Pétur Ben is another artist I was introduced to last year at the Taste of Iceland festival here in Boston. Very interactive with the crowd and full of energy, I was impressed with his style and energy and of course started listening to his music shortly afterwards. At the Taste of Boston gig he had an odd but well put together style, sometimes strumming a guitar and singing about family, other times booming rock across the room with quite an aggressive manner.
If you’ve ever been on an Icelandair flight, and been adventurous enough to watch Ragnar Bragason’s Children, or Parents in the Icelandic movie section, you’ve heard PB. He did both the scores as well as scores for multiple theater productions. He’s done arrangements for Mugison, Slowblow and others around Iceland.
The first album I listened to, Wine for my weakness, is a bit raw, with great loops and clever lyrics. You begin to see his talent and experience with composition on this album, as songs take you on a roller coaster ride through tempo, pitch and timing instrumentally with more of a 90’s style rock vocal sat on top. The album reminds me of road trips tapes we made for driving through the desert in the summer. Tracks like Something Radical, and White Tiger.
And while I dig the old album, his new album really brings out just what talent PB has in regards to composition, lyric writing, and overall song creation, God’s lonely man, reminds me of the experimental rock days modernized to keep it interesting. Remember when Pink Floyd added all the odd jazz elements to rock, when they didn’t care about stanzas or timing, changing things in the middle of a bar? The composition of these songs is quite reminiscent of this. I’m not saying it sounds like Pink Floyd, I’m saying his ability to change mid-song to unexpected keys and tempo in the songs, breaking out into something not expected is a talent I appreciate with the same regard.
His vocals are much more haunting and subdued on the new album as well, lower and slower with a dark almost sinister side to them at time. Some songs, like Cold War Baby, remind me of a modern Velvet Underground, and others, such as Runes, send you on dark float down a stream ending into a marching track such as Visions. And yes, I realized I just linked you to three tracks in a row.
So, thanks to PB for answering my 4 questions, I leave you with them and a great video of a cover song he did back in 2010 of Billy Jean by Micheal Jackson, I love how the mostly Icelandic crowd sings the chorus with him, right on spot:
1. What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves joint to jam at?Definitely Bar 11 on Hverfisgata. Very small, in the basement, very atmospheric and good sound.
2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your bandmates if you would), what do you get?Black
4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song. I’d be God singing sympathy for the devil.