TrabantPerhaps it's Iceland's extremes -- unlit winter days, undarkened summer nights and a vast landscape populated with just 300,000 inhabitants -- that set the stage for such remarkable innovation and unusual collaboration by the country's best-known musicians. Reykjavik, the nation's capital and home to most of the country's inhabitants, has become a creative cauldron for production of some of the most interesting music being made anywhere today. The world first began to take notice of the vibrant sounds coming from Iceland in 1988 with the Sugarcubes, a quirky alternative rock band whose lead singer, Björk, went on to become the country's biggest international star. Her unique voice and eclectic style set a new standard, shaking up rigid categories in pop music. As Björk showed, Icelanders may not be completely reinventing music -- but they're certainly reinterpreting it. They seem reluctant to mimic American and European trends and more willing to try something new. The next wave of the country's musicians has challenged pop music conventions, prompting critics and fans alike to rethink how they listen. Independent radio stations in Iceland play quite a bit of commercial, mainstream music, so the prime showcase for talent has become the Icelandic Airwaves Festival. Sigur Rós played at the first Airwaves Festival, in 1999, and has since moved on to international critical acclaim.
Listen to the sound of Sigur Ros, GusGus, Mum, Trabant, Apparat Organ Quartet on: