Iceland Airwaves 2022 – Day 2

After a delicious breakfast of ham and cheese on some amazing rolls from Brauð & Co it was time to hit the mean streets of Reykjavik to do my part in contributing to the local economy by buying as much music as possible. I spent a good 90 minutes flipping through Icelandic titles at Lucky Records, coming away with a substantial stack to be put aside so I can true-up with them at the end of the festival. From there I popped over to Reykjavik Record Shop, where my man Reynir was holding an Icelandic pressing of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy for me, and I also grabbed some electronic weirdness by Pang, the vinyl version of Egill S’ Tonk of the Lawn, and a late 70s rocker by H.L.H. Flokkurinn that I bought exclusively for the motorcycle greaser cover.

My last stop of the afternoon was Pan Thorarensen’s label/store/venue Space Odyssey. Pan is best known for his electronic work as Stereo Hypnosis and as part of Beatmakin Troopa. With Space Odyssey he gives his fellow travellers in the realm of electro-weirdness a place to perform, and also records their live in-stores for super limited edition cassette releases. I picked up the first six in the series last year and since then he’s added another 20 or so titles. I grabbed another seven on this visit, as well as three new 7” lathe cut records and three Stereo Hypnosis CDs. Any time I can support the small label and independent artist, I’m in!

Our first show of the night was the dub reggae set of Omnipus over at Lucky Records. I have a copy of their new record in my stack of stuff to buy over there and I’m looking forward to giving it a listen when we get back home. Per one of the band members they only pressed 200 copies of this, so get it while you can.

Next up was the mighty Revenge of Calculon, the luchadors of electro-sleeze-funk, and I came prepared with my luchador mask and my custom lucha libre track jacket courtesy of Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane (see below, with me to the left giving Ingvar a fist bump while the band plays).

I also made my filmmaking debut, as lead luchador Rob asked me to shoot random footage of the show using his fisheye lens GoPro for use in a future music video. I’m confident there will be a Grammy in my future for this! As for the show, it was off the hook as one would expect.

After enjoying a well-earned pizza we headed out into the night, catching russian.girls over at Hurra. The last time we saw a russian.girls performance it was a solo gig at the Mengi art space, restrained and experimental. This time around it was a three-piece with more beats than you can shake a drum machine at. A top-notch show in front of a packed crowd.

The next two artists we saw shall, well, remain nameless. At a festival like Airwaves you often find yourself going into shows blind, and more often than not you see something cool. This time… not so much. So I’m not going to talk crap about performances I didn’t enjoy, because these folks clearly have talent (the were selected to play) and just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

We had a few bands we wanted to see late in the evening, but unfortunately both of us have been hobbled by colds and we simply ran out of steam around 11PM and called it an early night, returning to our apartment to eat the last of the pizza and hang out for a bit. We gotta be rested up for the festival’s final day tomorrow!

Bónus Plötur 7″ Singles (2017)

When I first learned of the new Iceland label Bónus Plötur I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I’d likely never get my hands on any of their releases. The series of 7″ singles are put out monthly in minuscule editions of 30 records each and only available for sale at the vegan cafe in Reykjavik appropriately named Kaffi Vinyl. So when the opportunity arose to get my hands on three of the five issued so far this year I jumped at it and counted my blessings. Since all are split releases with only one or two songs per side I decided to just write one combined post to cover all three.

The Reykjavik Grapevine has a nice feature on the label that can tell you way more about it than I ever could, so go check it out HERE. The one piece of info I can add to that story, however, is that the Krummi behind Bónus Plötur is not the same Krummi who appears on they’re third release with his duo Döpur. I suspected, incorrectly as it turns out, that they were one in the same, and had this confirmed by a friend in Reykjavik.

BP-03
A: Döpur – “Frosin Jörð”
B: Roht – “Get Ekki Meira”

We first encountered Döpur, which features Krummi of Legend fame, at Airwaves in 2014. I was trying to track down Holly at Harpa and I knew she was thinking about checking out a venue of experimental music happening there, and when I walked into the red-lit room there as a huge cat image on the wall and a couple putting on a mind-bending show (left). We caught up with the duo again a year later at Lucky Records and once again had our minds re-arranged by their music. “Frosin Jörð” is, I believe, the first actual recording of theirs I’ve put my hands on, and it didn’t disappoint with a raw feel laid over the machine beats, an intentionally unpolished and charged track. The flip side is a new song by Roht, who I’ve written about a number of times recently on Life in the Vinyl Lane as it seems like every time I turn around they have a new song or tape or single. “Get Ekki Meira” is heavy as hell, but with vocals that actually remind me a bit of an even more lo-fi Purrkur Pillnikk. I’ve listened to a decent amount of Roht so far this year, and this may very well be their best effort.

BP-04
A: Exos – “Zoo York”
B: Kosmodod – “Mars Elektro” and “Magnetic Distortions”

I’m not sure what’s up with my copy of BP-04. The others I’ve seen online all have glittery paper on the right side, whereas mine is white, plus it’s not numbered on the reverse. Could it be an early test press? Not sure. It also, unfortunately, appears to have been put into its sleeve before the ink was dry and as a result I have all kinds of stains on the jacket. But whatever, this is DIY stuff. I’m just glad to have a copy!

I’ve never heard Exos before, and the beat-driven “Zoo York” has a slight tribal feel with its repetitive percussion and occasional higher notes that sound like two sticks being struck together. Kosmodod I’d run across previously on the Sweaty Records Compilation a while back, a track I compared to the material appearing on Gusgus’ seminal 24/7. And “Mars Elektro” is in that same mold, a darker bit of electronic music but one that doesn’t stray towards the more industrial side instead keeping the sonics clear and crisp (though the vinyl itself on this side is a bit noisy, despite having been cleaned). The same was true for “Magnetic Distortions”. I really like what Kosmodod is doing – hopefully we’ll see a full-length from him at some point.

BP-05
A: Kuldaboli & russian.girls – “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?”
B: Bárujárn – “Vopnafjörður”

Not only are we familiar with all three performers on BP-05, but we also have releases by each and have seen two of the three live. The combination of Kuldaboli and russain.girls is an intriguing one, and the song does not disappoint – “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?” is a killer piece of electronica. It reminds me more of Kuldaboli’s general style than it does that of russian.girls, and overall it’s probably my favorite track across these three Bónus Plötur releases. As for Bárujárn, we seem to somehow manage to see them live almost every year at Airwaves, though usually completely by accident, and “Vopnafjörður” is consistent with their general surf-inspired sound, though this time with a touch of western thrown in for good measure.

 

I still need to try to track down the first two Bónus Plötur singles – hopefully I can track them down when I’m in Reykjavik for Airwaves in November. Fingers crossed.

Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 2

This is the seventh consecutive Airwaves I’ve attended with Holly and our friend Norberto. Counting the first two nights of this year’s festival, that means we’ve seen 32 nights worth of official, on-venue performances – over a months worth. And last night as we walked home, tired but fortified with late night street hot dogs, we all agreed on one simple fact:

The line-up at NASA last night (Thursday) was the the BEST full slate of bands, start-to-finish, we’ve ever seen playing together at the same location. Ever.

But NASA wasn’t our first stop of Day 2 of Iceland Airwaves. Instead it was Mengi, a small space created and managed by artists used for intimate musical and other artistic performances. It was a great little location, and on this night hosted a showcase of artists associated with one of my favorite labels, Lady Boy Records. The first two hours were given over to a menagerie of individuals working together, moving in and out of the performance area, including Nicolas Kunysz, Sindri Geirsson, and Frímann Frímannsson (a.k.a. “Harry Knuckles“) that yielded a range of experimental electronic sounds, some beat driven and others not. Next up was russian.girls (above), a side project by Guðlaugur Halldór Einarsson of Fufanu fame. His set was exceptional – some heavy beats, at times moving into industrial, and also utilizing his guitar and effects pedals to contribute to the music in some very un-guitar-like ways. Holly and I are big fans of the tape he put out with Lady Boy, and his performance last night just solidified russian.girls as a band to watch in our minds.

Then it was off to NASA. I wrote yesterday about our excitement that NASA is back open and part of Airwaves, and while we were certainly going to make sure to see some shows there, it was just kind of a scheduling fluke that we found ourselves posted up there for both of the first two nights. Norberto and I really wanted to see Bubbi & DIMMA and HAM, while Holly was stoked to see Operators, so we figured we’d get there early and stake out a good location. The fact that Börn was opening the night made it that much of an easier decision. We’ve seen them live before and I’ve reviewed some of their music on the blog. Börn’s style of raw punk rock has attracted some international attention, with a nice interview by Noisey and a recent month-long US tour as evidence. They played a high-energy set that seemed to be over before it began even though it ran a good 25 or so minutes. Next up were Icelandic post-metallers Kontinuum. I’d heard of them before and seen them on various Airwaves schedules, but for whatever reason we’d never caught them live. And after last night I’d like to travel back in time to some of those past Airwaves and tell myself to stop being a douche and to get out and see Kontinuum, because I dug their set. The five-pieces includes three guitar players and they make full use of everything that offers, putting up a wall of dense and at times intricate guitar sounds. A very pleasant surprise.

Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

That moved us into the heart of the night’s line-up, starting with the relatively recent partnership known as Bubbi & DIMMA (above), which last night featured most of the members of Icelandic metal band DIMMA (minus lead singer Stefán Jakobsson), with the man who is one of the originators of punk rock in Iceland, Bubbi Morthens, doing vocals. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect from this pairing, but figured with this much musical talent in one place it had to be good. And it was outstanding. Bubbi burst out like a caged animal, rocking a Ramones t-shirt and looking more than a little like Stone Cold Steve Austin, and he exploded all over stage throughout the set with his energy and intensity. I believe most of the songs, if not all, were from Bubbi’s extensive catalog, and the fans, both young and the not so young, sang along throughout. Musically I stand by my assertion that Ingo Geirdal is probably the absolute best guitarist on the planet who you’ve probably never heard of, and his shredding was all over the music, so much so that at times I found myself watching him and not the prowling Bubbi. The three of us agreed, without any need for detailed discussion or debate, that this set was one of the five best individual musical performances we’ve ever seen at Airwaves. Period.

That brought us to the American/Canadian group Operators who are all the rage right now, and after their set I can see why. A little bit of the Kills, a little Bloodgroup, and a lot of great beats and synths had the crowd dancing throughout their 30+ minutes. I will definitely be checking out more of their music when we get back home.

Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

All of which led us to the apex of the night, the inverted pinnacle of hell that is the doom metal of HAM. We are HAM! We’d secured a spot up on one of the side risers just to the left of the stage, which was the perfect venue for watching the band, watching the crowd, and going deaf. They opened with one of my favorites, “Dauð Hóra,” getting the head banging off to an aggressive start and the floor ate it up. From there it was a ten-ton metal assault on our ears as the band tore through a briskly paced set that ran roughly 40 minutes. The crowd seemed to wane a bit at the half way mark, and it felt like they would be running on fumes across the finish line… at least that is until HAM began their final song of the night and played the opening chords of their arguably all-time classic “Partýbær” (in English – “Party Town”), a song prominently featured in the popular Icelandic movie Sódóma Reykjavík. A mosh pit immediately erupted on the floor in front of the stage which quickly engulfed roughly 30 or so active participants as well as a number who were in-and-out at various times. It got somewhat intense, but showing all the characteristics of a classy pit when two people hit the floor late in the song a space immediately opened up and others reached down to pull them onto their feet. We are HAM. You are HAM.

We left NASA spent by happy, and partially deaf in our left ears. Day 2 of Iceland Airwave is in the books, and it was a doozy. I can’t wait to see what Day 3 brings.

russian.girls – “Old Stories” (2014)

One of the crazy things about the Icelandic music scene is that it seems like most musicians participate in multiple bands at the same time, and often these bands play completely different styles of music. If you go to Airwaves, you might see a guy fronting a hardcore band one night, and that same guy playing rhythm guitar in an electro-darkwave band a few days later. Everyone seems to know everyone else, and no one feels constrained to only play one type of music.

Which brings me to russian.girls, the one-man project of Guðlaugur Halldór Einarsson, who is perhaps better known as a guitar player for Fufanu (who I believe previously went by the name Captain Fufanu, and who we first experienced when they backed Ghostigital at a show in 2009). In fact, we saw Fufanu at Airwaves last year, and in typical Airwaves fashion the show took place inside a clothing store (see below – Guðlaugur is playing the white guitar). I kind of felt bad for the guy who was just trying to buy a sports coat, but it’s Airwaves. That’s how it rolls.

Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane, 2014

The other day I ordered the new Ghostigital 6″ from the guys over at Lady Boy Records, and also picked up some of their cassette releases that I didn’t have yet. One of these was the 2014 russian.girls tape Old Stories. It’s been sitting around for a couple of weeks and I finally got around to playing it yesterday. And holy hell this is an insanely good tape!!

In the broadest sense Old Stories qualifies as “electronic” music. It’s not higher BPM dance, but is a bit more up-tempo than basic ambient. There are some trance elements, but there are also some weird-ass vocalizations like those appearing at the end of “How Long,” one of the tape’s better tracks. Not all of the songs feature vocal samples, but those that do tend to be my favorites, like “Sunny Day” (a song that borders on being a sort of electro-pop-industrial kind of thing) and the aforementioned “How Long.” The incorporation of the human voice, even when only sampled and therefore being used more like an instrument, makes it easier for me to connect to the song.

In an interview with Iceland Monitor Guðlaugur said that the Old Stories material was derived from demos he was working on that didn’t seem to fit the Fufanu sound. I’m glad he had an outlet for these songs, because they’re excellent. You can listen to all of the tracks for free HERE, and it looks like they have at least a few copies of the cassette available for sale – it’s a limited edition of 50 (yes, just 50 copies…) and mine is #35, so I’m guessing there are no more than 15 left. Even if you don’t want the cassette (or, more likely than not, have no way to even play it), if you like electronic music go give russian.girls a listen.