their first performance as Frou Frou since 2002 and their first performance in Iceland.
Speak for yourself
Although the band has enjoyed its post-break-up success, each of its members is now better known under their own names. Imogen Heap released her critically acclaimed sophomore album, ‘Speak for Yourself,’ featuring her best known song, the robotic ballad “Hide and Seek.” The track jumped from indie famous to mainstream famous when Jason Derulo sampled it in his single, “Whatcha Say” in 2009, garnering more than 20 million views on YouTube.
Guy is known better for his work behind the scenes in the music industry. As a producer and a songwriter, he has worked with a wide spectrum of musicians, ranging from Björk and Alanis Morrissette to Madonna and Britney Spears.
The performance was a lucky crossing of the artists’ two separate tours. Guy is touring to introduce his upcoming album, ‘stet,’ the first full-length record under his own name. Imogen is touring to introduce two different projects, around which several events were planned during the week in Reykjavík. The main project is the Mycelia Creative Passport, her blockchain-driven musical data aggregator that is intended to collect all the information about any music maker, including lyrics, acknowledgments, gear, payment mechanisms and everything else, into one accessible space.
The second project is the Mi.Mu Gloves that she has been developing for the past eight years. The gloves allow musicians to control their sounds using hand gestures instead of knobs and buttons, allowing for a more organic musical expression. She’s also keeping the code open-source, allowing anyone to hack them and opening up nearly infinite possibilities for the use of the technology.
Air guitar 2.0
The show at Háskolabíó blended all of this together. The setlist included tracks by Frou Frou as well as the solo projects of Imogen and Guy. This is the first tour showcasing the Mi.Mu gloves, which added a visual sci-fi touch to their string- and chime-leaden dreamy pop. They’ve redefined the concept of the air guitar, being able to mimic the movement of the guitar and actually replicate its sound, not to mention the air drums, the air piano, and a virtual symphony of invisible instruments.
All this was accompanied by a self-playing drum kit, whose individual drums lit up in time with the music. They were joined by Kvennakórinn Katla for two of Imogen’s songs, including a rendition of “The One You All Know,” as Imogen called it (“Hide and Seek”).
The shy composer
Guy played the part of the shy composer, leaving Imogen in charge of the banter for the evening. The evening also had an entertainingly educational element for those of us who are not musicians ourselves, as Imogen is very open about what they are doing on stage, especially regarding the use of the gloves. This educational and demonstrative aspect goes alongside the Mycelia experience. She shared more about during a special acoustic set at Iðnó on the night after Frou Frou’s performance, where she played all songs according to requests, and once again during a workshop which welcomed local musicians and anyone else curious about Mycelia and the Mi.Mu Gloves. The gloves were also used at a special edition showcase of Reyjavík collective The Weird Kids, by London-based artist Chagall and local musician Sacha Bernardson.
With the right combination creativity and ingenuity, Frou Frou and Reykjavík’s own music scene proved that reuniting a musical duo disbanded for fifteen years is the right way to welcome the future of music.