Take everything you love about Tom Waits’ junykard orchestra and combine it with the elegance and beauty of Icelandic folk music. This is Amiina, the female quartet who will make you wonder why more musicians don’t learn to play the saw. Their debut album, Kurr, (the Icelandic word for a bird’s coo), is a 12-song lullaby on acid. It employs twenty instruments, each woman taking a turn at playing each instrument to achieve a multitude of unique sounds. Sparely used vocals add to the ethereal quality, and by the end you’ll want both a mug of warm milk and an unfiltered cigarette.
Unlike most industrial music, their sound is rooted in the organic element of folk instrumentals, which lends a tender quality. The four bandmembers first gained recognition as the string backup for fellow Icelandic band, Sigur Rós. But these talented ladies, who first met at the Reykjavik College of Music as classically trained students, shine brightest when they have the spotlight to themselves. Their delicate attention to the subtleties of each instrument, and their perfect pitch and timing, betray their classical background. Kurr quickly rises above such limitations, to explore an atmospheric sound that conjures images of damp Icelandic winters, volcanic mountain ranges and rocky seaside cliffs.
Iceland is a magical land, at least that’s what Bjork told me. Now, thanks to Amiina, I know it’s true.