Iceland Airwaves // Day 4
Words by James Canham and Tim Boddy
Photos by Nick Miners and Tim Boddy
After spending Saturday partying and relaxing at the Blue Lagoon (naturally heated outside water - amazing. Hail - less amazing but surreal) we got ourselves ready for our last full night out (Sunday would be taken up by Björk mostly) and decided to head to a new venue we hadn't tried before for a new band we hadn't heard, which is always fun.
JC: Pascal Pinon
For our first and only show in Glaumbar we saw Pascal Pinon play their own brand of folk music. While Glaumbar has its own charm and beauty, it wasn’t the best venue for the female quartet because most people were sat in the booths unable to see or behind the long bar down the middle of the room. Having said that, it’s still a nice venue and they played a good set, the particular highlight being their Cat Power style song that they finished on. It’d have been better if we didn’t have to listen to some guy next to us try and impress a girl with his huge camera lens.
We've had a thing for Nedry here on The 405 for awhile now; I first experienced the trip-hop post-whatever trio in a small tent in Oxfordshire at One-in-the-afternoon at Truck Festival a couple of years back, and was taken aback instantly at their bass-driven beauty ("think Efterklang if they were to drive into an urban nightmare" we said). So it's a great sight to see them out here in Iceland filling the generously-sized NASA, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch really.
The set consists of mostly new (or unreleased) material, the opener having a Moderat-esque edge to its structure and style - and high praise is that indeed. Following this pleasant opener is an old favourite in 'A42' featuring plenty of old bassy flourishes, whilst Ayu's gorgeous Bjork-indebted vocals unsurprisingly compliment the evocative surroundings in which we find ourselves in. Oh and the fourth track of which I don't know the name is a keeper. Brilliant stuff, cannot wait for a new release.
JC: Veronica Falls
It’s a bit weird to fly tp Iceland to watch a band from round the corner from where you live, but we did just that. London/Brighton quartet Veronica Falls showed us that shoegaze (thankfully) isn’t dead and is in fact rather lush. Holding the audience well they played through a set of their older (‘Beachy Head’, ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’) and some off the new album which sounded somewhat lighter but more playful than their earlier output (closer to ‘Starry Eyes’). They kept everyone transfixed for the set and were revelatory. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in Harpa at that point dying to hear the album.
JC: Ólafur Arnalds
Second in the trio of acts we saw at Bella Union’s takeover of Harpa’s Norðurljós Ólafur Arnalds played his way through a set of fantastically haunting piano led tracks. With the crowd transfixed and silent the only distraction was the door to the hall being opened repeatedly. Standing towards the back, I found that pretty irritating, and in a packed hall with not far to move, it wasn’t the most ideal. Given the nature of Arnalds’ work a seated venue would have perhaps worked better, such as the Kaldalón, but the set, complete with its own projections was one of the most touching and haunting of the festival.
JC: Treefight For Sunlight
Catching only three songs of the last act we witnessed in Norðurljós, Treefight For Sunlight still managed to impress. Their peculiar mix of new wave aesthetics and Scandinavian pop sensibilities translated perfectly in the large hall, especially ‘What Became OF You And I’, their catchiest song to date.
According to twitter and a few friends, they played a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ after we left which would have been amazing, but we decided to leave and see Dad Rocks!, and I don’t regret it.
I nip over to Faktory to revisit the scene where I had spent part of the small-hours of the previous night in the company of some articulate house, for a slightly different vibe this time downstairs to witness Samaris. The trio consist of young students Jófríður Ákadóttir, Þórður Steinþórsson & Áslaug Magnúsdótti and are thus far most known as the winner of Músíktilraunir 2011 (an Icelandic battle of the bands if you will).
Faktory is an intimate little gem of a venue, all encroaching wooden ceilings, tight spaces and outdoor-queue-waiting-chique, and the laptop-come-clarinet stylings are suited to the venue very much. They're not too dissimilar to Nedry as it goes, another set of beautiful vocals that'd make Beth Gibbons proud. It's the kind of electronic downbeat music that instigates the 'I'm too cool for dancing but will have a good old sway regardless' in the relatively sparse crowd. Final track 'Góða tungl' is a finely crafted haunting tale and is received with a great warmth; seriously, check this track out now. I defy you not to enjoy. I defy you to pronounce it too.
JC: Dad Rocks!
Dad Rocks! are possibly the only act that can get away with punctuation in their name and still be intolerably cool. The work of Snævar Albertsson completed with a live set up, they played their way through the most entertaining set we witnessed here. Albertsson’s mastery of front man banter really came through during the performance, particularly when his violinist missed a part – “this is the part where I’d normally hit you in the violin but you’re too far away”. Their set went through some new and some old but all impressive, and, as Snævar himself said, their “record is out this week, and, uh, it’s really cheap”.
Trying to find things in common between post hardcore act Iceage and other bands here stops at ‘being Scandanavian’. I’m not complaining (at all) but they didn’t seem to fit the bill of modern and interesting rock and pop with their famously anarchic live show and heavier stylings. That being said, despite clashing with about half a dozen other good acts (including SBTRKT (pronounced “Suburtakrurt”) which Tim went so see to see if they had better headdress than TEED) they drew a reasonable crowd and, as promised, a riotous show ensued.
They started with ‘White Rune’ which sounded a bit less calculated and harsher live than on record before the wasted Elias told the photogs “to, uh, go away from [the front]” very wisely. This prompted our very own photographer Nick to abandon his camera on me after a few songs and jump about in the increasingly feral pit.
Halfway into the set Elias left his guitar for the more traditional hardcore role of wandering around being angry into a microphone, which he carried off perfectly. As close to a perfect punk gig as you can get, they went off after 20 minutes of brutal fun. They’re coming to these shores in December, don’t miss it.
Arrrgh it's nearly midnight. Not the usual reaction on a thoroughly enjoyable evening out in a beautiful foreign in land, but for me tonight it means it's time to decide who to see. Mazes? James Muprhy? ice age? Somethings' gotta give. It's not SBTRKT however, the honour of iceage befalling James as described above. They'll all like, Nazis anyway yeah? Pffft that'd be wrong to support that.
The intro is, well, the intro ('Heatwave') to his debut self-titled album, and acts a superb and subtle, well, intro. A call to arms if you will. 'Hold On' follows this in equally as subtle mode at first, "You're giving me the coldest stare, like you don't even know I'm there" Sampha delicately croons. It's pretty much the only rest-bite that I and the baying crowd are going to get for the set, until the drums crash in from the duo and lift-off at NASA commences (again, very sorry). From heron-in it's rave o'clock people.
And holy icy hell Icelanders enjoy a good rave.
I've rarely seen such an instant raucous, visceral reaction to a single note in my gig-going experience as I have to that opening note from 'Wildfire'. As visceral a reaction as biting into a vacuum of pure volcanic ash. Things even get a bit disconcerting at the back as the crowd heaves in and the venue staff don't let anyone to come in or go out for 10 nominates or so, but thankfully this passes. We're treated to an extended well built crowd-pleasing version full of satisfying bass - Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon isn't present to dish out the vocals; but for the crowd at least the lack of a sentient presence is most certainly a non-issue.
The drums are dramatically thrashed by the pair as head masks are lifted (and no they are not quite as impressive as Teebs attire, sorry chaps), 'Right Thing To Do' in the flesh transforms into this focussed house number that I didn't know it was capable of. Nasa, you have treated me well.
This could have potentially been a befitting end to an extremely fine evening, but there was one more festival-highlight inducing surprise in store at Gaukur a Stong. Take it away James…
For the last band of the night we managed to drag Tim away for NASA for a few minutes to come witness the krautilicious grooves of KXP. Imagine if Neu! weren’t huge and decided to play in an amazing intimate upstairs club, you’d get what happened here. Utterly mesmerising slow building motoriks with amazing bass grooves and passionate Rother-esque vox to boot, they really were a revelation and a massive highlight of the festival. Which makes it even harder to hear that their gig in London put on by the now sadly defunct GDLI (rip) was so poorly attended last week. You don’t know what you missed London, seriously.