Category Archives: Band

Gangly

gangly

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UPDATE::

As you most likely came here after viewing the new Iceland Airwaves final announcement video, I thought I would update this post.  It’s now obviously what great talent lies behind Gangly, and after the positive reviews I received from their LungA gig earlier this summer, I am more than excited to see these three artists perform together on stage.  The band is working on new material as we speak, so I would highly suggest following them on Facebook for further updates.

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2014 ended shrouded in mystery as a new song seemed to appear out of thin air.  A link to Gangly, “Fuck with someone else” appeared in one of the Grapeviner’s inbox, no description, no details, just a link to a Youtube video.

The vocals are smooth and haunting, backed by an intense but minimal Massive attack-esque beat which combined with the trippy animation makes for quite the haunting track. Sure it’s a bit NSFW but the overall composition is smooth and dark and you hardly realize what the the lyrics are going on about.  It has become one of my favorite tracks of 2014, by the music alone.

In defense of my love for Icelandic music, I’ve been quoted as saying Icelanders make music fun.  They are willing to try new things, laugh off the failures and embrace the things that they themselves dig the most.  This has created an incredibly diverse musical island, and while it’s diverse, they tend to find a way to collaborate all that diversity into great sounding music.

This track is the personification of that theory.  A few musicians getting together, having fun, and trying something out.  Gangly is a collaboration of musicians that are quite successful by their own right, and they somehow got together and created this track just for the sake of creation.  Talking with one of them, even the element of becoming a mystery wasn’t completely planned out, but they are going with it because it’s fun.  This and the actual track definitely make it one of my favorite new songs of 2014.

There are more songs planned for the future, and you can follow their Facebook or Soundcloud pages for more info.

Legend

legend (origin of photo unknown)

Story has it that Legend began on a drunken night of brain-synced tomfoolery between two old friends in a studio which lead to the creation of the track ‘Devil in Me‘.  After finding its way quickly up the Icelandic charts, these friends, Krummi Björgvinsson and Halldór A Björnsson called themselves Legend, and created an album of winterishly dark and stormy synth-pop.

Krummi’s been on the scene for years, Probably most known for his band Mínus, the first Icelandic hardcore band I heard as a youngin’, and one of the first hardcore bands ever signed outside of the Icelandic realm.  He’s a busy man also known for his art, and his solo projects such as DÖPUR.  Halldór has done film and play soundtracks, as well as jingles for commercials.  He’s also an active producer and genius on the keys.  The two have been friends for quite sometime.  Previous to Legend, the two worked with Daníel Ágúst of GusGus on a country style project called Esja.

Some say there is a fine line that’s not to be crossed between Industrial pop-synth and heavy-industrial.  It’s refreshing to hear a band that calls bullshit on that theory and proves you can have both.  Their music reminds me of dark stormy Winter-ish days, yet there is a lighter side of pop floating in and out of the songs like moving clouds that threaten to reveal the sun every so often.  In my opinion, they have expertly crafted music that takes the best of both worlds creating the perfect stormy soundtrack.

fearless

Fearless, their first album, follows that interwoven, layered formula.  One gets the sense of dark, crisp, winter nights with darker songs, such as Sister, Fearless, and my favorite track with it’s deeper vocals, Violence:

And you have the lighter breath of fresh air moments, with the more pop-ish tracks such as Sudden Stop, Lust, and City which is one of the most pop tracks on the album:

The album ends with one of the lightest tracks on the album, Traveling blind, akin to the transition of winter into spring.  While I love the album, you have to see these guys live.  Krummi is a performer through and through, and puts on one hell of a gig.  Always high energy, always a little crazy, always fun.

legendlive

2015 is going to be an insane year for Legend and Co.  Legend is working on their second release,  DÖPUR and AMFJ are doing a split cassette, and Krummi’s new new project KÓBRAKAT is in the works.  If that isn’t enough, Mínus is hoping to finish an album they’ve been working on for 3 years with a hopeful release sometime in 2015.

You can follow Legend on Facebook, and listen to them on Soundcloud.  Krummi was nice enough to answer my 4 questions:

1. What is your favorite place to play at in Iceland? –I really don´t have a favorite place anymore because many venues have been closed down so they (bloodsucking yuppies) can build more hotels. These venues were so important for the music scene. It´s a shame but hopefully there will be new venues in the future, then maybe i will have a favorite place to play again.

2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your band mates if you would), what do you get? –Black and Blue

3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin? –Börn, Icarus and AMFJ

4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song. –I would be a recluse spider also known as Fiddle-backs playing Isolation by Iggy Pop.

Knife Fights

knifefights

Simple yet energetic and noisy, there’s a new album from a new band in Iceland; I need you to go to hell, by Knife Fights.  Consisting of Sigurður Angantýsson (Vocals, guitar), Helgi Pétur Hannesson (drums), Gunnar Petur Hauksson (Bass), and Þórir Bogason (synth and guitar.)   Knife Fights have released the perfect summer album.

I need you to go hell is chock-full of modernized noisy 90’s American west coast style rock.  A smorgasbord of The Breeders, Jane’s Addiction, R.E.M type sounds, with a dash of grunge. The opening riff sucks you right into the smooth-ish track,  Stay Forever in Doubt, and rolls along into more raw, rock/punk tracks such as Gnarbone, one of my favorites on the album.

They’re on Soundcloud, you can stalk them on Facebook, and you can listen to and/or purchase the album on Bandcamp.  It’s $10, and I promise you’ll get your money’s worth, every time I hear the thing I like it more.

siggiknife

 

As there is little out there on the band, this is my first attempt at an interview type thing.  I emailed them a bunch of questions alongside my nonsensical ones and Siggi was nice enough to reply with answers:

 

 

1. I know you’ve been around in a few forms for a year or two now, what do you officially consider your start date?  We released our first video sometime in October 2012 and had our first gig in April, 2013 so somewhere around that time I guess. This project had been gestating for a long time in my head so it’s hard to tell.

2. Can you tell me a little about how you started, and why?  It all started when I decided I was finally not shy about singing anymore or at least that I really wanted to overcome my shyness. I had slowly been learning how to play guitar in my early twenties so it took a lot of time to feel comfortable writing music and singing and stuff. I had difficulty being the focus of anybody’s attention really. By the end of 2011, I had actually written a bunch of songs or riffs and started recording them on my Macbook Pro. Really hi-fi stuff. I started sending them to my talented music friends who then offered to help me flesh it out and maybe form a band, which we did. God bless them.

3. What other bands have you all been in before or are in now?  Our drummer Helgi Pétur and bass-man Gunnar are both in an awesome band called Gang Related. Helgi is also in legendary punk band Morðingjarnir and recently started playing with our pal musician Þórir Georg. Busy man really. Our newly recruited synth-and-guitar man Þórir Bogason is of course the leader of the wonderful Just Another Snake Cult.

4. Who are your musical influences?  I’d say these are my basics: R.E.M, Pavement, Bowie, Pixies, Springsteen, Built To Spill, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, The Smiths… you get the idea. With Knife Fights I just wanted to make something loud and contemplative at the same time. We were conscious about not just repeating our favourite music but rather just go with whatever we feel like. We don’t really care what we sound like as long as it keeps us interested. I also think that music is very therapeutic and that you can really tell if a musician is sincere or not in their approach. That’s what unites all my favourite art is that it seems to stem from this need that we have to communicate something or other.

5. If you had to describe your style what would say?  I’d say my personal guitar style is melodic, sloppy, wired, spaced out, organic and very un-professional. Our bassist Gunnar is like a bastard child of Jaco Pastorius and Fieldy. Drummer Helgi possesses a machine-like quality while also being really organic in his approach and Þórir’s synth-playing puts Tangerine Dream to shame. Basic.

6. You’ve been playing a lot of gigs in RVK, are we going to see you at ATP or Airwaves this year?  Airwaves maybe. Depends on wether we’re deemed worthy of entrance. ATP would be amazing obviously. Buttloads of awesome bands there this year.

And of course, my nonsensical questions:

1. What is your favorite place in Iceland to play?  Harpa concert hall was really nice and grand but I think honestly Dillon Rock Bar is always the most energetic and fun. It’s all good though. I’ll play anywhere.

2. If you combine all of your favorite colors, what do you get?  Turquoise, pink and orange make this kind of dark olive green. Which is nice.

3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin?  I’m a little biased here but I have to say Gang Related, Just Another Snake Cult and Þórir Georg.

4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song?  I have a deep fascination with gorillas so I’d be one of those and the song would be ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite’ by R.E.M. It brings instant childhood nostalgia and mixed feelings.

Give them a listen, and if you’re around Reykjavik, keep your ears peeled as they are playing a lot of live gigs these days.

Kimono’s 13th Anniversary vinyl release

I’m as excited as she looks

This was an exciting bit of news to wake up to.  Kimono, the veteran Icelandic post-rock/metal/whateverelseyouwanttocallthem is crowd sourcing for a vinyl release of their three albums for their 13 year anniversary.  This is one of my favorite bands from Iceland, and it will be incredible when this comes to fruition.  I wrote a blog post on them a while back, you can read it here.

They are using Karolinafund, think Icelandic Kickstarter, and the incentives are some of the best matched incentives I’ve seen in a while.

If anything, you just really have to go to the page to see the video, it’s a who’s who of Icelanders, and it’s funny.  Trust me, the video they put together on the fund page is worth the click alone.

So share this with everyone, your grandma, your dentist, the crush you get your coffee from in the morning that you want to impress with your musical knowledge, EVERYONE.  I really want this to happen, and so do you.

 

 

Bloodgroup

Bloodgroup at Harpa during Iceland Airwaves 2013

Bloodgroup at Harpa during Iceland Airwaves 2013

Bloodgroup’s musical legacy is over 7 years old.  Starting out in 2006 in Egilsstaðir, they now have 3 self produced albums and have performed in North America, Europe and of course Iceland.  Originally consisting of Lilja Kristín Jónsdóttir (vocals), Janus Rasmussen (vocals, electronic percussion, synths), Ragnar Láki Jónsson (synths and samplers), and Hallur Kristján Jónsson (synths and samplers.)  Sunna Margrét (vocals) joined in 2010 replacing Lilja.

It’s been said their name was a spur of the moment creation.  Born out of quick thinking by Raggi when a radio interviewer needed their band name.  And as 3 of them, Hallur, Ragnar and Lilja were siblings, the name fit.

Bloodgroup’s first album, Sticky Situations, was released in 2007.  At the time it was compared to bands such as The Knife and CSS.  The music is layered, with unique use of unsymmetrical breaks covered with heavy dance beats and hyper lyrics provided by Lilja Kristín Jónsdóttir .  The uniqueness of the album quickly made it my first choice when running.  Odd as that seems, the beat kept me going, and the unique breaks kept me interested.  Here’s their epic video for “Hips again:”

Their second album, Dry land, replaced the unique breaks with unique sounds, all still multi-layered and wrapped into great dance tracks the lyrics went from hyper to haunting.  There is still a strong flow to the lyrics, but they carry more weight and tend to float over the beat.  It’s more complex than Sticky Situations, and a lot more mature as well.  Here is one of my favorite tracks, “Moonstone:”

The new album, Tracing Echoes, was released in 2013.  Much more heavy and dark, the album takes on a mature feel.  Sunna’s ability to float over the dance beat now includes a substantial amount of haunting as well.  Her vocals really come into their own on this album, strong but smooth, like a couple fingers of Johhny Walker blue.

Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson (Doddi) drumming for Bloodgroup at Airwaves 2013

Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson (Doddi) drumming for Bloodgroup at Airwaves 2013

At Airwaves this year, they were joined by Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson (Doddi) on drums.  As stated before, I am a big fan of Doddi’s drumming, and it was awesome to see the live drum element into a dance bands set.  Even the more downbeat pieces come alive during Bloodgroup gigs, and it’s rare to see any of them just standing by their instruments.  Sometimes I think they rock out harder than the crowd.

That hair, making me wish I had more than a point and click with me

That hair, making me wish I had more than a point and click with me


 

With flying hair, rocking synths and keys, they get the crowd into the music not only with the crazy layered beats, but lead by example.

You can keep up with their musical shenanigans on their Facebook page and keep up with tour schedules on their website.  They have a pretty extensive track list on Soundcloud as well.

The band was nice enough to answer my 4 nonsensical questions:

1. What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves joint to jam at? KEX Hostel! Great place, great people, great sound

2. If you combine all of your favorite colors, what do you get? Something dark, maybe purple with a dash of green in it

3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin? Skátar, Vax and East Coast Speed Salmon (one of my biggest regrets is not seeing Skátar live, so happy to see them make a list. –RB)

4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song.  We would definitely be cats playing Elton John’s Tiny Dancer

Boogie Trouble

boogietrouble

Disco? In Iceland?  I’ll let you all in on a dirty little secret, Icelanders once disco’d the hell out of disco.  In fact, one of their own, Þórir Baldursson was rather successful in the US working with Donna Summers and others during the global disco hayday.   While Disco on the small island may have been short lived, Boogie Trouble is doing a fine job of bringing it back with their ‘disco-funk-full-o-soul’ style of music.

swankyBoogie trouble started in 2011.  Myth has it the band tweaked a reggae tune to match their style and decided to keep at it.  The members are all experienced musicians, with Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi formerly of Rökkurró on bass;  Helga Ragnarsdóttir currently of Rökkurró on keys;  Sigurður Tómas Guðmundsson formerly of Snorri Helgason’s old band Sprengjuhöllin on drums;  Sindri Freyr Steinsson from Iceland’s Surf rock band Bárujárn on guitar and vocals, and lead singer Klara Arnalds, who has the ability to soothingly punch the grumpies out of any audience member within range of her energetic smile and waves of flying hair.

On my must see list at Iceland Airwaves this year, the band came highly recommended from a slew of Icelandic musicians.  There is a dangerous line that can be crossed when playing funk or disco, but their strong songwriting and musical craftwork bring the energy and fun of that era while leaving behind any unintentional signs of gimmick.  They were tight on the instruments and every one of them on stage appeared to be having a good time.

Most of their songs are in Icelandic, but the manner in which they are written, and the enjoyment and energy the band projects from the stage make the language barrier moot. They do have a few cover songs, including Britney Spear’s Toxic, which you can download for free at Soundcloud.

They are promising new stuff and even an album soon in the future.  They are on Facebook, as well as Soundcloud.  And the band was nice enough to answer my 4 very not-so-serious questions:

1.  What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves, or Icelandic joint to jam at?  The best place to go partying is probably Harlem because even when it sucks it is tolerable. The best place to play music used to be Faktorý but that got torn down to build hotels.

2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your bandmates if you would), what do you get?  Litographicly probably some sort of brown sludge. That or purple.

3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin?  Svartidauði, Nolo, Ojba Rasta, the list goes on. A lot of talented people happen to live on this rock.

4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song.  Cthulu playing Strawberry letter 23, with The Brothers Johnson. That would probably be deep.

Airwaves ’13 recap part 1-The new

blackwhiteairwaves

Pétur Ben at KEX

Now for the recap on Airwaves, Yes initially I was going to do a day by day, yes I was ambitious.  No, after day 1, it didn’t happen.  So, I am going to do a couple blog posts on stuff that was new to me, and stuff I dug.

To start off, Kudos to the Iceland Airwaves staff and crew.  This was the smoothest I’ve seen it run, and I really appreciate how much help they are, even to us small potatoes that dig music and blog about it out of fun and not as our careers.  So, thank you guys for another great year.

As with all 5 years that I’ve attended, there was good, and there was notsogood.  The high points out numbered the rare low points and it’s easy to call this my favorite music festival of the year.

One of the highlights was the off-venue schedule being added to the app.  It really made picking a band during the middle of the day a lot easier, and if the off-venue performance you wanted was too crowded, it was easy to pick something else.  And this year that became more important than in the past, as it seemed the off venues were packed almost all the time, and quick changes of plans were necessary.

DJFOG

DJ. flugvél og geimskip

My goal was to focus on Icelandic bands that I had not heard before, I relied heavily on the suggestions other Icelandic musicians and friends, and regardless of their genre I made an attempt to see them play.  I did make an exception to my rule in order to see Zola Jesus, FM Belfast, and John Grant.  But all the other bands on my schedule were Icelandic, and/or bands I had seen once or twice.  And with over 200 of them rarely did I have a time where I couldn’t find something to see.

Top 3 new bands I had not seen before were Boogie Trouble, Oyama, and Hudson Wayne. Oyama was on my list based on the blog I did about them, and Boogie trouble was a must see, as a lot of Icelandic friends and musicians recommended I not miss their gig.

Boogie Trouble at Hressó

Boogie trouble’s upbeat music came in second only to their lead singers energy and charisma.  She was laughing, dancing around the place, and the entire band jammed away at both gigs I attended.  Two entirely different crowds for those shows, and yet the band created the same party like atmosphere in both situations.  They played the first day I was in town at Lucky Records, and again at Hressó near the end of the festival.  Well worth the recommends they received, and their cover of Britney Spear’s Toxic is not to be missed.

While so called “shoe-gazing” music isn’t typically my jam, I was excited to see Oyama, as I like the music I’ve heard and was interested to see how their live show would turn out.  I also saw Oyama twice, once in front of the 12 Tónar shop at Harpa, and once at the Amsterdam bar the last night of Airwaves.

Oyama rockin the walls of Harpa

Oyama rockin the walls of Harpa

The off-venue gig at Harpa turned scandalous, as the band was just too wild and crazy for the stone cold walls, and as their music filled the event hall, it breached the serenity of the Ólafur Arnalds Symphony experience, causing a panicked man to whisper pleas into Úlfur’s ear to stop briefly to allow the symphony to end in peace.  Ok, not that dramatic, but the band did have to stop briefly, you can read more about it here.

Oyama at Amsterdam

Oyama at Amsterdam

At both sets the band played energetically and together, the smaller set at Harpa was definitely more mellow than the on-venue set at Amsterdam.  And at the Amsterdam set I was really impressed with Júlía, who obviously was having issues with her voice, and yet it came out strong, non-wavering, and almost pitch perfect the entire set.  the Amsterdam set was more rowdy, and there was nothing shoe-gazing about the guitar and bass trio break-down during one of their first few songs.  I highly enjoyed the new tracks they premiered during their set.

Hudson Wayne at Iðnó

Hudson Wayne at Iðnó

Hudson Wayne gets a golden star as being one of the only bands I’ve ever heard at Iðnó where I thought the sound quality was great.  They were so spot on it would be hard to believe they were Icelanders and not from the Mid Western part of the U.S.   They appeared to be having almost more fun than the audience.  So, aside from the over-priced beer at Iðnó, I stayed the entire set and really enjoyed myself.  Was very glad to finally hear them play.

Petur Ben

Pétur Ben at KEX

I’ve seen Pétur Ben perform before, but not the newer darker catalog he has, and not with a full band.  So it was great to make it to Kex and hear him play full on.  Even though the new album is quite a bit darker, the music came off strong and I really dug the new live tracks.

Once again, Kex Hostel had KEXP hanging around, doing live streams of the music during the entire festival.  If you want to hear the live sets they recorded, I suggest heading over here to give them a listen.  They all work incredibly hard every year exposing new acts and bringing music from Iceland to the United States.

Samaris

Samaris

Sadly, the one set of new artists that turned out not so well was the Samaris show at Gamli Bio.  There were massive tech issues from the beginning, and the band looked really out of sorts and discombobulated in their performance.  I wish I could have seen them at another gig, as I was really excited to catch their act.  So until I do see them again, I am holding off judgement on their live act.

Nini Wilson at Harpa

Nini Wilson at Harpa

Last but not least by any means, another great new band was Nini Wilson.  Comprised of Örn Ingi Ágústsson from Seabear on guitar, Árni Vilhjálmsson of FM Belfast doing vocals and guitar, and Björn Stefánsson on drums.  Their music was made public only days before the festival, and yet there still was a near full venue waiting to hear what they had to offer.  After taking a moment to relax via a bottle of Lavender oil, which they passed around for the crowd to inhale, Nini Wilson began a very tight set of Folk-ish rock, moving through the set entertaining themselves and the audience with quips about being naked, not being naked and of course, a few rock guitar solos intermixed.  Very entertaining and I wish the set had been longer as it was one of the more enjoyable ones of the festival.  Can’t wait to hear what else they have in store.

You can click any picture above to see my entire photo set from Airwaves this year.