Iceland Airwaves 2013 – Day 2 (“…and a cassette”)

For the first time during Airwaves 2013 I’m writing with most of my brain working – not hallucinating from lack of sleep on our travel day nor at 2:30 AM after a complete day of concerts. So hopefully I’m more coherent, because if not I’ve got real problems.

We went over to Lucky Records today to pay for and pick up all the stuff that I’ve had on hold, and even I was surprised at the volume, which is what happens when you ask to have a few things put aside, but spread out those requests over the course of weeks. That being said, I was stoked about what I had waiting for me, both the stuff I picked out as well as a few nuggets Gestur and Ingvar put aside, like a super limited edition múm picture disc, a couple of 45s, some random CDs, and yes, my dear readers, even a cassette. Let that last part sink in for a minute. This wasn’t a vintage cassette like the Snarl II compilation I wrote about recently. Oh no. This is brand spanking new industrial insanity dual effort from Iceland’s own AMFJ and Auxpan, and I’m looking forward to checking it out… assuming, of course, I still have a tape player floating around in my garage somewhere. Either that or I’ll have to sit in my wife’s car.

I have a stack of cool stuff to listen to when I get home, including new material from The Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band and Emilíana Torrini, plus used stuff by Björk, Purrkur Pillnikk, and some almost completely unknown Icelandic bands (well, at least unknown to anyone not from Iceland!). As near as I can tell I got about 27 records and 21 CDs (and one cassette!) so far… and frankly I don’t have room for much more – though I still need to hit up the flea market on Saturday. I can’t wait to get home and start listening! I’m not as much looking forward to cleaning all these records and having to reorganize my shelves… but that’s the price you pay.

We weren’t too inspired by the off-venue program today, but we had one band we wanted to catch – the industrial duo known as Ghostigital. Not too many bands can be as intense and weird as Ghostigital while still being awesome. This marked the fifth time we’ve seen them at Airwaves and as usual they did not disappoint, this time playing a small stage on the top floor of Reykjavik’s opera house Harpa, with the setting sun coming in through the angular windows on two sides and a crowd who was ready to get after it. And they brought it. There were a couple of songs from their latest album, Division of Culture and Tourism, plus a few I didn’t recognize. The small crowd (maybe 75 people?) was way into it and some people were seriously rocking out. This moved solidly into second place in my personal list of best shows this year, behind only Legend. We also caught part of Good Moon Deer’s set, some nice experimental electronic played by one guy on the controls and the other on the drums.


OK, while earlier I told you how amazing this post was going to be because I wasn’t sleep deprived… well… it’s now about 2 AM and we just got back from our second night of shows, so bear with me.

We spent most of the evening back at Harpa catching heavy metal and punk type shows. Momentum opened with their brand of psych metal, though it wore on me a bit as there wasn’t a lot that differentiated the songs in their set. Dimma, however, looked, acted, and sounded like rock stars, like metal gods from the bygone age of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The lead singer knew how to strike the poses and flat out hit the notes all the way through. These guys are a new favorite, and I’ll be looking for some of their stuff before we leave. Endless Dark followed with their own brand of quasi post-hardcore, a relatively large band with not one by two vocalists – though to be fair one was more a shouter/growler and the other a singer. Regardless, they were hard, fast, and awesome. Muck was next, and we saw them live when we were last in Reykjavik back in April. Some decent punk, but while I didn’t think it was anything terribly special, they probably had the largest crowd in that room tonight. Sólstafir was the band we really came to see, and while they were good their sound was a bit droning, sort of Icelandic cowboys (based on how they were dressed) singing like old Alice in Chains. Their style is a difficult one to pin down – I think their music takes a conscious effort to truly appreciate. A lot of people are way into them, and I feel like this is the kind of band I should totally love, but I just don’t quite get them. We snuck out of there a bit early to head over to another room within Harpa to listen to a few songs by Yo La Tengo, who were decent in a kind of folk rock way.

After that it was off to the waffle truck for some amazing waffles before taking a chance and strolling to Dolly Bar downtown to see if our friend Ingvar, aka DJ Lucky, was still spinning his Afro-beat dance set there. We’d only found out about this earlier in the evening, but we were able to catch the last 10 minutes or so in a packed sweat-box full of dancers, drinkers, and people snorting unknown substances. At one point I saw a guy in a police uniform walking through and thought some folks were going to get busted, but Holly pointed out that his shirt was unbuttoned pretty much down to his pants, so… probably off duty? Tough to say.

Oh yeah, and we saw the northern lights tonight just up the street from our apartment. So check that one off the list of things to see.

God I need some sleep…

Momentum – “Promo CD”

I’m sure some of you get tired of me writing about Icelandic bands. Yeah, well, fine. The fact is that there are some cool bands coming out of Iceland worth checking out, and it’s a great place to visit. So sue me. Or better yet, go to Reykjavik and see for yourself!

So… Holly and I walked into a venue on Saturday night at Airwaves this year to see a band I really like called Dr. Spock. It was about 11PM, and since they weren’t on yet, I strolled over to the merch table to see what wares were being offered. There I met one of the guys from Momentum who showed me some of their stuff. I thanked him, but I didn’t know the band so I took a pass. But as I turned to leave he handed me a copy of their three-song promo CD for free, and a button. I thanked him again and left with my CD and button, figuring they must have just wrapped up their set. But no. Momentum wasn’t going on stage until 2AM… THREE FULL HOURS AWAY. My man was manning the merch booth THREE HOURS before their show. Now if that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is. That’s someone who believes in his music and wants to get it in people’s hands. And that means it’s worth writing about.

Momentum’s Facebook page describes the band’s style as “surreal/psychedelic metal”. Well, I agree with the metal part. It’s heavy. It’s deep. It’s got those sort of screaming, growled vocals you hear from Scandinavian metal bands. And it’s really good.

Promo CD (for lack of a more apt name…) has three songs: “The Freak is Alive,” “Holding Back,” and “As the Skies Break.” All three are heavy, and at 16+ minutes it’s longer than some 8-10 song punk albums. “The Freak is Alive” is to me a more typical Scandinavian metal song. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it’s pretty straight forward. “Holding Back” starts off in a similar fashion, but about half way through there is a break, and the song slows down and becomes much more melodic, with some decent singing. The tempo starts to slowly build as it moves toward it’s conclusion, mixing both singing and growling, before closing out with just a piano… maybe I’m starting to get that surreal feel! “As the Skies Break” is an even further departure (it’s as if the three songs progressed from heaviest to most surreal…) from the other two tracks, though still with the same metal vibe.

If your musical tastes are somewhat broad and you like metal, Momentum is a band that may give you something new and enjoyable. It’s a different take on metal, not just the standard “we do all of our songs like this, except for the one slow song we put on every album.” It feels like the guys in Momentum are trying to explore music, and offering to pick you up in their van and take you with them. So if your thumb has been out for a while, waiting for something new to come by, get in the van and let Momentum take you on a road trip to explore some Icelandic metal.