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End of year Brainfart: 2010 in bite size chunks: Part 1 – Iceland n’ Shit…

31 Dec

Wow…..

You are now reading this. I have returned from one of the outer colonies of decent civilisation (Liverpool) where i have spent some festive times with my mum and Mrs Sex Farm. Christmas was certainly a lot of fun. I can’t really remember the last time i ate so much dead flesh in my life. By Boxing day i just wanted to chop some wood naked and fight everything.

But that was in the past, We are now entering the death throes of 2010 as it starts to resemble on of those cancer victims that you get in one of those heartfelt afternoon movies (you know the ones). Right now i´m just outside its door, can of petrol in one hand, a pencil in the other, waiting to put it out of its misery. But before i do let’s have a look upon what 2010 meant to us in terms of da musczak!

Note – If you think that this will be a comprehensive review, then you must be fucking joking! I am now on my 4th Hot Toddy, it’s only 10.30am, and my boredom thresholds are VERY low….

NOSES TO THE GRINDSTONE…

I suppose if there is a phrase that can best be used to describe the local scene in 2010 is “work shall set you free” or “it’s all very well being a big fish in a small pond, but if you want to be more well-known to the masses, you have to get out and see the world, and not rely on Iceland Airwaves or other such events”. Whichever one is more catchy.

Yes there seemed to be a lot more activity amongst many bands as several of them decided to leave these shores to spread the word of Icelandic music. The biggest cheerleaders were the likes of FM Belfast and Sólstafir who spent most of 2010 in far-flung counties peddling their wares, like spice traders on the old silk road. and it wasn’t just them. From Retro Stefson to Ólafur Arnalds to Seabear to Bloodgroup, if you were an Icelandic band of note, chances were you spent most of the year nowhere near Iceland. and of course this is a good thing of course. After all, if aren’t willing to put the effort in, then you can’t really complain if things aren’t going so well for you.

ELECTRONICA TRIBAL GATHERINGS SCARE THE LOCALS…..

Now the electronic music scene in Iceland has always been there, bubbling away in dark corners of many spooky abandoned places. But of course if you never knew about them, you’d be forgiven for thinking that such a scene didn’t exist (for example, did you know that Stilluppsteypa released another album with BJ Nilsen this year? not a lot of people did). But in 2010, i got a sense that shit was being gathered together, people within the scene were doing more than the odd collaboration and that there was a sense of purpose, a sense of ambition to what was happening. For me the main driver to all of this was the creation of Hljóðaklettar. The boutique electronics music label (set up by Runar Magnusson and Sabrina Joy) made a couple of releases this year, such as the truly excellent “Dress Up” compilation and “options” by Mr Magnusson himself. But it was the emphasis on live music, producing gigs in collaboration with extreme Chill and  Electric Ethics that made the difference. This raised the scene’s profile to the point where they ended up with their own evening at this years Iceland Airwaves, which was pleasing to see, especially after much complaining from the likes of myself on the lack of experimental music in previous lines ups. When i went to their special Xmas gig, the place was packed on a Wednesday night at Faktorý, and as our good chum Aðalsteinn noted, he had never seen so many people at this type of gig before. Long may this continue…

KRÚTT CAN NEITHER BE CREATED OR DESTROYED, BUT CAN BE TRANSFERRED INTO TOURISTCORE….

2010 was pretty much the same as it always was for our dainty, airy pop pixies. The sad fact is that as much as most of us hate on them and their ilk, they’re as much as a part of the musical tapestry as Bubbi Morthens and Sigur Rós. And a LOT of backpacking tourist can’t seem to get enough of ghostly accoustic sounds set to weird accentuated female vocals. The main releases this year were from the likes of Ólöf Arnalds (Innundir Skinni) and Rökkurró (Í annan heim).  Eliza Newman warbled on about a silly eruption or something, while the folky kids Of Monsters and Men won this years annual battle of the Kiddie bands competition, Musiktílraunir. At least Ólöf managed to at least sound a bit different, but the rest was scraping from the same bowl of thin wispy gruel that passes for original music these days. I actually saw Of Monsters and Men this summer at a Nokia on Ice gig and was actually pretty shocked at how insubstantial they sounded. Were they really the best that  was available from the new talent this year?

If you are going to go down that slightly weird kooky female singer/songwriter route, then please do me a favour and get hold of “Theatre Island” by Sóley. at least she both looks and sounds the part. And her songs are a lot better as well.

MORE MOLTEN METAL THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT…..

Now I’m sure that my good friend Birkir from the Grapevine and Halifax Collect will create a splendid review of the Icelandic metal year, as he is da maaaan when it come comes to that sort of thing. But there were good stirrings happening in that little damp coal cellar of a scene. The biggest event was the release of Momentum’s “Fixation, at rest”. It was a truly epic, ambitious record of progressive doom that you don’t really expect from an Icelandic metal band (apart from maybe Sólstafir). The other piece of news was that everyone’s favourite death metallers Severed Crotch finally managed to produce their debut album “The nature of entropy”. It was brutal and hideously complex for a metal record and it made my head hurt a lot on my first listen to it (granted i was driving back from Eistnaflug at the time). They also managed to secure some good news in getting signed to a Japanese record label, securing an international release for the record. Oh yeah, Swords of Chaos managed to get their album released as well. It was also good.

Ok i’m getting a bit tired with all of this reviewing stuff. I think what we need to hand out some lovely awards and stuff. Yup it’s time for my INAUGURAL REYKJAVIK SEX FARM AWARDS!

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR: Retro Stefson “Kimbabwe”: Now there are certain truisms about icelandic culture. Everyone eats hot dogs, we set off fireworks on New Years eve, and everyone LOVES Retro Stefson. I understand that they are actually writing that last part into the new constitution. I’ve seen Retro Stefson live quite a few times and there’s a fair bit of energy in their live gigs (although i never see many people actually Dancing at the music. Perhaps they’re too cool for all that stuff), but a lot of that energy seems to disappear in their records, and “Kimbabwe” is no exception. It’s not an awful record, but alas it’s (whisper) not that good. I do understand they’re throwing just about every ethnic style and sound in there, and tracks such as “Kimba” with its meshing of afrobeat  and Cuban rock is pretty much there. But it’s VERY patchy in its execution, sounds very dry and reedy, and seems to be lacking in something. But of course that didn’t stop just about every section of the music press hailing it as if it was the second (or even the third) coming. When i saw Dr Gunni give it a 5 Star rating, i actually pulled a o_O face. Retro Stefson are getting there, but they really need a very good producer for their next album to shove that energy back into their music, and sort some of those awful keyboard sounds out.

BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: Agent Fresco “A long Time Listening”: To be honest i was getting pretty sick of Agent Fresco towards the end of 2010. And it wasn’t really their fault, more that their signature song “Eyes of a Cloud Catcher” was becoming as ubiquitous as Dikta’s “Just Getting Started” and i was hearing it everywhere way too many times. The low point was when i attended the “Where’s the F**king Snow?” film premiere and i heard it THREE times! (once in the pre-film gig, twice in the film). So when they brought out their album “A Long Time Listening”, i thought “oh here we go”. but after a couple of listens i had to concede that the album is actually realllllly good!  As fellow reviewer Sindri Eldon said, there is a lot of intelligence in the album’s sound and style. I can also hear that they may have been listening to a lot of the likes of Tori Amos and the Mars Volta while they were recording. The album at several points also rocks very hard (the intro to “above these city lights” i would expect from Mínus or something). It’s not a perfect record mind you. Some of the more melodramatic vocals brings Kate Bush to mind, while the cynic in me thinks that “implosions” was made with a house remix crossover in mind. But Dammit, i can now say that i like Agent Fresco without a trace of irony in my breath!

BEST GIG OF THE YEAR (that wasn’t Airwaves or Eistnaflug): AMFJ, Logn, Lazyblood, Reykjavik! (and i think some other bands) 08/10/10: This gig at Venue was lovely and chaotic. There was some decent moshing, good loud music, swinging from the ceiling ducts and all round a general cathartic feeling of getting it out there.  But the biggest surprise was seeing Lazyblood for the first time. They’re truly a mental prospect live and you know you’ve been at a live gig when you see them. Plus screamer and knob twiddler Valdi is a very scary man who wears leather trousers with sharpened studs ON THE INSIDE! Kids bow to your new role model.

WORST GIG OF THE YEAR: Several crappy Krútt Bands @ Inspired by Iceland : Ok there were a few high points (that lasted only a few minutes), but it was cold, wet and the fact that several really awful bands and artists were being trumpeted as the best in Icelandic music was something that REALLY stuck in my Craw. I have to admit that Inspired by Iceland overall was a very good marketing project to boost Iceland’s tourism. But of course if they told the truth about how Icelanders really think (they don’t give a shit about the fire, the Ice, or the environment and would rather stick a smelter on every Fjörd if they could), it probably wouldn’t sell so well.

NICEST MUSICIAN TO ME THIS YEAR AFTER I WROTE SOME DISPARAGING REMARKS ABOUT THEM: This is a tie between two people. The first being ginger bearded electro popster Berndsen. i wrote that he has the look of a “transgendered womble” and that only “People who go wet on Morthen Hagens in PVC would like this album”. So when i did bump into him earlier this year i was, frankly, expecting the worst. But he actually said he loved the review! Man may be on his meds or something, but he was a total gent. The second goes to Hjalti Jons, bass player from Miri. Bumped into him before Christmas after i ended up reviewing them for Iceland Airwaves AGAIN. Also made a few comments about the fact that he looked a bit like a cross between Friðrik Ómar and Barney from How i met your Mother. But like 95% of icelandic musicians, he thought it was funny and we talked about the band and it’s music (i also said that their sound was a lot better in 2010). Damn why are these people so reasonable??

BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR FOR ME: OK there were several this year. The shenanigans at the Mayhemisphere at Eistnaflug springs to mind. Also the road trip to the Ölvisholt Brugghús followed by a party at Haukur’s house (where we busted some moves to LCD Soundsystem) is another. But it was probably getting hammered with the guys from mount Kimbie as well as James Blake at Bakkus during Iceland Airwaves was a very high personal point in my musical year.

BEST REVIEWER OF THE YEAR: Now normally this would go to Sindri Eldon by default as he always seems to get to the crux of the record in about 50 fewer words than me (bastard). But this year i will give it to Emily Burton. Emily was an intern that really knew her music as she played with the string quartet that performed with Ólafur Arnalds. As she also came from the sort of christian rock, small town USA that the film “Footloose” would have been based on, she could spot boring stodge marketed as edgy original music a mile off. Her review of the LungA arts festival especially was a delight to read, especially the way the so eloquently put the boot into Sudden Weather Change. She also didn’t like the album from Rökkurró as well apparently. I hope she comes back from the US soon. We miss ya Emily!

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Apparat Organ Quartet “Pólýfónia”: It was just far and away the best record of the year. Brutalised every other release this year.

SONG OF THE YEAR: Reykjavik! “Cats”: Yup they still have it apparently…

OK I AM DONE!! I NEED MORE ALCOHOL AND I MUST CHECK THAT MY KILT HAS NO STAINS ON IT! I could have gone about the films and documentaries about the music scene  (Backyard, Where’s the F**king snow?, etc), or about the insidious rise of Icelandic R&B and the likes of Haffi Haff, but to be honest i can’t be arsed and i need more alcohol.

I hope to catch up with a lot of you all in the new year. As for me? well i shall be trying to convince women that neat whisky will be the drink for 20110.

Farewell….

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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Iceland, literature, music, Uncategorized

 

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