Kælan Mikla are a band with a very particular visual aesthetic, and it came as no surprise to the awards panel that one of last year’s strongest videos was theirs.
Their track “Hvítir Sandar”, which translates as “White Sand”, is a collaboration with French band Alcest. Stylistically it blends Kælan Mikla’s trademark dark take on early eighties alternative with Alcest’s “blackgaze”, (that’s an unholy confluence of black metal and shoegaze, in case you’re wondering). The mood of the track is slow and epic; the sound rich in texture, dense yet expansive.
To translate these elements into visuals Kælan Mikla got in touch with Máni Sigfússon, a director with a strong track record of working with Icelandic artists of an independent bent. But it wasn’t the first time that Máni had worked with the band.
“They had just started out,” Máni recalls of their first collaboration, “and Iceland Airwaves festival was making these promo videos. They paired directors with bands to do stuff. I worked with them on an announcement clip, and they came back ten years later and said that they wanted something similar for their video.”
That request for “something similar” has resulted in this sumptuous slow-moving mix of live and computer generated images. Flecks of light hover and dance; surreal fabrics slither and morph. The three band members are represented only in oblique terms: either as shrouded marble mausoleum statues or in extreme close-up, allowing stark, high-contrast studies in the detailed texture of hair, skin and blood.
“In terms of concept the only thing the band wanted was texture,” Máni explains, “and we talked about having the video in black and white. It’s shot in colour, but everything is black and white. The band members are painted white.”
The threads of some of these distinctive stylistic themes run through Máni’s work, which started some 14 years ago when he made his first music video for his brother Sindri, (also known as the artist Sin Fang).
“I was in film school in Amsterdam, and as soon as I got back to Iceland my brother, who was in the band Seabear, asked me to do a music video for them. And after that the requests kept coming, and haven’t stopped since,” Máni says.
Weaving magic visuals
Icelandic artists such as Ásgeir, sóley, Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson have all trusted Máni to weave their music into the magic of his visuals. But The Rolling Stones and Shawn Mendes have also knocked on his door to create video packages for their live shows. So given his day job at an ad agency, Máni always has numerous professional plates spinning—including a new Seabear video to coincide with their first album release in 12 years.
Musicians just keep coming back to him for more; check out the Grapevine’s crowned Video of the Year and you’ll see why.
Soy Un Animal – Sin Fang (director Magnús Leifsson) / Skrattar – Ógisslegt (director Frosti Runólfs) / Dansa og Bánsa – Inspector Spacetime / Crystallized – The Vintage Caravan / Vesturbæjar Beach – BSÍ / The Dance (LHÍ graduation collab piece – russian.girl, Guðmundur Magnússon, Móki, Axel Kvaran & Karítas Lotta)- russian.girls / Halda Áfram – russian.girls
Reykjavík Grapevine Music Awards Panel
Alexander Jean de Fontenay: Graphic designer, music expert and DJ
Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen: journalist with a Ph.D. in sociomusicology
Hannah Jane Cohen: performing artist and former culture editor at The Reykjavík Grapevine
Nína Ricter: musician and culture journalist at Fréttablaðið
Valur Grettisson: editor-in-chief at The Reykjavík Grapevine
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