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Mr. Silla At ATP 2015 Synth Sounds Better Alone
Words Shawn Forno Photo Kane Alexander
I shuffle down the aisle to a seat near the front of the Andrews Theater, head held low, shoulders stooped like I’m inching past a family posing for photos on a narrow sidewalk. It is early Jul, I am in Keflavík for the opening night of ATP Iceland, and unlike the packed Atlantic Studios stage across the street, where Iggy Pop and Belle and Sebastian (full orchestra in tow) jump and wail to singing fans, the crowd here is hushed. Seats creak as we settle in for Mr. Silla, a.k.a. Sigurlaug Gísladóttir, and it’s so quiet I wonder if this auditorium moonlights as a church on Sundays. Before my theological musings go further, the lights dim and my attention turns to the stage and the lone figure smack in the middle of it. Mr. Silla stands behind a single red fluorescent bulb, a single prismatic image projected on the wall. Eyes closed, clad in a loose black robe, the bulb casts a thin shadow on her face as she clutches the microphone. Then the music starts—a lulling beat and swelling melody—and just like that Mr. Silla vanishes. But that voice.
Just listen Silla’s haunting rasp pushes all the way to the back row before bouncing back. Each sustained note is all the stage dressing she needs. For what seems like the first time in hours I settle in, and just listen. The swelling synth, driving beats, and bright trills pull me down into my chair and demand my focused attention. I feel alone while I listen—not something that happens all that often at a festival—and I like it. If you haven’t tried it yet, Mr. Silla is the perfect festival nightcap. But Sigurlaug is no fading wallflower. The persistent pulse and anthemic synth in songs like “Holding On” highlight her primal vocal range. When she wants to, Mr. Silla can bring it. Banshee wails and sustained harmony with her backing
tracks make it easy to forget it’s just one person up there. Add in guitarist Tyler Ludwick for a few songs and you’ve got a packed house. Mr Silla is a welcome tonic for bass blasted festival ears; somehow equally at home in a cosy bar at Iceland Airwaves or headlining the side stage at the raucous ATP festival. With an album on the way, deep collaboration pockets to dip into, and a polished solo act, it’s exciting to imagine which stage Mr. Silla will command by early July of next year.
Kind of brand new Luckily, she agreed to take a minute to talk with me (barefoot) about her sound, songwriting process, and what’s next for her solo effort: So you’ve got a new record that’s been scheduled to come out for a while... Yeah, well this one’s been a while, but there’s another before that one that didn’t come out. So this one is kind of brand new. It’s scheduled to come out this month [July]. That’s the plan [note: this did not happen. But we wait].
Yeah? Yeah. And then I went to London and worked on it with Mike Lindsay [from Tunng/Cheek Mountain Thief ]—a friend of mine, and producer—and this is what we came up with. Just putting it together. So it was a collaboration? Most of the songs were pretty ready, but working with Mike...he’s just so good at getting things where they have to be.
The Nordic House Reykjavík is a vibrant Nordic cultural institution with exhibitions, a library, shop and one of the best restaurants in Reykjavík, Aalto Bistro. The building is designed by the internationally acclaimed finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Open everyday from 10–17 Visit www.nordichouse.is for more information. Book a table: www.aalto.is Sundays – wednsdays 11–17 Thursdays – saturdays 11–21
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Nice. I heard a ton of emotion on stage tonight, even in your backing vocals. Is that something you’re trying to get across in this new effort? It’s not a conscious effort, it just happens. It’s kind of how I write. Just what you’re thinking about at the time. Are you still working with your other groups? Yeah, I’m working with Snorri Helgason and Mice Parade. All of it is happening simultaneously. So what’s next for Mr. Silla? Just the album and touring.
Has there been a big departure in your songwriting process with the new solo effort? Yeah definitely. It was mostly just me hanging out with an iPad and some synths.
The House at Eyrarbakki
THE HOUSE AT EYRARBAKKI
ELEGANT PREMISES IN T H E H E A RT O F R E Y K J AV I K
Árnessýsla folk museum is located in Húsið, the House, historical home of the Danish merchants built in 1765. Húsið is one of the oldest houses in Iceland and a beautiful monument of Eyrarbakki´s time as the biggest trading place on the south coast. Today one can enjoy exhibitions about the story and culture of the region, famous piano, shawl made out of human hair and the kings pot, are among items. Húsið prides itself with warm and homelike atmosphere.
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