Madteo feat. Sensational – “Special Offer” (2016)

I shared my recent bizarre Sensation story on Facebook back in October, but now that I’ve got some new (to me) Sensational to blog about, I figured I’d recap it here since not all of you follow Life in the Vinyl Lane there.

Last month our friend Ingvar, who owns Reykjavik’s Lucky Records, decided to make his first ever trip to Seattle, so he stayed with me and Holly while he was in town. On the Saturday he was here we of course went record shopping, and while driving back home that afternoon we were playing some Run DMC in the car. I decided to follow that up with Sensational since he has a tie to Iceland via his work with Ghostigital, and I was surprised to find that Ingvar had never heard Sensational’s solo stuff. While driving and listening I told him about the Sensational documentary and that last I heard the rapper was still selling some of his home-made CDs on the streets of New York City.

Fast forward a few days. I’m at work and my phone is practically vibrating off my desk as I receive a flurry of Facebook messages. Come to find out that Ingvar, who went to NYC from Seattle, had been hanging out at a cafe with his record bag full of vinyl when a guy strolled up and asked if he wanted to buy a CD. Ingvar politely declined, but the guy was persistent. “My name’s Sensational,” he said. “I do hip hop.”

If that isn’t a mind blower I don’t know what is.

Long story short I ended up in contact with the rapper on Facebook and bought both his latest CD and this 2016 record Special Offer (signed!). And they’re both a blast. Special Offer includes beats by Madteo, rapping by Sensational, and all of it blended together by DJ Sotofett. It’s unorthodox, as you’d expect from anything involving the master of flow. There are dub influences (“$0.99 Intro”), church bells (“Anastrophy”), and psychedelic instrumentals (“Mortones (Mix)”), so a little something for everyone. But every time Sensational has the mic, there’s the flow… the flow that only he can produce.

You can find Special Offer on Discogs. Hell, message Sensational through his Facebook page and I’ll be he’ll sell you a copy too.

Heidatrubador – “Fast” (2017)

Heiða Eiríksdóttir has been a part of the music scene in Iceland for decades as part of bands as diverse as Unun, DYS, and Hellvar. Recently she has been performing as a solo artist using the nom de music Heidatrubador, releasing the intriguing electro-experimental Third-Eye Slide-Show in 2016. But lest anyone think that Heiða was moving in a more electronic direction, she took a sharp left turn to come at us from a completely different angle with her latest work, Fast.

I mention Heiða’s prior work because Fast is in many ways a departure from what she’s done before – achingly quiet and tender, a woman and her guitar exploring her personal experiences. Fortunately Heidatrubador is willing to share her vulnerabilities with us, presenting them with a wistfulness that can only come from a combination of life experience and perspective. “How many times can you begin… how many times can you begin again?” she asks at the start of “Onthology & Booze”. Indeed, how many? Whether she’s speaking in metaphors as she does in “Root”, describing a young plant trying to establish firm roots, or more directly when articulating the alienating feel of being an outsider trying to connect to a new place in “Curry & Cannabis”, we’re invited to witness and share in her experiences.

While much of Fast’s depth comes out of the lyrics, it’s the music that creates the framework, providing the shape and form upon which the words display themselves. Sonically it has a lo-fi bedroom feel; “It isn’t very far between life and dream” we’re told, and that feels true. Ably aided in the studio by Curver, there’s just enough production to add a dreaminess to Heiða’s voice, and even the occasional harmonica flows as part of the overall vibe, imparting a hint of melancholy without being obtrusive.

It’s easy to lose yourself in Fast’s embrace, but it’s also an album that rewards a deeper listen. Heidatrubador invites you in; it’s for you do decide if you’re going to join her or simply enjoy from a distance.

S.H. Draumur – “Drap Mann Með Skóflu E.P.” (1987)

I picked up this 7″ while in Reykjavik a few weeks back, from none other than S.H. Draumur founder and all-around-Icelandic-music-expert Dr. Gunni. It’s beat to hell, as well it should be given that it’s a punk 7″ from the 1980s. I’ve written about S.H. Draumur on the blog before so I figured I probably wouldn’t bother posting anything about this record (the title translates to Killed A Man With A Shovel). At least that was the plan until I listened to it.

I’m not going to do a deep analysis of this three-song record, but I do want to leave you with one observation: It sounds like a sped up, punked out version of The Gun Club. So if you’re a fan of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the boys like I am, Drap Mann Með Skóflu E.P. is a must-hear if you can find a copy.

That is all.

Svartidauði – “Untitled” (2017)

The 7″ record seems like the least black metal of all the music formats, one I generally associate with pop and punk. It just doesn’t seem to have enough real estate to hold all that despair. But that didn’t stop Svartidauði from putting out a 7″ earlier this year, and don’t worry – while these aren’t marathon black metal slog-fests, they’re plenty black and anguished, and still pretty damn long at over six minutes apiece.

Untitled includes then anguished vocals and incessant guitars you expect from the genre, but it’s the drumming that sets it apart from the rest – changing time, crashing cymbals, and overall attacking you like a horde of orks bursting forth from the underworld. Free listening and downloads are available HERE, but you’ll have to hunt a bit harder to grab a physical copy.

Páll Ivan Frá Eiðum – “This Is My Shit” (2017)

Either old school synths are making a huge comeback or I’m just way into them and keep unearthing stuff that uses them. I’m not entirely sure. But what I am sure of is that lately my Facebook feed has been bursting with musicians excited about their latest finds of old equipment, looking like little kids at Christmas just thinking about what kind of mischief they’re going to get into with their new toys.

Páll Ivan Frá Eiðum is a visual artist and musician living in Reykjavik and his first album, This Is My Shit, was released earlier this year thanks to a Karolina Fund project and on the label of the artists’ collective Mengi. You can get a sense of Páll’s artistic style from the cover, a tuba of sorts that also includes a vagina and a penis, which as near as I can tell is quite representative of his body of work.

First time I met you, I made you smile
Second time I met you, I made you laugh
Third time I met you, I made you cry
Fourth time I met you, I made you scream
— “4th Time Blood”

This Is My Shit consists of a diverse set of songs that all generally orbit around the concept of 80s synth music. There’s the John Grant-like “Tinder On the Toilet,” the heavily auto-tuned “4th Time Blood”, and the eerie vintage horror movie soundtrack of “Halló Vinur”; but let’s not forget the hip hop/R&B blend of “Spaceship” (♠) or the industrial darkness of “Expanding”. And that’s just on side A! This thing is diverse, an interesting twist awaiting just on the other side of each blank groove between songs.

HERE it is on Soundcloud if you want to check it out.

(♠) Which includes a brief industrial interlude, because why wouldn’t it?