Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling
Some of the dark sound and feel of such legendary "noise rock" bands as the Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine have surfaced In the music of Iceland's Singapore Sling. And since such seedy, rumbling, feedback-spewn musical terrain wasn't fully explored in the late '80s/early '90s, it's a sound fit for reviving and remaking now. "It's mostly about atmosphere for me," noted lead singer/guitarist and songwriter Henrik Björnsson, on the phone from the New York City office of Stinky Records, who released the foursome's debut album in June. "[I] like to feel what it is about some type of special experience getting a certain attitude. The song is 50 percent, and then the sound is 50 percent. I like arranging the music just as much as writing the song."
Which is clear once one is immersed in the band's first full-length, The Curse of Singapore Sling, which features plenty of instrumentation and sonic effects. From the battling guitars, tambourine jitters, pummeling beats and spacey soundscapes, Björnsson and bandmates guitarists Helgi Petursson and Einar Kristjansson, maraca player Siggi Shaker, bassist Toggi Guðmundsson, and drummer Bjarni Johannsson have pieced together a powerful album. The process wasn't always easy. "It's called The Curse of... because everything went wrong when we were recording it," Björnsson said with a laugh. "For instance, on the first day of recording, the tape machine broke down."
But once the equipment was working, recording the album which was originally released in Iceland about a year ago was fairly smooth. The band spent about eight to 10 days laying tracks down on tape before Björnsson added overdubs and some drum-machine rhythms and then dropped the tapes into ProTools for final mixing. "I like tape," he said. "I still really like music recorded on a four-track tape machine; I like the sound of it. I've had that for many years I've been recording a lot of stuff."
But Björnsson later solemnly remarked that his four-track has "reached its day."
However his brain receptors are functioning. "I'm trying to use my brain as a multi-track, and that works out quite a lot," he explained. "I've also been using my Dictaphone recently, 'cause you write a song, and if you don't record it pretty soon, you'll forget it. That's why I like to carry around a Dictaphone."
Singapore Sling are already working out songs for a second album. In fact, they included four new songs (one is named "Curse, Curse, Curse") into the sets of their live performances during their recent U.S. tour. The band is considering recording the follow-up in NYC.
Since they haven't yet entered the studio, it's difficult to predict which direction the new songs will take. "I can't really explain the record before I record it," Björnsson said. "I don't know how to explain it ... maybe a bit calmer."
More atmosphere, perhaps? "I think so, but not ambient," he replied firmly. Jenny Tatone [Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003]