sin fang [2009]

The Independent
San Francisco, CA
5 November 2009

I never was much for homework. It’s my home. Please keep your work out of it. Not an original sentiment, by any means, but one that has remained true for me since that very first assignment. This resentment, though, has not stopped me from consistently putting pressure on myself to listen to an opening band’s music before every show, to get an idea of what they’re all about, and help decide on an arrival time.

That said, it’s sadly fairly rare that I actually do set aside some listening time. The idea always seems to hold more allure than the practice. This time, though, it was different. It helped that Sin Fang Bous was travelling across the States with and opening for múm, their Icelandic compatriots and one of my favorite bands. There’s something very promising about such a connection between headliner and opener.

So there I was, the morning of the show, dutifully listening to Sin Fang Bous and reading up on their story. As it turned out, I was immediately drawn to their music, purchased and downloaded an album and listened to it five times through before the show. Homework indeed. And, I’ve gotta say, what a wonderful difference it makes to have familiarized yourself with an opener’s music, to bask in the glow of anticipation for a band you’ve only just discovered.

Sin Fang Bous is the solo project of Sindri Már Sigfússon, who is also a member of the Icelandic band Seabear. Sindri’s music shares quite a few similarities with múm’s: acoustic and electronic elements blended together to produce a kind of machine-driven organic folk. The differences between Sin Fang Bous and múm, however, are more revealing.

Sindri’s scope and scale, despite being backed by a band, are significantly smaller and simpler. The sound, the music, the instrumentation – they’re all confined to a space far more intimate and staid. This is not to say that his music is straight-forward and unadventurous. From the very first song, Sindri demonstrated his interest in exploring the many possibilities of his own voice. He stood before three mics, each with its own unique filtered sound and distortion level, allowing him to travel between a wide spectrum of vocal perspectives within each song.

Ultimately, Sin Fang Bous can be accurately described as folk pop, but Sindri experiments enough with the notions of pop by playing with melodies and song structure. Traditional transitions and lyrical forms are often discarded in favor of sudden momentum shifts and crackling bursts of silence. At times, this departure can lead to a disjointed feeling that is not altogether unpleasant, but makes for a more challenging listen. It’s still warm and fuzzy, but filtered through the odd.

Here’s the part where I grow as a person and recognize that sometimes, homework isn’t all bad. At least on this particular occasion, it made damn well sure I wouldn’t miss a band that I very well might have otherwise. Thank you, homework. Thank you.