Jon Sigurosson, ICELAND Steindor Andersen: Rimur (Icelandic Epic Song)

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A peek into Iceland’s past.

For Icelanders, the beauty has long been in the story. The country is famous for its epic sagas, of course, but poetry is a staple of its literature and rímur is historically the sung poetic form. The pieces here are hardly the oldest in existence; they come largely from the 19th century, several from the pen of Jon Sigurosson. Most of the pieces Andersen performs in the traditional way, softly and unaccompanied — there's no big drama in his singing. But here and there you'll here a harp and (perhaps surprisingly) a didgeridoo, to add a little atmosphere. These fragments of larger works weave a hypnotic spell — not unlike bardic poetry — lulling, though you probably won't understand a single word. It's a peek into Iceland's past, akin to hearing old British folk ballads, and with a similar sense of time. This stripped-to-the-bone approach is a perfect match, raw and quietly uncompromising. Not new, perhaps, but certainly powerful.