So 2011 has finally ended.
Thank Christ. i will not miss this year in the slightest.
Right now I’m in the Wirral, currently undergoing a dark night of the soul and suffering from a slight case of
laziness writers block. However this may be relieved somewhat by the rather timely discovery of some beer and a box of Ferrero Rocher.
Of course with the dawning of a new year, now’s the perfect time to to pick away at the corpse that remains of what happened in Icelandic music in 2011 and ponder what it could all possibly mean. There were joyous moments, tears, beers, a few recriminations and more important, the small matter of the music. Hey, it’s always been about the music. And the bodily fluids….
But remember this – do not take this post as gospel! If you do, then you are more stupid that i give you credit for. Over the course of several paragraphs, such boring and useless things as facts will be merrily jettisoned to make way for legend, ranting and puerile name calling. You have been duly notified.
now let’s get on with it shall we?
NO SERIOUSLY, WHAT DID IT ALL MEAN??
“Reviewed with his head up his arse”
“He knows fuck all about music! Fuck him!”
“A review from someone called Bob Clue-less!”
As you can see, 2011 saw the plaudits and praise just roll in. Man it’s was an “interesting” year. Naturally there were numerous good times (Spending most of Airwaves with my Brother and reaffirming some partially forgotten life lessons), intersped with some really “Oh Fuck!” moments (such as getting the title for Ikea Satan’s EP mixed up with that from Futuregrapher’s EP. Which was a shame as it took away from the review, and i meant every word i said).
But what else was happening in Iceland this year? Well…
ALL HAIL TEAM ICELAND PLC!!
- About how the “Inspired by Iceland” campaign, had somehow spawned an an increasingly organised and synergised monster amongst Iceland’s cultural hoi polloi, seemingly hellbent on pushing a certain “brand” of Icelandic music that was all cool, hip, quirky and different.
- About how all this cross promotion and hyping felt more like one long advert to entice alt-backpacker tourists to come to these shores with glaciers, puffins and twinkly elf sparkledust in their eyes and parting with their oodles of eco-cash.
- About the way it seemed to take a rather insular, sulphurous, congratulatory tone, as if everyone was beginning to believe their own bullshit, all the while failing to notice that once you looked past the hype, most of Iceland’s bright new hopes sounded pretty much like all the other shit out there, as comfortable as an elderly woman’s slippers and as challenging to the listener as a two piece jigsaw puzzle. All painfully dull, but almost impossible to ignore.
- And about how you got this hunch/feeling that many vested interests within the local scene would rather you just rep’d the scene, saying that every release was “like, OMG the best thing I’ve heard today!” and not bother trying to apply any form of critical filter and try to tell it like it is.
All of this formless ranting took hours to write and came to about 2000 words, until i realised something;
FUCK. THAT. SHIT
I was just splurging out petty bollocks that totally missed the point, so I promptly deleted the lot. So what if the likes of FTT and other people think we should be “nice” and not “nasty”, and not write truthfully? So what if i didn’t care much for what came out of the Icelandic music scene this year? Who, in all honesty, cares?
If I was in any way remotely serious about writing on what music i felt people SHOULD be listening to and If i didn’t like the media game that was being played in front of me, then i should stop whining and go and find another game instead.
So that’s what i did.
Truth be told, there was plenty of challenging, exciting music released in Iceland this year. Of course you had to look hard for it at time, but it was there all right. Of course i posted some of my likes earlier, so i´m not going to go into the whole bands that i liked, but go and look at it. Click on the links and you will get excited about those sounds as surely as they got me tingling.
SUPERIOR SINE WAVES TURN YOUR PROSTATE INTO A SPONGE
There was something really interesting beginning to bubble amongst the pulsing oscillators in Iceland in 2011. I´m not going to include Gus Gus in this, not because they’re rubbish (their album was pretty good actually), but they’ve now risen to true international status so can leave the local bullshit behind. Down in the trenches though, things were going strong. Breakbeat.is were upping their game, looking beyond these shores and jacking into some of the hottest bass music going today, meshing it with their extensive old school Dn’B knowledge. Go and listen to their podcasts. Go on, do it, you fuck! Oh, and there was the small matter of the resurfacing of fellow local jungle collective, Skýum Ofar. Alas i was away when they did their comeback show at Barbara, but by all accounts the occasion has already reached near legendary status for good time. Excellent work there!
Meanwhile, the work being done by Weirdcore, Extreme Chill & Electric Ethics in fostering an environment to let new acts breathe and attempt to find their voice is a wonderful thing that should be lauded (and if they get a bit of blood and death into Samaris’ “Dark” sound, then they are truly awesome people).
And then there was Möller Records. I won’t go into too much detail (you’ll know why soon), but you seriously have to check out their stuff. Stream it, then buy it. The really cool thing about what they’ve done is that they’ve created a label as a focal point for people’s work and energy, a vessel that can be used as a springboard to get the local message out there. And more importantly, they did it on their own. This is what there needs to be more of IMHO.
BLACK, BLACK, BLAAAAACK!!!
Meanwhile in the world of guitar and testosterone infused axe attacks, things were going along smoothly. Eistnaflug was again a load of good old-fashioned fun that most people barely remembered. And there were big releases from the likes of Plastic Gods, Sólstafir and Atrum (all good), who were joined by the debut album from folk metal outfit Skámold (not so good). But the real fun stuff was coming from the noise punk and hardcore scenes. After what had seemed like a deep hibernation, we saw releases from Manslaughter, Logn and World Narcosis which seemed to suggest that a new punk/hardcore phoenix was arising.
This was duly confirmed with the work being done by the guys at the PBP punk collective. Taking a truly DIY approach to making, selling and distributing music, you could buy the physical formats, or download copies for free from their site. It was all pretty much a breath of fresh air. Take a moment to go there as there’s some fine music on there, especially from the likes of Norn, Ofvitarnir, Tentacles of Doom.
But the most impressive sounding band and live act of them all in 2011 was the mysterious outfit known as NYIÐ. Details on who they are were hard to come by (all i got were a couple of first names and their self released EP), But after debuting at this year’s Eistnaflug festival, very few bands had such a truly terrifying, but all-encompassing aesthetic. Taking on several influences that were visual (black hoods, shirts and trousers, runic symbolism), musical (doom/apocalyptic folk sounds, tribal rhythms, black metal virtuosity) and pagan (passages from Crowley, hint of blood sacrifices), it was performed with no compromise and made all the other metal acts look like Nickleback without even having to be that noisy!
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESIST THE INDIE BORG!
So the sonic onslaught of nice safe Icelandic indie continued on regardless with releases from all the heavyweights (FM Belfast, Sin Fang, Snorri Helgason, Of Monsters and Men, Helgi Hrafn Jónsson) that were beloved by cool party kids and assorted tofu molesters. Most of it? Sigh…. it was not baaaaad, just not exciting or powerful in any meaningful way. The only decent new guitar band that came on the scene this year was Gang Related. Their do-wop surf indie wasn’t the newest sound around, but they performed it with a real verve and bite that most of their contemporaries lacked.
There were two releases that did perk me up. Sóley’s debut album “We Sink” carried on the sounds from her debut EP, hinting to some form of darkened children’s lullaby, a possible alternative soundtrack to “A Company Of Wolves”. The other was Lay Low’s “Brostin Strengur”, which was often more powerful and dynamic that most of her male guitar welding aficionados. Actually had some really kick ass drumming on it too!
So that’s it for the main round-up, so let’s have some nasty pointless fun with the annual REYKJAVIK SEX FARM AWARDS FOR 2011!!!
Gig of the year (Again NOT Eistnaflug or Airwaves): The Palestinian Benefit gig @ Faktorý, 8th October. With the likes of Ghostigital, Nolo, Futuregrapher, Blaz Roca & Sesar A, Prins póló and a truly demented performance from Reykjavík! , it was one of the best times i had at a gig for a while. Runners Up: The album release gigs from AMFJ, Reptilicus, Weirdcore @ Bakkus.
Worst gig of The Year: Actually… I managed to keep away from too many awful experiences. Yay to me!
The “I didn’t know he had it in him” award for ability to expand their musical repertoire to positive effect: This goes to KRUMMI from Mínus for his rather splendid foray into electronic music, both as a solo artist and as part of LEGEND. Runner Up: the guys in hardcore bangers MUCK for being able to play ’60s flower pop with Just Another Snake Cult.
The Edward Cullen award for leeching off other people’s musical power to make yourself look good: To both JÓN GNARR and EGILL OLAFSON for their egotistical behavior when handing out the gongs during this years Músíktilraunir competition. From where i was sitting, you’d have thought that it was them that was winning the awards. Way to steal the thunder from those who were actually taking part guys. Runner Up: SIGTRYGGUR BALDURSSON for hanging around younger cooler musicians, playing the tambourine while they performed on music programme Hljómskálinn.
The “Grizzly Adams” award for best Tom Waits Impression: MUGISON
Scariest moment of the Year: having to face the onslaught of discussing electronic music with SAMARIS during Reykjavik Music Mess. Getting slammed in the face with a microphone during Manslaughter’s gig @ Eistnaflug. having to interview the singer from Iceage and finally realising i´m rapidly becoming a sad old fart…
Best Icelandic Music writing of the year: Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen’s rant about the daylight robbery that is the contractual stipulations enforced on musicians performing at Harpa in Morgunblaðið was not too bad while fellow mucker Sindri Eldon’s piece pointing out the fact that writing about Icelandic music was not about saying everything was great and worth a 5-star rating was particularly timely. Meanwhile, Ragnar Egilsson’s review on the reality of a cool hip night out at NASA during Airwaves made me slow clap till Tuesday.
But the winner was Rebecca Louder and Vala Þóroddsdóttir’s piece on female singer songwriter’s banding together and pushing back against the male-centric tendencies of the local music scene. It was focused, informative and still contained a fair piece of righteous anger. Go sisters!
The Pitchfork award for music writing i most disagreed with: (Warning – now while i may disagree with these writers verdicts, i don’t dislike their writing. They’re fine, clever people who at least care. Now that’s been said, please don’t hunt me down and kill me…) To JOE SHOOMAN for saying that Skuli Mennski’s “Búgí” contained music that was better than anything than Nick Cave could ever produce in his life. Oh man, i love you Joe, but when i read that, i fell off my chair! Runner Up: DR GUNNI’s awarding of 2 out of 5 stars for Futuregrapher’s “Tom Tom Bike” EP.
Best comment said to my face: Winner: Haukur S: Magnusson – “Bob Cluness, you are probably the most destructive force I’ve seen on a dancefloor ever. You scare me!” THIS ALL LIES, PURE LIES! Runners Up: Árni Grétar, AMFJ and AKA Trouble – “Your Brother is a really nice, insightful guy!” These people are all on crack.
Best Song Of The Year: “Eistnaflug” – Manslaughter
Worst Song Of The Year: “Salt” – Helgi Hrafn Jónsson
YOUR ICELANDIC MUSIC PLAYLIST FOR 2011
And That. Is. IT!! let’s hope and pray to the music gods that 2012 will be a bumper year. I’m off to have a beer and draw penises over the walls…