Ornamental – “No Pain” (1987)

Gee, it’s been maybe six weeks since I’ve written about some type of Einar Örn Benediktsson project and I feel like I’m going through withdrawal. OK, and that’s not even entirely true because I did post about the Rokk í Reykjavík DVD recently, and he’s featured there with his punk band Purrkur Pillnikk. What can I say? The man’s musical resume runs deep and he has been involved in so many Icelandic projects it’s almost harder to find something he hasn’t worked on. Having a Sugarcubes level of success certainly helps… and so does having your own label so you can put out what you want.

So thanks to the amazing interwebs I tracked down another obscure record Einar Örn worked on in conjunction with collaborator Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (Grindverk, Frostbite, H3ÖH), this one a 12″ called No Pain by the group calling itself Ornamental. Joining them on the project were Rose McDowell (Strawberry Switchblade) and Dave Ball (Soft Cell), making for an eclectic mix of musicians, though all of who had a reputation for being into stuff outside the mainstream.

No Pain certainly fits that description, though there are a lot of familiar sounds in this blend of new wave and industrial (industrial adult contemporary… light industrial… pop industrial…?). The beats are fast new wave… but with enough quick drum machine beats and odd metallic clanks to remind me a bit of Cabaret Voltaire. The horns also scream new wave, as does the funky bass that almost makes me think of Oingo Boingo. McDowell’s vocals are very high and modulated, reminiscent of the Bangles, and Einar’s unique brand of speaking/singing functions almost like a weird hip hop interlude late in the title track “No Pain,” which is a pretty cool dance track.

“No Pain” takes up all of side A, while the flip side has two other versions of that song (“No Pain #2 (Short Mix)” and “No Pain (Get Ready Mix)”), along with “Le Sacré D’Hiver,” a much more straight forward industrial dance track that excludes McDowell and instead is the realm of the bizarreness of Einar and his crazy horn. The pace is much faster than that of the three versions of “No Pain” and it’s a more chaotic number without the familiar pop music pieces of the title track.

One thing I know for sure – if Einar Örn is involved in something, it’s going to be interesting. And usually pretty damn good too.

H3ÖH – “The Hafler Trio Bootleg” (1993)

I have to admit I haven’t been able to track down much info or get a lot of clarity on this release. I bought it because it seems to have a connection to Einar Örn, the Icelandic musician know for his work as a member of Purrkur Pillnikk, KUKL, Sugarcubes, and Ghostigital. As near as I can tell, it’s some remixes of material that Einar Örn and Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson recorded under the name Frostbite on an album called Second Coming, with Hafler Trio’s Andrew McKenzie joining the duo for the mixing.

Here’s what I found on the label’s (Ash International) website:

Unnamed stars contribute to this Hafler Trio mix, recorded in Reykjavik,
Iceland. Side b contains a rare example of Andrew McKenzie of

The Hafler Trio (H3O) on vocals.

There isn’t much here to go on. I’ve never heard Second Coming, so I can’t speak to how these mixes compare to the originals… but of course now I feel like I need to track down a copy. <sigh> Such is the life of the music junkie. Six degrees of separation.

This was released in 1993 and consists of two songs: “M.N.O. Gol’fish” (19:03) and “Mind Loss” (9:04). Based on just the titles alone these look to correspond to the Frostbite songs “Goldfish” and “Lose My Mind,” but I can’t confirm that until I can track down that copy of Second Coming (Update -> found this on eBay and ordered it; I know you were worried). The music is very much experimental electronica. “M.N.O. Gol’fish” is a wide ranging affair, opening with some persistent drone sounds before evolving into something more traditionally electronic, but without the heavy bass beats. When the percussion is outside the normal electronic beats, the sound is very aboriginal. “Mind Loss” opens with more of a gothic industrial kind of feel before going more straight electronic. The percussion still has a certain native something to it, but also includes some metallic sounds. This is a bit faster paced than side A and the beats seem a bit more up in the mix.

I have the white label version, with the plain white jacket that features only a small sticker. The image here appears to have been for the CD release – so if you find it in a plain package, rest assured you’re getting the real deal. Some good electronica and well worth seeking out.