Iceland Airwaves 2019, Day 4

This is our first Airwaves since the festival was shortened to four days. It seems weird to be heading out on Saturday night and knowing “this is it”.

We opted to pass on the big closing show at Valshöllin, opting instead for a more low-key evening. We started with Hermigervill‘s early evening set at Lucky Records. We’ve been to a ton of shows there in the past, but this was the first time we’ve seen people dancing and grooving and Herigervill bombarded us with his funky beats. As an added bonus he trotted out a pair of jams he’d performed the other night with the early 1980s synth act The Magnetics, which was super cool.

From there we headed to Hressingarskálinn, aka Hressó, where we caught the tail end of Sunna Fridjons set while settling in for the band we were there to see, :PAPERCUTZ, Bruno Miguel’s project that this time saw him performing with a female vocalist. Their set was low key and fun, though the PA did give them a few problems here and there. After that was local electronic artist Einar Indra and his unique approach, one that is sometimes freed from the constraints of traditional song structures to provide something both atmospheric and environmental, yet also neither at the same time. It’s hard to explain with words (clearly) and it definitely holds your attention. Last up, at least for us, was Danish musician/DJ/singer/performer Lydmor. Artists take risks when they get on stage and do something that’s way different that what others are doing, and often it fails flat. Honestly that’s what I thought was going to happen as Lydmor’s set opened, but she reeled me back in with a performance that was both familiar and unpredictable, her approach seemingly changing instantly and leaving you constantly wondering what was coming next. I’m not entirely sure how this will translate to a non-visual album, but I’ll be checking out her stuff when we get back to the states.

And after a late-night hot dog (left)… it’s over. At least the official festival is done. We still have one more full day in the city to catch up with friends, and to try to figure out how I’m going to get all these records, tapes, and CDs home…

EinarIndra – “Stories” (2016)

Back in 2014 I wrote a bit about Icelander EinarIndra’s new album You Sound Asleep. It was the first time I’d heard his work, and I came away impressed by the capacity of his ambient electronic style to generate an emotional response from me. So I was excited when I got an email from him the other day letting me know that he has a new album coming out in March (digital first, but that will be followed by both CD and vinyl). Stories will include eight songs – four new originals from EinarIndra, and four remixes by other electronic artists. I was able to get access to the originals, and if the remixes are even half as good as what EinarIndra has created, we’ll all be in for a treat.

“Sometimes I’m Wrong” finds the vocalist leaving himself completely emotionally exposed on top of the bed of rich music. There’s a melancholiness to the sound, and a desperation to the singing, a man confessing that “sometimes I wanna be wrong,” that secret that you’re not supposed to admit, not even to yourself. The crescendo that closes out the song creates a sense of urgency, of energy, the feelings taking on a life of their own. It’s a powerful piece.

“The Songs Are Over” retains the sonic density of the first song, but does so in a more deliberate way, the dry snaps of the snares and cymbals giving it a firmer structure. Here the roles are reversed and the music is at the forefront, the centerpiece of the song, with the vocals playing a sonic role of their own, another sound as part of the overall whole.

“Thoughts” seems to crackle with an underlying electricity, an ocean-sized, slow moving wave sweeping you along with all that raw natural power. It’s probably no coincidence that it includes the lyric, I’ve never been to the ocean / I’ve never felt the cold embrace of death, arguably the most powerful point of the song.

“Your Eyes Are Burning” gives us our first duet (I think there were some faint hints of a female voice on “Thoughts” as well, but they were very subtle). There’s a powerful overdub on the male vocals, a very low undercurrent giving support to the more prominent higher pitch. There are some wave noises in this song early on as well, something I noted in EinarIndra’s previous work as well. There’s something very Aquarius-like about this man and his music.

I’m intrigued by how the vocals and music relate to one another on Stories. In “Sometimes I’m Wrong” the emotional tone of the lyrics and vocals match the tone of the music, while on “The Songs Are Over,” it’s the actual sound and pitch of the voice that that is aligned with the music, functioning like another instrument in the ensemble. Meanwhile, “Thoughts” matches the meanings of the words themselves to the music (more so than the tone/sound of the vocals), and in “Your Eyes Are Burning” we have our most prominent doubling of the male voice, almost like he’s supporting his higher pitched self in the face of this feminine presence, their voices the focal points in the first half of the song but being almost overtaken by a wave of sound in the second half.

You can check out some of these tunes, along with some stuff from his previous album, on EinarIndra’s Soundcloud page HERE. He also has a Karolina Fund project to support the printing of the physical media HERE, so if you like what you hear, help him get it pressed and get yourself a copy. I’m all about what EinarIndra is doing, and I’m going to need to make a point of catching him at Airwaves this year for certain.

EinarIndra – “You Sound Asleep” (2014)

As mentioned previously, I’m now contributing reviews of some new Icelandic releases to ROK – Icelandic Music Review. The most recent has some thoughts on the new electronica album from EinarIndra, You Sound Asleep, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And as an added bonus, he’s going to be performing at Iceland Airwaves 2014, so hopefully I’ll get to see him live before the year is out! You can read the review HERE, and make sure to check out the rest of the ROK website while you’re there!

Updated June 2021

ROK is no more, so below is the review originally posed there.

One of the interesting things that happens when you start a music blog is after a while you start getting emails from bands, promoters, and just random people asking you to check out certain band or album. Sometimes the recommendations turn out to be stuff you’re not interested in, but I’ve also latched on to a handful of amazing releases by new, underground, or just plain not-well-known musicians, and those moments make it worth the time it takes to wade through the other stuff. The suggestions I get from Iceland tend to be better than average, so when someone mentioned EinarIndra’s new release “You Sound Asleep” it was a given that I would be checking it out.

I’d never heard of electronic artist EinarIndra prior to listening to this five song, 27-minute album that came out in February 2014. I’ve only been into electronica for maybe the last few years, so while I’m no expert on the genre, I get the benefit of the fact that I lack a frame of reference… I go into most things without any real preferences and more curiosity than anything else. So when the opening track “Whales” started off with what sounded like whale song sounds, but that I think are actually made by Einar’s voice, I was pretty much hooked. This was going to be an interesting ride, and probably something different. The tempo stayed fluid, thoughout, like the ocean itself, and when the actual vocals came in they had a bit of a modulated lilt of repetitive phrases that, if you close your eyes, make you feel like you were floating just below the surface of the water.

So You Sound Asleep is ocean music, right? Well… no. “Places” follows “Whales” with a quiet piano opening, and while there is a flow to the slowly moving pace of the electronic music in the background, it’s the piano and vocals that stay up front. It’s not fluid like “Whales;” it’s desperate. Haunting. More like a walk through the woods at twilight, or in the early morning fog. The pace increases about half way through, ditching the piano and replacing it with an organ, picking up in intensity. Are you scared out there in the forest? Is your heart rate going up? Because the music is making me feel a little anxious like I would if I was out there alone. In the end EinarIndra brings us back down with a drum beat that sounds like your heart echoing inside your head, getting a bit slower, until the piano comes back in. You found your way out. You’re safe now.

Wait… what’s this? Is it Daft Punk? No, it’s the third track, “The Bearded Man P.2.” But it sounds like it could be a more mainstream electronic piece, though certainly minimalist in its beats and keyboards, with heavily synthesized vocals and even some harmony. It’s a step away from the natural environmental themes of the first two songs, at least to me. But it’s a lot easier to move your body to, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

“Lose My Self” brings it back down a bit to a slower pace, and now I feel like I’m back outside again, on a wet day after the rain has stopped, but the temperature cool and there are dark clouds and you can hear the water drip off of the plants. The vocals have that surreal, repetitive, echoey quality from “Places,” and at times the percussion really does sound like dripping water. EinarIndra is indeed losing himself, his voice sounding spectral and distant, pleading, desperate… like a voice inside your head. Is it your voice? Are you losing yourself? Is this what madness sounds like? It isn’t changes in pace that give this song power. It’s the methodical relentlessness of its own minimalism.

You Sound Asleep closes with “Mountain Blue P.2 (feat. Mama Wolf),” a song that takes a more up tempo approach like “The Bearded Man P.2.” Mama Wolf’s female vocals at various points in the song give this a bit of a different feel from the rest of the album, almost making you feel like the first four songs were an emotional struggle but now, at the end, Mama Wolf is here for you and will take care of you. It’s going to be all right. You made it through your struggles and came out the other side to find happiness.

I don’t know EinarIndra’s vision for You Sound Asleep. I may be totally projecting myself onto this minimalistic, often atmospheric electronica. But there’s a lot of emotion squeezed into these five songs, I’m sure of that. And I for one am glad that he had the courage to give us all a peek inside and shared what was there musically.