The Icelandic musician discusses taking his sound from album to performance
by David Graver in Culture on 12 March 2014
We've come to expect nothing short of wonderment from the Icelandic music that reaches global airwaves—expressive and exploratory, but with recognizable pop tinges. Sin Fang delivers all of the above and his 2013 album Flowers was one of the year's best. It's a beautiful collection of tracks, occasionally soaring in an ethereal soundscape, sometimes jangling around with rock sensibilities, but always grounded with thoughtful lyricism. It's catchy and sweet, but powerful. There's an optimism present that illuminates folk undertones and electronic flourishes—as the genre is frequently referred to as "folktronica." It's the third album from Sindri Már Sigfússon, the band's sole member, and his most polished to date.
With "Flowers," Sigfússon partnered with producer Alex Somers, who has worked on albums from Sigur Rós and their frontman Jónsi, and recorded it in Jónsi's home studio. These influences are present in the music with occasional whimsy; grace notes from more obscure instruments and vibrant orchestration. When listening to the studio recordings, the album begs the question: how will this translate to live performance? We had an opportunity to see Sin Fang perform at NYC's The Standard East Village with only a series of electronic devices as his backing band, and to speak with him about his work and the transition from album to live audience.
How do you feel your music fits into the Icelandic music community?
In Iceland, you do not really have to be playing a certain style. You need to be doing something nice or something cool and making what you want to make. I've toured with many bands, and I've been a part of many bands. I've been all over the place but I am still a part of the community.
You are also in the band Seabear, but this is your third album as Sin Fang. Why this project and this album?
It just happened this way. I made an album while I was still doing Seabear. I just wanted to try something solo—to do it all by myself. I wanted to do a project where I was in control of everything. I did it under the name Sin Fang Bous for the first album. People started referring to the project as Sin Fang, I guess they didn't like three syllables, so I started referring to it as Sin Fang as well. But, it was just something different. Sin Fang was a reaction to being in a band. I had grown bored of acoustic folk music. I wanted variation.
How long did you spend in the studio making this album?
I was in my studio for a few months. I remember when I started working on the album I had 27 songs and gave them to Alex [Somers]. We picked 10 or 11 together and spent at least three months in session together assembling the album.
Do you ever play with session musicians or do you prefer to perform alone?
I have this version of this band, where it is just me. At others shows, I've recently been playing with two drummers for the impact of multi-percussion. I've also had five people playing with me where the music itself, it's not electronic. It's a more rocky, folky kind of performance. For the last album I did I was traveling with a 12-piece live band. I like the freedom of performing alone. It's allowed me to perform versions of songs I am doing for a new EP releasing this summer. I can also play remixes of my songs, outside the style they were initially made.
How do you define a difference between your live tracks and recorded work?
I'm really into being in the studio and working for a long time to get the exact sounds that I like. You can never recreate that in a live setting. It's a separate thing, a separate experience. When you are making an album, it is permanent and you must be happy with all of the results. When you are performing live, it is a moment and you must make people happy within that moment. I go kind of crazy in the studio. No matter how hard you try, and I've tried, it's never going to be the same live.
Photos by David Graver
A refined, convenient, sustainable solution to pour-over coffee—made entirely in the USA
by Hans Aschim in Design on 12 March 2014
In recent years, pour-over coffee has become the new standard for those looking to get the most from their morning cup. While the stripped-down method of brewing brings out the richest flavor profile from the beans, it's not always the most convenient method—especially for multiple cups or entertaining. The crew of coffee-professionals-turned-entrepreneurs at Portland-based Able Brewing presents their answer to streamlining and beautifying the pour-over experience, the Kone Brewing System.
Able's brewing system hinges on its popular Kone filter. Born out of a coffee lover's nightmare (running out of filters), the stainless steel, perfectly cone-shaped filter offers a solution that is both sustainable, cost effective and ultimately produces a better cup of Joe. Unlike paper, stainless steel allows more oils from the coffee to filter through, allowing for a fuller, bolder taste.
For the brewing process, Able produced a sort of nesting system that houses the filter over the serving carafe. A sturdy, rubber heat-grip means easy handling of the filter chamber. After brewing the coffee, the top chamber is removed and the sealed lid put on to ensure the coffee stays hot. The two chamber system also results in hassle-free serving of up to 32 ounces of some of the finest homebrew.
Manufactured and designed in the US in partnership with a local Portland ceramics studio, the Kone Brewing System is as aesthetically pleasing as it is user-friendly. Cleaning is as easy emptying the grounds and rinsing out the filter. The team at Able is also passionate about creating products that are refined, sustainable and accessible.
Available in white and grey and made entirely in the US, the Kone Brewing System starts at $120. Check out Able's online store for more innovative pour-over products including their reusable cone and Aeropress filters.
Photos by Hans Aschim
A new kind of journal, designed by different artists every season, that's meant to be judged by its cover
Just about every bookstore has that one display of notebooks up by the register; filled with the same, cookie-cutter selection of bound paper. The journals aren't so much dated as they are uninspiring. Thus, we're happy to have come across Plumb, a new brand of notebooks designed by artists. They are the creation of San Francisco-based artist Tucker Nichols, who would hack store-bought journals to create ones that better suited him. Soon, neighboring creative studio MacFadden and Thorpe and the design-driven gift company Knock Knock from Venice, CA, hopped on board. Together, they conjured up a concept: each season, Plumb would ask three artists to create notebooks based on their desires and visions—and the sky's the limit.
The artists who designed the inaugural batch are Nichols himself, LA-based collaborative drawing project Sumi Ink Club and painter Katherine Bradford, who divides her time between Brooklyn and Maine. All three have taken different approaches to creating a notebook, with the results ranging from a tiny journal that fits in your back pocket to an art box that's intended to encourage scrapbooking.
"The artists so far have embraced the forms themselves; the format, the covers, and the how the books are bound," Nichols says. "Katherine Bradford’s Titanic sketchbook has colored paper with unexpected perforations that might change how people draw on two pages at once. Two of the notebooks I did have DayGlo dyed edges, and the texture of the Dot Notebook cover feels sleek and weird. Sometimes a quirky but intentional detail makes a thing feel just right in your hands."
We should all be asking artists to help us solve problems outside of what they normally do.
Nichols, along with MacFadden and Thorpe, have collaborated before with the CH favorite, The Thing Quarterly—an experience that proved to be quite inspirational. "I love how Jonn and Will talk to artists and think about art. And so to some extent, Plumb was created with The Thing in mind. I think we share a suspicion that we should all be asking artists to help us solve problems outside of what they normally do. We need all of the creative thinking we can get at this point."
Nichols emphasizes how important choosing the right notebook is for a specific trip or project, but notes that it's less about "nifty features" and more about the overall feeling. That said, certain components can prove helpful: "I tend to work on a lot of things at once, so my main notebook works much better if it has tabbed edges for different projects. So I’ve been cutting tabs into existing notebooks. I also use tape on the cover to show the orientation of the book because it feels pretty lame to open up your notebook upside down."
"I couldn't guess at this point how many notebooks I’ve filled," says Nichols. "I'm not very consistent, and there have been long stretches where I am almost entirely index card-based. But I have shelves full of filled notebooks. Retrieving ideas from them isn’t that important to me. It’s more that I want to get something down. Once it’s down, it’s in play, even if I don’t go back to it or remember it."
Whether you're rewriting a scene for a play, sketching a 3D print prototype or simply jotting down a reminder for lunch, Plumb notebooks feel like a "home base" rather than an afterthought. We're particularly enamored with the Day + Night set of journals by Sumi Ink Club, which accommodate the different sides of yourself—whether you're channeling Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde.
Plumb launches its e-commerce site today, 12 March 2014, with notebooks starting at $10. The next batch will be designed by Linda Geary, Jason Polan and Nathaniel Russell (whose work was recently featured in our round-up of 2014 calendars) and will be released this summer.
Photos of Dot and Mini Superhero notebook, Sumi Ink Club art box by Nara Shin, all others courtesy of Plumb Goods