Berglind Ágústsdóttir – “Just Dance / Party Angel” (2015)

I got a box in the mail from Reykjavik’s Lucky Records a few months ago, and among the assorted randomness was a truly random item – a pink cassette in a plastic case with no J card (the image to the left is from Bandcamp). It had “Just Dance” written on one side in black marker; the other side said “Party Angel”. That’s it. I had no idea what it was. But a little internet digging revealed it to be a 2015 release by the eccentric Berglind Ágústsdóttir, who’s 2014 re-mix album Walking In Heaven I wrote about for ROK – Icelandic Music Review a while back. Just Dance / Party Angel came out in 2015 and is available for free listening HERE, though I haven’t seen any references to it coming out on any kind of physical media… so not entirely sure the story with this tape.

What I am sure about, though, is that this is some pretty interesting electronic music. It opens with a very experimental “They Love The Way I Ride The Beat” before kicking in with some great dance jams in “Dream Lover” and “Johnny,” a pair of more traditional female vocal pop tunes that will make you wish there was a disco ball in your living room. I’d been kind of putting off playing this, but now I’m kicking myself because these songs are great! “Just Dance” takes a more experimental turn, like something Nico would have been performing back in the day. “Don’t Be A Hater Be A Creator” gets us out on the dance floor again before we flip the tape and jam to the 20+ minute “Party Angel Radio Tape Mix New York 2013”.

I made an effort to follow along on the Bandcamp site, and all the songs listed there appear on the cassette in the same order. However, following “Party Angel Radio Tape Mix New York 2013,” the tape includes two additional tracks. I have no idea what these are or why they aren’t part of the digital download… just a little extra bonus if you can find the physical media.

Good stuff!

Berglind Ágústsdóttir – “Walking In Heaven”

This is an album I wrote about for ROK – Icelandic Music Review. You can read the full review HERE. It’s a unique album – Ágústsdóttir sent a vocal-only track of a song about a painful relationship out into the ether and invited fellow musicians to take that track, her words, and build their own songs around them. She collected her favorites and released them as an online album/limited CD. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the concept is intriguing and the music was great. You can listen to it in its entirety HERE, so give it a virtual spin.

Updated June 2021

ROK is no more, so below is the full review I wrote for Walking In Heaven.

So way way back, all the way back to 2013, Berglind Ágústsdóttir self-released an album called I Am Your Girl. And on that album the last track was called “Walking In Heaven,” a song that was very personal for her, an expression of the heart-rending pain of the loss of a special relationship. And it was good. No, in fact it was great. For most artists it would have been enough to have put their pain to words and recorded them, but for Berglind the words, no, the depth of the experience itself, was more important than the “song” she created, so she made a clean vocal-only track available to anyone who wanted it, so that they could build songs around it in creative ways. And sure enough, people heeded the call and sent her copies of their songs that incorporated her vocals, which had to be a real trip for her, hearing her words, her story, her pain, expressed using the musical vision of strangers.

The result is a new album called Walking In Heaven, a 10-track CD/online release that includes the vocal-only track that launched the project plus nine different versions sent to her by various musicians. Now sure, we’ve all heard a cover album before, usually some kind of tribute to a past band or long-dead performer. But this is something different, isn’t it? Is it unique? I don’t know. But the resulting songs aren’t covers per se; they’re more. They’re musical collages, expressions of music and pain and loss, but wrapped up in a cloak of creativity, of creation, of new expression. While the experience that drove Berglind to write these words was a raw wound, the ways these nine musicians use her words aren’t simply new and different ways to express pain. Not at all. Because their creativity adds a new element. Hope.

Most of the songs included on Walking In Heaven would fall into the general category of “electronic.” From the ambient Ludwig Geirsch edit, to the atmospheric Tzil edit, to the hauntingly disturbing industrial experimental vision of the Kakawaka edit, artists found different and unique ways to incorporate Berglind’s words into their soundscapes. For her part, Berglind did a nice job in curating this collection, something I’m guessing had to be both painful and invigorating. Arguably the most different rendition of “Walking In Heaven” is also perhaps the most “standard”, the stripped down folk song performed by Heiða Eiríksdóttir – one woman with an acoustic guitar, a rendition almost oddly punk rock in its simplicity and DIY attitude. You can hear the pain in Heiða’s voice as if it were her own, and the minimal accompaniment keeps the whole thing raw and bleak. This edit, along with the aforementioned Ludwig Geirsch electronic version, are my two favorites.

I applaud Berglind for opening herself up the way she did. For an artist to express their pain through words and song isn’t unusual; but it is unusual to then exposure yourself even further, offering your emotions up to others to use as they see fit. That requires an amazing amount of trust, and I hope Berglind feels that the contributors were respectful of her and her experiences. Because I sure do.