Words by Fiona Roberts
New EP release The Lighthouse Project from enchanting Icelandic sextet amiina, is a six-track assortment of old and new songs that contain their usual minimalist magic. Comprised of a collection of delicate instrumental arrangements, the record was composed especially for performance in small spaces – in this case (as the name suggests) the quirky setting of a lighthouse. After a trip playing in unusual locations around Iceland a few years ago, amiina were inspired to make this intimate record which attempts to recreate the atmosphere of their live shows.
Starting out as an all-girl string quartet in the late 90s (notably accompanying Icelandic titans Sigur Rós), amiina originally played classical music together, before explorations in Reykjavík’s highly collaborative music scene began to evolve their signature, gently ambient post-rock. Cut to now, and with two albums, several EP’s and two new members later, amiina are revisiting their adventure across Iceland’s fairy tale landscape. After a fuller sound on second album Puzzle thanks to added drums and electronics, The Lighthouse Project is a stripped-down, tender exploration of their past compositions.
Described as ‘little nocturnes’, the songs included were recorded ‘live’ to emulate the atmosphere of the ‘lighthouse’ concerts which inspired this release. The lighthouse version of ‘Hilli’ is particularly delightful, transformed with ethereal strings and added space around its divine vocal harmonies. The original mahogany, folky plucked strings sound more airy and atmospheric, something that retains the same effective minimalism but explores it differently. It’s a sound which you can imagine filling a lighthouse with quiet magic.
The six songs of the record are a breath of cool Icelandic air, enchantingly pretty and amiina extract a minimalist beauty from the simplicity of the arrangements. ‘Kola’ is an extremely pretty lullaby, made up of gentle fragments of glockenspiel, and enchanting wordless vocals that together form an atmospheric whole. The lullaby-like EP includes a wide range of instruments; it’s never far from a melodic guitar note, accordion chord or manipulation of amiina’s signature lilting musical saw that takes centre stage – especially on ‘Bíólagið’, and first track ‘Perth’.
The Lighthouse Project is a delightfully quirky album that reminds you of how you first fell in love with their distinctive post-rock enchantments. Though most of us can only hope to see amiina play in such an unusual setting, listening to The Lighthouse Project brings you a little bit closer to sharing an intimate space with their delicate sound.
The Lighthouse Project is out 07 June on Sound Of A Handshake.
Follow Fiona Roberts at @fionaalice_