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Models' headwear designed by Tomi
Models' headwear designed by Tomi

Riceboy Sleeps Comes to Life

Jónsi Birgisson & Alex Somers launch their joint art and music project with a cavalcade of cowboys and cakes chez Maison Bertaux.

Semi-naked boys serving shots of Icelandic liquor were the least of the attractions on offer at the launch of the stunning Riceboy Sleeps album and exhibition at Soho's premiere patisserie last night. A carousel of guests packed the narrow stairwell, taking turns to squeeze into the understated first floor gallery space and catch a glimpse of the Birgsson and Somers' stripped-back images against the ambient soundtrack of the couple's music.

Held in boxes made seemingly of salt-stained driftwood and dilapidated, paint encrusted frames, the delicate pencil, ink and watercolour pictures show dreamlike visions of childhood. Battered, beaten and stained, the images are as imperfect as the memories they attempt to capture. There's yearning without nostalgia, the sense that something better has gone before and will one day return, innocence not lost.

Coupled with the Soho show is the release of Birgisson and Somers' debut musical collaboration, nine instrumental tracks dusted with strings by amiina and soaring vocal seasonings care of the Kópavogsdætur choir. Glacial would be an easy word to use to describe the work of Sigur Ros' frontman and his partner, but the gently sweeping currents of translucent echoes and the breathy acoustic exhalations can't help but conjure up images of epic natural beauty. Close your eyes and you're standing at the edge of the ocean or floating above a ravine.  Riceboy Sleeps transports you out of your own body to somewhere better.

Before the event Dazed Digital spoke with the pair to find out just how Riceboy came to Sleep.

Dazed Digital: Is there any particular meaning or story behind the title Riceboy Sleeps?
Alex Somers: The title came from a silly nick name I earned from Jónsi from the time when we first met. I was quite poor, eating only rice, sleeping far too much... It is also the title of the picture book we made together in 2006.
DD: How did the project evolve?
Jónsi Birgsson: The music came first. We had been making songs together for some time before we branched out into making drawings and videos together. Most everything we make together carries the same atmosphere and we like to mix our music with our artwork. We try to let them spark one another to create something new.
DD: The music feels very intimate and personal to you both - almost like we're listening to soundscapes that have played out in the background while you've been spending time together.
Alex Somers: This album is very us. It is just us recording music in our living room and in our kitchen. Sometimes we would make music while we prepared dinner. It's just us in our element, creating an environment that feels good to us.

DD: Alex, what have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of collaborating on Riceboy Sleeps?
Alex Somers: It has been very rewarding for me to make artwork and music with Jónsi because after we finish a piece or a song I feel like we are closer. It’s an amazing feeling to create something out of nothing together... The most challenging aspect for me is in our artwork, to try to always be evolving what we do, not to be stuck in the same thing forever.

DD: For you Jonsi, how was the process different from your work with Sigur Ros? There seems to be a recurring pull towards childhood across your musical output.
Jónsi Birgsson: In Sigur Rós, there are four of us coming together, writing songs with our instruments. With Alex, we are more casual in the way we work. It's like he said, we just record in our living room and make music while we make food.  It's not structured  in the same way.
I am drawn to things that I think are pure and honest. Maybe kids and childhood are two things filed with honesty...

The album Riceboy Sleeps is out now on Rough Trade. The Maison Bertaux show runs until the end of September at 28 Greek Street,  W1D 5DQ.