Montreux Jazz Festival turns 50 this year, for the occasion a lot of amazing bands are coming over to the Riviera. Among them also Mogwai and Sigur Rós. Both bands are post rock and are therefore both based on instrumental sounds. The space sounds they create still resound in my ears.
Scottish band Mogwai is at Montreux Jazz Festival to present the Atomic Project. Atomic is the title of the band’s new album which is the soundtrack of the movie “Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise” by Marc Cousins. More than a movie it is a collage of documentaries about the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and about nuclear energy.
The screen on the back of the stage lights up and shows the movie “Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise” while Mogwai come on stage and each of the six band members take their sitting spot in front. The audience is drowned into a sound as well as visual experience. The film is sometimes spoken and has subtitles not always readable if you have tall people in front of you. However the combined visual and sound experience is incredible! You listen to the soundtrack to the dropping of an atomic bomb, its subsequent explosion, how this affected people and so on.
The drums articulating every beat with decision as if it were a march, the synths make dark sounds. The guitar and bass riffs are distorted in what becomes a distortion of reality in the movie with the employment of effects as rewind or the slackening of the action. The mix of sounds is mirrored in the super posed images on the film. The sounds are somber and fit perfectly to the theme of the movie for which they are written. The sad and touching notes played on the piano, the add of the synthesizers and electronic sound it all becomes stronger in some bits.
Live it is an outstanding and unique experience, what Mogwai does is remarkable and innovative. It is also a theme which make people reflect. A great work, and I suggest you should all watch the movie or if you can experience it live it’s for sure even better!
10:15pm-00:00am Sigur Rós
A huge installation is set on stage for the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, an enormous screen with lots of black light-supports and a black grid which separates the back of the stage from the front.
As the light darkens an instrumental intro starts and after a while the three members of the band appear behind the grid where there are electronic drums and guitars. They start the gig with the new song “Óveður”. The first couple of songs they play have many electronic elements in them such as the hard beats on the electronic drums. At each beat, a ray of light moves to the front of the installation.
The black grid is elevated and Sigur Rós comes to the front of the stage acclaimed by the audience. It is easier now to see who they are and how they play. They take the audience through a journey into Icelandic landscapes both visually and sound wise as the screen behind them shows mountains and water. At other times the screen turns red showing a big ball of light, kind of like volcano lava.
Sigur Rós music is very bound to instruments and to earthly sounds, the singer has an amazing and powerful voice and his falsetto singing lyrics in Icelandic is quite a thing. He has an impressive vocal range and is able to hold a note for a long time, the language in which he sings seems in itself so melodic that it creates fascinating sounds which melt beautifully with the instruments. He plays his guitar most of the times with a violin arch creating amazing sounds.
Their latest work contains more rock elements than the previous ones so that when the band plays the newer songs the sounds burst out at times with the drummer banging with all his power on the drums and the riffs, even with the violin arch, get more strident and stronger. In one of the songs the bassist plays his bass by banging a drumstick on the chords creating an original sound. The sounds are perfectly coupled with the images on the screen and the lights, all this enhances the experience of the audience. Some may like it some others may not but I think in this case it adds power to the music.
Sigur Rós play for an hour and a half without break and then they leave. Highly acclaimed by the public, that screams and claps, the guys come back on stage to play some more songs. For “Popplagið”, the last song they play, the lights and screen get all rainbow-like and the sounds get increasingly stronger in a crescendo of colourful sounds. When it all stops the audience keeps on screaming and clapping for a good while. The band comes back to say thank you and the word “Takk” (“thank you” in Icelandic), which is also the title of the band’s fourth album, appears on the big screen as the three members take a bow.
An outstanding visual and sound experience which makes the audience discover an entirely new world!