Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just watched...

...a documentary about Icelandic pop music, "Screaming Masterpiece."

I have had a slowly evolving fascination with Iceland for many years now. I adore the band Sigur Rós, I quite like Múm, I have heard reports from friends who have been to Iceland that the people place a high value on art, and the landscape is full of otherworldly beauty. Any culture that can straight-facedly profess a belief in elves wins my vote. So I was curious to see the 2005 documentary “Screaming Masterpiece.” The titles say it is a survey of 1,000 years of Icelandic pop music which I gather is an example of the famous Icelandic sense of humor. Pop music is a relatively new phenomenon, but the greater meaning of the film’s intent is alluded to several times: indigenous and folk music of Iceland still greatly influences the pop music that is being created today. It is a fascinating supposition and one that I can hear for myself and believe. There is certainly a dark, sweeping grandeur and a plaintive peasant sound that seems to come from the collective psyche of the island. It manifests beautifully in my above mentioned favorite groups, Sigur Rós and Múm. But in an effort to show a variety and to present the idea that ancient music influences all current Icelandic music, we must suffer through examples of Icelandic death metal and rap (what a shame that such USA dross has infected even the far reaches of the globe to Iceland).

As a documentary, it does very little editorializing, staying out of the way and just letting the music and many of the musicians speak for themselves. The only quibble I have is the puzzling exclusion of another of my favorite Icelandic groups, the awesome Gus Gus.

Recommend? If you are a fan of any of the mentioned groups from Iceland, or are interested in alternative pop music, yes. At only 87 minutes, it won’t take too much of your life…

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