Of bells, harps, accordions, the kalimba and a saw: amiina
October 28, 2014 2:41 PM   Subscribe

If you've encountered delicately uplifting chimes and bells or a singing saw, seen the contributions of a string quartet in a Sigur Rós video, heard the last recording by Lee Hazlewood and noticed the gentle singing and music, or listened to Yukihiro Takahashi consider words, then you've possibly encountered the Icelandic band amiina.

(Personal choice of tracks indicated by *)

amiina (lowercase 'a' to lead) formed in the late 1990s when Hildur Ársælsdóttir and Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (violinists), Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir (violist) and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir (cellist) began playing classical music together at the Reykjavík College of Music. Their shared interest in making music spread to using other instruments, then tools, appliances and whatever else was at hand.

In 2004 the group, initially performing and recording under the name Amína, released Animamina:


In 2006, the single Seoul - which became a favorite at live events - was released. This also contained the track Ammælis*.

Amiina have been long-time collaborators with Sigur Rós, playing on many of their tracks and in live performance such as in the documentary/album Heima. Collaborations include:

Hoppípolla/Með Blóðnasir*
Popplagið* (loud)

Instruments played by amiina include the saw, harps, accordions, glockenspiel, the kalimba and glasses of water.

In 2007, Amiina released their first full-length album, Kurr, named after the sound that birds are said to make in Iceland:


An interview with the band, and another one. In 2008, Amiina provided Doctor Finkelstein/In the Forest for Nightmare Revisited, a cover album of songs from the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Several more singles followed, and amiina expanded to include Magnús Trygvason Eliassen and Guðmundur Vignir Karlsson (aka Kippi Kaninus). Also in 2009, Re Minore, consisting of the tracks Ásinn, Þristurinn and Tvisturinn, was released. These would all appear in some form or other on their next full-length album, Puzzle (2010):

Over & Again*
What are we waiting for?
In the Sun*
Sicsak - live, and the making of this video.

Amiina played many venues and concerts, of differing sizes, around the world, including:

University of Pennsylvania, 2006
Full concert at Traumzeit
At the Festival of World Cultures*
Reykjavik, 2007
Live soundtrack to Lotte Reiniger's Cinderella, London, 2009
And again, London, 2010

In Iceland, some performances took place in concert halls, churches, bookstores, and into the more remote parts of Iceland, at abandoned buildings and lighthouses. A few of the recordings from their homeland events formed their 2013 release, The Lighthouse Project:

Leather and Lace (Original by Lee Hazlewood)
N65° 16,21 W13° 34,49

While the band members sometimes do their own thing, such as Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir's Skýjaflétta, her 2013 album for children and their adults:

Vor (Spring)
Hoppa (Jump)

...they still continue to play in big concerts and small shops, make soundtracks to film and tour.

In rehearsal
Music by Praetorius
Adeste Fideles (O Come, All Ye Faithful)*
(With many others) Short clip from Odin's Raven Magic*
posted by Wordshore (7 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
(The 'personal choice of tracks indicated by a *' is for if you don't want to go through every track amiina have released and just want to try a few; it's hopefully a representative sample).
posted by Wordshore at 3:01 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! I picked up one of their albums at an indie record store in Reykjavik a few years ago, and you reminded me of how much I enjoyed it and that I hadn't listened to it in a long time. I will definitely dig it out again soon.
posted by matildaben at 3:25 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love Sigur Ros and I haven't heard of amiina. Beautiful! I play the violin and I love finding unique and original compositions like this. Watching them perform is just as mesmerizing as their music.
posted by E3 at 3:33 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Such an exhaustive post on a terrific band. Thanks for reminding me of them.
posted by umbú at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2014

I'm going to have to listen to those lighthouse ones, they sound awesome! Got put on to amiina a couple of years ago by a friend and fell in love with Puzzle. Thanks for the great post to inspire me to dig in a little more!
posted by Athanassiel at 8:39 PM on October 28, 2014

I saw them play with/in support for Sigur Ros a long time ago. Thanks so much for this post, it's got heaps to listen to.
posted by harriet vane at 2:59 AM on October 29, 2014

Kurr is still one of my top picks for reading, sketching, or yoga. Thanks for the roundup!
posted by a halcyon day at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2014

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