Kjartan Sveinsson

Kjartan Sveinsson is a composer, musician and performer. He first came to prominence as a member of Sigur Rós, the Icelandic band – sometimes characterized as ‘post-rock’ – of which he was a member from 1997 to 2012, releasing five studio albums, a film and a host of side projects, selling several million records around the world in the process.

Sveinsson played keyboards and guitar in Sigur Rós, as well as being responsible for the band’s frequent arrangements for strings, brass, choir and orchestra.

In 2020 enduring isolation – doubly so with a broken knee after capsizing on ice in Reykjavik - Sveinsson has reached out by releasing his soundtrack to the Oscar nominated short The Last Farm. Five exquisite instrumentals for string quartet are a perfect match for director Rúnar Rúnarsson’s similarly concise, delicately haunting and heart-rendering portrait of love and loss, infused with a mood of isolation and desolation that suits these unparalleled times.

Shot at an abandoned farm in the bleak and awe-inspiring Westfjords region on Iceland’s north-western tip, The Last Farm opens under rugged skies and a blustery seascape. An elderly farmer loads his tractor with coastal driftwood. Is he preparing to board up the windows and bunker down for the winter, or something else? He fends off help from his daughter and a neighbour, preferring isolation - a condition ironically forced on us all during lockdown.

The Last Farm is as spare with its dialogue as it is with the exposition but leaves a conversely notable emotional impression in just 18 minutes. The visual and sonic mood is sombre but comforting too, depicting a refuge in nature, away from the maddening crowds, and a reminder of our mortality and the degrees of loneliness we endure. Sveinsson admits he wasn’t thinking, “philosophically” when he decided to release this soundtrack. “But who knows, underneath, I might have been!”

As he recalls, “I’d planned to release my film music as one album. But for one reason or another, different parts of life got in the way, and it didn’t happen. But with the world as it is because of COVID, I decided to release something.”

Sveinsson’s only previously available soundtracks connect to the maverick Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, famed for his marathon theatrical installations the operatic Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen (AKA The Explosive Sonics of Divinity), The Visitors, a troubadour-folk concept credited to Ragnar Kjartansson & The All Star Band, and the improvised score to The Palace Of Summerland were all vinyl editions on Kjartansson’s Bel-Glamour label in 2016.

Yet left to his own devices, Sveinsson has been clearly been reticent to let his work out into the world. The choral Credo and You Can Cage A Swallow, But You Can’t Swallow A Cage (incorporating the poetry of Anne Carson and vocals by the Hilliard Ensemble) debuted at the same New York show in 2010, but remain not just unreleased but unrecorded.

“Maybe I’m just a lazy bastard!” Sveinsson laughs. “But, really, I’m just a perfectionist. I want the releases to be as good as they can be. If I’m to record Credo, I want to rewrite parts first. A compilation of film music is more about the timing and choosing the right tracks. All these complications! But The Last Farm was 16 years ago, so I look at the music like I didn’t write it, which makes it much easier to release it. It’s not so precious as it would be if it was new.”

Sveinsson also wrote co-new songs with ex-Múm cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir for a new musical collective that debuted at Berlin’s annual People Festival in 2018 before a short European tour in February 2020, fortuitously just before the continent locked down. It was Sveinsson’s first tour in 12 years. “and a lot of fun, playing and being with other people. Before, I think it was a lack of new material and also confidence. When you leave a big monster like Sigur Rós, it’s strange to look at other alternatives.”

Ironically, as the world locks down and isolation becomes a fact of life, musicians are bunkering down and unleashing their creative impulses. When the world opens up again, Sveinsson plans to tour more, to put himself further out there. With The Last Farm’s stirring, elegiac and tender soundtrack, this is just the start.

Sveinsson lives and works in Reykjavík, where he continues to write music, produce other artists, including Ólöf Arnalds and Kristín Anna, and own and operate Sigur Rós’s former Sundlaugin studio.

Volcano

Following on from The Last Farm, Kjartan has released his second commercially available soundtrack, his single track accompaniment to frequent collaborator Rúnar Rúnarsson's 2011 film Volcano.

Volcano is now available to stream everywhere!

The Last Farm

The Last Farm is the soundtrack by Kjartan Sveinsson to Rúnar Rúnarsson's Academy Award nominated Icelandic short film.

Released on Krunk Records, the soundtrack is available to stream everywhere!

Sheet music for all five compositions for The Last Farm is also available to purchase here

Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen

Kjartan Sveinsson's four act opera 'Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen' is available to stream everywhere and purchase on vinyl

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