When there finally came time for a bit more rumination concerning the name, it was decided that Anima was far too pretentious and the name was overhauled to Amina. In the summer of 1999 everything changed when they got their fateful call from Sigur Rós inviting them to come and play at the release party for the band’s album, Ágætis byrjun (Fairly Good Start). The two groups meshed so well that Sigur Rós invited Amina to come on tour to support the album, which encouraged these classically trained musicians to indulge in a less structured style of composition. Their background in music dictated that “everything is about instructing you what’s right and what isn’t and you just play the notes on the sheet, whereas Sigur Rós has some kind of telepathy thing going where they play without even needing to talk. But really it was a big relief to throw away the sheet music.”
These are not your aggressive rockers types, but a collection of introspective and almost bookish studentsThey work without speaking, each one handing the next what it needs, until María is cranking away and the room is filled with sweet, tinkling sounds. Sólrún moves to one side and reveals one of Amina’s brainchildren, the glass-o-phone. It consists of four wine glasses filled with varying amounts of water. But it’s not just these instruments that characterize the sound Amina seems to be constructing; with this new music they seem to be tapping into a collective fecundity that has been nearly seven years in gestation. With the support of Kjartan Sveinsson, Sigur Rós’s keyboardist and María Huld’s boyfriend, they have certainly come into their own with the more technical aspects of recording.
Their studio looks like a mad musicologist’s workshop with pieces and innards of instruments and hardware strewn around the room. Out of this chaos they have managed to fashion a complex and very controlled sound. “People say that there is an ‘Icelandic sound’ these days, but we can’t really hear it. It’s like when someone tells you that you look like your sister, but because you’ve grown up with her, all you can see are the differences.”
Characterized by muted, metallic sounds like music boxes, glockenspiels, kalimbas, psalteries and metallophones, these combine to create a liquid texture that ripples with reverberation, like the first sounds an infant might hear through all the amniotic fluid. Above this vibrant base is the music sweetened by Amina’s masterful and lissome strings. “This has come so easily for us, but we don’t have any big expectations. We just want people to see that we are not just cute session players. And stop asking us to smile more.”
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