A one of gig at the Barbican later this month (19 July) will see Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s new record label Bel Air Glamour Records come to life – an exhibition of his work is also been staged by the arts centre. Not only hosting Iceland's leading music talents including sometime Múm members Kristίn Anna Valtýsdótti and her twin sister Gyða, former Sigur Rós member Kjartan Sveinsson and Kjartansson himself, The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner (who regularly collaborate with Kjartansson) will also take part in the show. As a preview a few Bel Air Glamour Records' – a joint venture with the Vinyl Factory – leading players have all written for Q what Ragnar means to them.
Aaron Dessner – The National
"Somehow Ragnar inspires his collaborators to do essentially just about anything he imagines. There's genuine emotion and playfulness in his work that makes working with him simultaneously joyful and a profound artistic experience. Bel Air Glamour records is an alternate, imagined reality where Ragnar is a Clive Davis- or David Geffen-like figure with a stable of artists pumping out the hits. Except in the case of "Forever Love" [which they’ll be performing at the Barbican] the music might sound like Schumann and the lyrics are written by Shelley, Sappho or Edvard Munch, all performed by a pair of twin brothers and sisters. I would say that performing in a vaudeville-meets-19th century-Lieder situation with my brother and twin girls from Iceland is more fun than playing the same National songs for six hours for A Lot of Sorrow, though that was a special experience as well.
Halldór Laxness Halldórsson – poet/comedian/tough guy
“I’m in it for the decadence. The flashy suits, the cigars, the whiskey sours - the gold covered sushi, the parties, the European royalty, the odd artsy friends, the money, the yelling and the laughing. I'm in it for the theatrical traditions - coffee in the morning, a long drink in the afternoon, tea at night and listening to Beethoven while discussing Drake lyrics. As for collaborating - I’m in it for the respect, and the trust, and the smiles. First and foremost I like being friends with the artist. Especially abroad - never a tourist, never a weed-carrying henchman, but always a special guest star. I’m in it for the deep European cool - and the love of people, life, art and circumstances.”
Davíð Þór Jónsson – musician/composer
“From the Rocky Mountains to a tobacco factory in Rovereto Italy. From Stykkishólmur to Vitebsky station St Petersburg. Being stuck inside the moment in a state of endless repetition. Sometimes a transcendental state that takes you far beyond crazy where you lose sense of reality. The moment is stretched so that it disappears. Being a human being is a sad and funny fact, but true. This becomes very clear when performing and exploring the dimensions with Ragnar. Different kinds of music are a driving force, the music is all around somehow. I truly cherish these moments created over the years which are still alive and kicking in the subconscious.”
Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir – singer/songwriter
“On my return to Iceland after a decade of living in the ‘world’, I was doing nomadic off-stage performance art and music, and suffering. People in Iceland, where I really hadn´t spent much time, either had fear for, or of, me. My spirit was crumbling for I had only just returned, but was drying up in my native´s country suggestion of salvation from the urge of expression. Then I come to town and run into Ragnar on the streets - life would become a celebration, with we glorious core creatures of bubble earth in a grand galaxy. The juice of life’s tragedies would flow with beauty and humour, of our own and those who have felt before us. The Visitors was made and lots of other things, with good friends living alongside. They taught me that work is art and art is life and life is glory. I was crawling naked down a deadly wall of rock [literally – for her record ‘Howl’] when they offered me to become a talent of Bel-Air Glamour. We are making Forever Love and more, to be written on gilded pages until death becomes our glory.”
For more details and tickets head to Barbican.org.uk
Picture: The Visitors, 2012. Production photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.