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.

Sveinsson left the band, “to do something different,” which led to writing film soundtracks and collaborate with other musicians and the maverick Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Sveinsson also owns and operates Sigur Rós’ former Sundlaugin studio, where he had a leading role in preparing the belated release in 2020 of the band’s orchestral/ choral opera Odin’s Raven Magic, which they had last performed in 2004.

Having stayed friends with his bandmates in their home city of Reykjavík, Sveinsson and Sigur Rós’ singer-guitarist Jónsi began co-writing again in 2019, for pleasure more than any game plan, free of expectations and deadlines. But their collaboration has turned into a new Sigur Rós album, their first in nine years, and Sveinsson has officially rejoined the band. “It’s great to have him back,” says Jónsi. “He’s such a genius melody-maker.”

This has been evident in the various projects that Sveinsson undertook after leaving Sigur Rós. To begin with, he provided soundtracks for Ragnar Kjartansson, famed for his marathon theatrical installations: the romantic choral majesty of 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 an improvised score to The Palace Of Summerland. All were released on vinyl by Kjartansson’s Bel-Glamour label in 2016.

Left to his own devices, Sveinsson has been more reticent to let his work out into the world. The choral works 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.”

Sveinsson also wrote the music for Rúnar Rúnarsson’s 2015 short Sparrow, the third time he had collaborated with the Icelandic director. The music to Sparrow remains unreleased, but his soundtracks to Rúnarsson’s preceding two films are now available. In spring of 2020, enduring isolation – doubly so with a broken knee after capsizing on ice in Reykjavik – Sveinsson reached out by releasing the soundtrack to The Last Farm, five exquisitely stirring, elegiac instrumentals for string quartet that underlined the film’s themes of isolation and self-sufficiency – uncannily apt for these unparalleled times. 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 all 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. The Last Farm was released 18 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 followed up later in August 2020 with the single-track soundtrack to Rúnarsson’s full-length film Volcano, with themes of loneliness, regret and reconciliation expressed by a sombre arrangement for string quartet. He has also branched out beyond films, like the new songs he co-wrote with ex-Múm cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir for a 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.

“It was a lot of fun,” he recalls, “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.”

After experiencing his own feelings of loss, isolation and reconciliation, Sveinsson now has two alternatives: his flourishing independent career, and the renewed impetus of Sigur Rós. The band are about to start a world tour, and will release their new album later in 2022.


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

Sigur Rós
Alex Somers
Kjartan Sveinsson
Paul Corley