Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Sarah Brightman, Sigur Ros have more in common than you think

Sarah Brightman: Operatic pop diva, ex-wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber, original Christine in the stage musical The Phantom of the Opera, seller of some 30 million albums.

Sigur Ros: Experimental post-rock trio, festival headliners worldwide, Iceland's biggest musical export since Bjork.

Could these two artists, who both perform next week in Tampa, possibly have anything in common?

Indeed they do: Glosoli.

The song, from Sigur Ros' 2005 album Takk …, is far from an obvious choice for any artist to cover. Glosoli, like many Sigur Ros songs, is sung largely in a made-up language dubbed Vonlenska, or "Hope­landic," which the band describes as "a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument." And while Sigur Ros singer Jonsi has also written lyrics in Icelandic and English, Glosoli — which translates to "glowing sol" or "glowing sun" — isn't one of them.

But the lack of coherent lyrics didn't faze Brightman, who was so moved by the song's delicate beauty and soaring crescendo that she decided to cover it on her latest album, the expansive, ethereal Dreamchaser.

"When I asked the band Sigur Ros for permission to do this song in English, they came back and said, 'Why aren't you doing something which is more solo orientated?' " Brightman told Billboard in April. "And I said: 'The point of it is that you've created a wonderful sort of landscape for me to work from.' It gives one all sorts of emotional feelings and also what it describes to me when I was listening to the song, is where they write from. A lot of the time (it's) from Iceland. … It's incredible that feeling that you get from a clear sky."

Brightman hired Chris Difford of the band Squeeze to write new, English lyrics inspired by the music and title. Among them:

There is a room / it floats above the stars

This is my home / it's filled with twisted light

Our prayers will speak soon / but not without words

Where I had lost you / but now I've found you

With only one word I reach you / glowing sun

Brightman's Glosoli trades Sigur Ros' searing guitars for an orchestral swell that over six minutes builds to a rousing climax before twinkling back to earth. And surprisingly, it doesn't sound out of place on Dreamcatcher, which also tackles songs by indie-oriented acts like Elbow (One Day Like This), Sia (Breathe Me) and Cocteau Twins (Éperdu). Much like Jonsi, Brightman wields her formidable voice as an instrument on Dreamchaser, building upon the album's sparse, dreamy soundscapes with her pitch-perfect soprano.

Musically, Glosoli may be the only point where Brightman and Sigur Ros overlap. But both artists do seem to enjoy making career moves out of leftfield.

Sigur Ros — whose own new album, Kveikur, is a thundering cloud of bowed guitars, clattering percussion, chilling chimes and Jonsi's spine-tingling falsetto — has written music for The Simpsons, and next year they'll make a cameo on HBO's Game of Thrones. Brightman, meanwhile, is preparing for a 2015 Soyuz rocket flight to the International Space Station, where she hopes to become the first professional musician to sing in space.

Actually, Sigur Ros' music would be a good soundtrack for a space flight. Maybe they and Brightman have more in common than we thought.

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