Digital Stocking Stuffer: Sigur Ros’ Jónsi’s ‘Obsidian’ Gets Mixed in Full Spatial Dolby Atmos Audio

Image by Barnaby Roper

As 2021 was winding towards its close, we ultimately decided to set aside any notion of “best of” lists, considering what an awful year it genuinely was. For right or wrong, we didn’t feel like “celebrating” the last twelve months.

But while we accept that the occasion of Jónsi‘s October-released album Obsidian getting a “full spatial Dolby Atmos audio mix” might seem mostly of interest to serious audiophiles, what we really want to use it as an excuse for is to remind you that if you’d missed it the first time around, we’re not going to let you do it again. The Sigur Rós  frontman had actually undertaken the radical cultural shock to the system of moving from Reykjavik to Los Angeles in 2019 (not to mention the climatological implications of trading glaciers for palm trees) – and two years later he was opening his first solo art exhibition at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in the city’s contemporary art corridor just off Santa Monica near Paramount Studios.

In good, high-conceptualizing fashion, the album was meant as a companion piece to the exhibition (or was it the other way around?), which mated the audio and the visual, juxtaposing machine generated sounds with those sampled from nature, placing sculptural works of resin and obsidian glass into dialogue with one another, and even employing a perfume organ to inject scent into proceedings. It was all meant to evoke the ethereal, ineffable landscapes that he had left behind in his former Scandinavian home, attempting to recreate some version of them in a space where just outside there were hot dog joints, lumber yards and quite a lot of smog-generating traffic.

As for the album itself, tracks like ‘Vikur’ and ‘Kvika’ most especially demonstrate what Jónsi very much does best, which is to conjure sonic atmospheres into which the listener can simply float, leaving behind the dull pragmatisms of quotidian existence – the likely reason why many choose to visit Iceland itself, really. He also very much captures the sense of majesty that characterizes so much of the frozen, enigmatic terrain there.

So if you really want to give someone a gift whose genuine value cannot possibly be calculated, pop the Atmos audio version of Jónsi’s Obsidian into their in-box this holiday season. And if your own Icelandic travel plans have been tragically stifled by the ongoing COVID crisis, do make sure to send one to yourself as well.

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