Amiina: The Lighthouse Project
Sound Of A Handshake

In its earliest incarnation, Amiina was a string quartet that contributed to Sigur Rós's already full-bodied sound. The original line-up of four female string players formally expanded in 2009 to include drummer Magnús Trygvason Eliassen and electronic artist Kippi Kaninus, and consequently The Lighthouse Project documents the degree to which Amiina has sonically evolved beyond its originating identity. The title derives from the fact that about four years ago, Amiina elected to perform in lighthouses and other unusual locations during a trek across Iceland. For the occasion, the group played music especially written for small spaces where the audience was close at hand, and so the music's intimate character doesn't come as a major surprise.

Tellingly, electric piano and guitar, not strings, are the first sounds one hears on the twenty-two-minute recording, even if it is a saw-like string instrument that takes a lead role on the lilting ballad (“Perth”) that opens the EP. Performed live in the studio, its six songs—or “little nocturnes,” as the press text refers to them—are a pretty bunch indeed, with gentle, lullaby-like melodies packaged in delicate arrangements of electroacoustic sparkle. An occasional wordless vocal breathes across the music's surface, and the gentle shimmer of an accordion or tinkle of glockenspiel is never far away either. In addition to five originals, The Lighthouse Project includes a transporting cover of “Leather and Lace” by Lee Hazlewood (not the one by Stevie Nicks) that's heavy on shuddering strings and lyrical cello playing, and it wouldn't be stretching it too far to imagine that the meditative serenade “Kola” might just be the prettiest thing you'll hear all year.

May 2013