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Category Archives: Iceland

Musings and Shit: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Mind wanderings on the “reality” of our modern cultural landscape…

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Been spending a lot of my time recently poring the numerous, dense posts from S.C.Hickman’s deliciously gothic blog Alien ecologies ~ the carnal edge of posthumanism, casting a light on the dark, manky pools of thought and conjecture that centre around the inhuman (technocapitalism, speculative realism, Lovecraftian horror, and much ,much more).

One series of posts really caught my attention, his thoughts on, and review of the latest work by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Heroes; Mass Murder and Suicide. In the book Bifo casts his eye on modern US culture and states that murder and suicides, especially ones that garner a huge amount of media and internet attention, are developmental signs of a vast kingdom of nihilism powered by a virulent death drive, and that we should map this corporate waste land of imagery in order to replace “Art, politics and therapy with a process of re-activation of sensibility, might help humankind to recognize itself again.” It’s a book I actually saw on sale in Mál og Menning and one that I’m going to have to buy and put on the massive pile of books in my in-tray that I’m slogging my guts out to read this summer.

In his piece, Hickman notes that both Bifo (and Zizek for that matter) have rather warped ideas on America in that “any form of critique is based on a necessary fiction, an illusionary simulation of the facts rather than the facts themselves.” But it was the following sections from Hickman that really caught my eye

The point here is that we are all living in artificial worlds whether we think so are not. Even the supposed natural world is a fake. Nature no longer exists. It’s all controlled by specialize access, government funding, caretakers and regulatory systems. Even the most isolated places on the planet are under someone’s control. There is no wild nature left. And, know one even remembers what that meant? Reality is produced for us even against our will. We are all will-nilly thrown into simulated realms through the meditainment networks of parent, schools, government, music, art, society…. the whole cultural nexus is one giant psychosphere. I’ve written of another Italian, The Onlife Initiative: Luciano Floridi and ICT Philosophy for whom the complex of Information and Communcations Technology spanning the globe (ICTs) are not mere tools but rather social forces that are increasingly affecting our self-conception (who we are), our mutual interactions (how we socialise); our conception of reality (our metaphysics); and our interactions with reality (our agency). In each case, ICTs have a huge ethical, legal, and political significance, yet one with which we have begun to come to terms only recently.

Of course reading this, you’d say that we need to return to reality, to nature and to “get real” and step outside of this corrosive, oppressive cultural order, this web of simulation. But then Hickman notes…

But can we? No. The notion of stepping outside of the simulator is to suddenly enter the zone of pure madness. Who would you talk to about reality? Once you left the simulator who would you be able to communicate with? What language would you use? And, most of all, if there was an “outside” – would there be a return door? Or would such an exit from the simulated world of late modern capitalism be a one way exit with a sign posted: No Returns. I sometimes think about the thousands of new dystopian YA novels being published. So many of them just pure bunk, not worth the paper their written on, not even good stories. But here and there you discover one or two that actually expose the truth of dystopian critical visions: it’s not about how bad hell is, but rather how we can in this dark hellish landscape of our own making create or invent a space of freedom, a place within the false world to discover once again what it means to be real – not human… but real. Maybe we need those boundaries between Mind and World, thought and being, artificial and natural… maybe it was the very effort to cut the fences down between them, to force a merger between thought and being that has brought us to this world of simulated realities in which nothing of the real is left. What to do? In a world where the boundaries between mind and world, thought and being have already lost their force and merged who will be the one to discover a way to cut them in twain again? Are we doomed to a simulated universe of nihilistic noise where the only escape is as Berardi forecasts: mass murder and suicide? Or is there another way?

You see it’s at reading stuff like this when I think about the material “reality” of Iceland, my adopted homeland. It’s often been noted that in terms of politics and economics, Iceland has been like a test-tube, a petri dish where the most destructive form of neoliberal policy could be enacted on society and bean counters and academics could examine what happens. A controlled study so to speak.

At times I wonder if the same thing hasn’t happened with art, philosophy,and culture as well.

For example, a couple of weeks ago some regulars at the bar I work at asked in all seriousness if Icelandic rapper Gisli Palmi was a joke character, in the same vein as Silvia Nott or Leonice. Well taking into account that Leoncie is actually “real” (just really shit at what everything she does), this question/comment got me thinking. There is often huge amount of discourse about Iceland about how Icelandic culture is so important, how we need to protect it, how it provides money and jobs. Often people ahve said that so many people come to Iceland “For the culture.”

But often I just reply, are they coming to Iceland for the culture, or are they merely comping for a marketed image they been provided of what Icelandic culture is?* When most artistic acts in Iceland come with a jokey, ironic aside (with the artist often emphasising that “it’s all just a bit of a joke”); where postmodernism, masked in the historical actions of the KUKL/Smekkleysa gang has completely obliterated any concrete interpretations, low/high art boundaries, or referrents to reality and essence, meaning that styles and personas can be changed and traded on a whim, that history can rewritten or forgotten completely;When every artist now creates and disseminates a social media “brand,” mixing their artistic and real-life personas into a continuous flow of images and soundbites; when agents and institutions of the real (police, politicians, etc) become active participants in TV, film and media satire, being the subject of joke while also in on said joke at the same time; where sounds and images are pilfered from the internet with ease; when concepts such as “nature” and “purity” itself becomes raw corporate imagery to market everything around us; when the tools of Icelandic culture, even social movements from feminism to equal rights become mediated by a web of corporate, state and quango interests; when there is almost psychopathic dissonance being exhibited by ALL of us involved in the cultural industry that allows to state/believe that we are unadulterated, autonomous, artists and scholars, allowing us to look away/ignore our own positions in the machine as uber-capitalist entrepreneurs, so that The system is no longer visible qua the system, then you have to ask yourself, just what IS real? Do we even know where the boundaries are any more? When Icelandic culture tries to “get serious,” all too often it merely consists of angry but ultimately meaningless social media rants (Like this one!), or often performance art actions of pious inconsequentialism, easily brushed aside and ignored.

All too often, I’m discussing the significance of a certain image, or song, or motivation behind a piece of art with someone, and all too often I’ve been told “But, does it have to mean anything?” And for many this means that you have artistic freedom to do whatever you want. But all too often what it means that it just becomes more fodder to feed the monster of Icelandic capital markets. 

Right now, the idea of total madness in stepping outside the cultural is preferable to the hall of mirrors that seems to constitute each new record release/gallery opening/facebook discussion thread. But i know that way is a fools errand. The quest for the inhuman real goes on….

* – apparently Paris Syndrome is a real psychological disorder. I wonder how long it is before we start seeing some cases of Iceland Syndrome?

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Iceland

 

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PIMPIN’ AIN’T EASY – GIG UPDATE – GRUMBLING FUR PLAY ICELAND!!

GRUMBLING FUR - LIVE IN ICELAND!

During my hiatus from blogging, I somehow ended up becoming a member of the improbably awesome and perpetually disorganised FALK (Fuck Art Lets Kill), the art/music collective that is fronted by my good friends Aðalsteinn (AMFJ) and Baldur (KRAKKKBOT). As part of our ongoing quest to shake some of the dead skin of the rotting corpse that is the “Icelandic music scene,” we’re looking to bring some of the better, more interesting artists up here.

So when the guys from GRUMBLING FUR agreed to come up to a special Easter gig we were setting up with SIN FANG, well…. that just made our celebration of the death of the God-child just that little bit more special.

If you’re around downtown Rvk at the beginning of Easter, then pay us a visit!

Details below (Or go to the FB event page for vids and more info)

Who: GRUMBLING FUR + SIN FANG

Where: Húrra

When: Wed 1st April

Cost: 2500kr (a goddamn BARGAIN if you ask me!!)

but don’t take my word for it, have a listfor yourself…

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Iceland, live music

 

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Live Reviews: Reykjavik Grapevine: Tectonics Reykjavik 2014

 

The Grapevine asked me to go to TECTONICS REYKJAVIK 2014 and cast my critical judgement upon them (mwahahaha!)

And that’s what i did. You can now go and read it online HERE.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Iceland, live music

 

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Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Adda and Atónal Blús

A few albums reviews were posted in The Grapevine online this week after being published in the paper. though i’d put them up on here for your reading pleasure….

ADDA: My Brain EP (2014)

‘My Brain,’ the crowdsourced debut EP from singer/songwriter Adda (AKA Arnþrúður Ingólfsdóttir), is a wonderfully austere, haunting body of folk songs. Playing fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Adda sings a lot about her turbulent mind (referring to her brain as a third person entity), as if she were in a passionate relationship with a partner. With all the highs and lows it entails, the intensity and emotional gravity of such feelings reverberate in Adda’s voice (with accompaniment from her sister Sunna). The rising, sustained two-note harmonies on “Taking Off,” for example, set your arm hairs on edge.

Adda has in the past referred to Joni Mitchell as a big influence and Jewel songs such as “Pieces Of You” and “Little Sister” could sit perfectly well alongside this EP. But while those artists have a shiny Americana gloss to them, ‘My Brain’ has a much stronger, rustic folk dynamic, as if it’s been opened up to the changeable elements of Northern European climes. “Waking Up,” with the reedy flute accompaniment of Georgia Browne, is a dew-laden, pastoral sunrise of a song while “I Will Not Forget,” a survivor’s letter of thanks to family and friends, is definitely the best track on the EP. The undulating meter of the guitar accompanied by waves of long drawn cello drones that drift in and out of focus have a mesmeric spectral quality, all windswept cliffs and remote peninsulas.

If there’s one duff moment in ‘My Brain,’ then it’s “Queer Sweetheart” with its finger-clicking jazz-blues melody, which alas does not do anything for me. But even here, decidedly acidic witty lines such as “You might even catch me with a queer porn flick/But don’t tell my country about it though/Cos there I’m a radical feminist oh-oh/And they don’t watch any kind of porn,” made me spit my morning tea out, going “Damn! You went there!”

‘My Brain’ is an accomplished debut EP that’s highly intimate, even confessional, but never comes across as self-obsessed. There is a quiet determination that resides at the centre of the music. The production also shows that when it comes to creating an impact with her song writing, she definitely gets what folk is all about.

Atónal Blús: Höfuðsynd

It should be noted that when you first play ‘Höfuðsynd,’ the debut album from new band Atónal Blús, you quickly realise that despite the cool name, that they’re not really Arnold Schoenberg does John Lee Hooker. But that’s not to dispute that there’s some avant-garde tinkering at play here. The opening track, “Atónal Blús,” is a murky, buzzing, discoloured breakdown of a song that comes closest to the atonal aesthetic implied of the band’s name.

From there it settles down into a spot-welded blend of heaving psych-inflected rock and interesting rhythmic patterns that could be seen as a little bit (whisper it) “proggy.” The rhythm workings shouldn’t come as a surprise. The band’s main instigator, Gestur Guðnason, was a member of Icelandic Balkan beats band Stórsveit Nix Noltes, and a track like “Balkan Boogie” is pretty much a fuzzed up variation on the SNN template, although it’s definitely more subtly employed on tracks such as “Oxygen Kills.” The rock components themselves are manfully done although fairly standard in their structure and occasionally border on cliché (freight train sounds made with the harmonica and acoustic jams with bongos).

All in all, ‘Höfuðsynd’ is a rather enjoyable listen. The drums/bass partnership have been brought right to the front of the mix, giving what could have been an average rock song like “Sexy Slave” some overloading, thumping menace (Jesus, those floor toms!). There are also several moments, such as when the vocals, harmonica and lead guitar combine on “Lítið ljón,” where there’s a looseness that borders on the unstable, giving it a definite edge in comparison to the stiff, crushing orthodoxy of much of Iceland’s lauded “real rock” music. Definitely worth a spin for rock heads looking for a little more danger in their music.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Iceland, music

 

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Like, Totally Bangin’ And Shit!! SONAR Reykjavik 2014 round up….

Jon Hopkins by Matthew Eisman

Well… that’s all now done and dusted now for another year. Yup SONAR Reykjavik passed off for another year with nay a hitch (Well one or two little ones), and most of our reputations are intact.

So what did we like? Well below is the total coverage from The Grapevine over the weekend, spelling mistake, and shitty grammar aplenty! Go and click and have a good read!

THURSDAYHERE & HERE

FRIDAYHERE

SATURDAYHERE HERE

So in the end what were the pluses and minuses that can be gleaned from the festival? Let’s start with the pluses….

THE OVERALL PERFORMANCES: now this can be subjective because we’re not doing Airwaves here.You’re not stuck in one venue so if you get a bit bored you can be like a punter and go exploring. But across the board, the DJ and live performances I saw were really good  this year. International acts such as DAPHNI and Jon HOPKINS exceeded expectations while many of the locals upped their game.

A MAN NAMED EXOS: He’s been away for a little while, and there’s a whole warts and all story about the guy and his exploits over the previous decade that one day needs to be written. But if there was one act that showed that there was something missing in Icelandic dance culture that needed to be filled, it was Addi Exos. Natalie Yamaho was brilliant, but I’ve gotta say that the level of mixing, set selection and timed drops we heard form Addi was on a major par with some of the best out there and definitely some of the best Techno DJ’ing I’ve seen in from an Icelander. Heck it was some of the best techno DJÍng I’ve heard in a while, full stop. And you could tell he was loving it big style, the way he was standing there, smiling and cheering the crowd on. He’s hopefully going to be releasing remixed and new stuff this year. I will be trying my best to my hands on the stuff.

HOUSE MUSIC IN ICELAND MAY BE BACK (It never went away of course!): One of my main bugbears with local dance music was that looking back a couple of years ago, the house scene was frankly stale as mouldy toast. There was way too much bland minimal house music being produced and played, and many of the older DJs were relying on tired old moves and classics to an audience that didn’t know any better. But the SONAR weekend showed that over the last 12/15 months, there have been major signs that good house music is making a resurgence on this Island. While they can’t take all the credit, you have to lay a lot of this at the door of the guys from BORG. As mentioned in the review, the three of them have the right attitude from the outset, with a clear identity and goals, as well as pushing in new styles, moves and sounds from good deep house to UK garage and footwork. All this has placed a bit of a rocket up the bums of some of the other DJs in the scene. FKNHNDSM was the best I’ve heard them in ages, while INTRO BEATS is turning from a hip hop beats man into a rather nifty deep house DJ/producer that took quite a few by surprise. There is going to be releases from BORG as well as Lagaffe Tales over the coming year. Lets hope that this can be built  upon and people push each other to even better things.

LESSONS LEARNT: Overall the organisers learnt some of the lessons form the problems last year. They had a proper procedure with media passes this year (Last year was amateur hour over there). While their work at the bay view area venue showed the ability to change a venues sound and atmosphere completely for the better.

So what about the negatives? Weeeeell….

FUCKING DIPLO: Jesus man, he was just awful. A friend I know back in Blighty said that I’d find his live sets “interesting” and I did go to his live show thinking “Okaaaay, maybe he’s going to pull something interesting out the bag here.” But to be honest, everything about the man just sounded and felt wrong. As i was leaving another local DJ walked out with me and he was actually angry about what he’d just seen (“How can a guy that be so shit, yet so popular?”). Well he’s taken on that party hard/keep on slammin’ attitude to the nth power, along with getting the local women onstage to take some clothes off and “twerk”… and people seemed to like that. He’s the Slurms McKenzie of the EDM world. they can keep him. Not a good booking IMHO.

WE’VE GOT OUR EYE ON YOU (nick nick): Now every event needs security of some form. Something may happen or people get hurt or require assistance. This is accepted by everyone. But the level of security theatre at SONAR this year was way beyond anything I’ve seen for this style of event. It´s all very well organisers saying that the media focused way too much on the number of people arrested over the weekend for drugs offences (around 45 in total over 3 nights) but It was things such as the use of sniffer dogs on Thursday to the look the security projected (most of them had that look of a pissed of bouncers wearing leather fingerless gloves). It certainly surprised several of the tourists that I spoke to who came to SONAR this year. Add to that rumours of undercover security keeping an eye on comings and goings to the toilets, and it left a slightly paranoid taste in the mouth for quite a few people. Our bright future. Not wow.

SCHEDULING: Yup there were some great acts and some good performances, but there were a few occasions where the scheduling of acts made you think “why the hell did they do that?” It´s pretty much a science as well as an art and a perfect example of this was on Thursday at the bay view area, where you had Intro Beats building up a really huge crowd, only for the ’80s synth rock of Kiryama Family to pretty much bring the energy levels riiiiiight down. There were a couple of times you had things like this over the weekend, where you have dance music DJs playing to less than 10 people in places like Silfurberg which is DJ hell for anyone. That brings me to

YOU, THE CROWD: OK, overall you guys were great at dancing to music and stuff. And I get it; alcohol is expensive and the thought of having to go a whole night in a place that charged 1000kr for a 400ml plastic cup of beer filled me with dread as well. But on Thursday and Friday, there was a real lack of energy in Harpa over the first couple of hours, as people decided to wait until later to come and see most of the bigger acts who were playing. I found that this for me was a real buzzkill as you had are acts who in some ways are playing to no one and that sucked. Your apparently really cool party people who have this legendary reputation. Show it better.

 

There were other niggling issues about SONAR that made me go “Hmmm…” such as the lack of female representation among the international artists, the sense that a lot of the artists booked were from their mates in Denmark (SIX acts from there this year!) which seemed to show a slight narrowing in ambition and knowledge of what is happening in dance music out there*. Also some of the online discussions between locals DJs and the organisers about issues such as pay got a little too overheated, with accusations of lies and hatefulness, general oversensitivity from all concerned, comment threads being taken down and all round internet drama occurring.

But yeah…. SONAR was good fun and enjoyable this year. I’d give it a definite plus, with continuous room for improvement. Bloody ingrates, we’re never satisfied are we? Mind I lost count of the number of times i got my taps aff. Let’s see what happens next year, OK?

And while you’Re thinking about that, here’s a recent remix of a classic EXOS track from another Icelandic electronic Legond, Ruxpin…

* – What was interesting when I spoke to some of the local DJs and people in the scene, that when the subject of the upcoming Secret solstice festival came up, there was not a single negative comment about it! Everyone was really excited to be going and the consensus was that while it is slightly UK-centric in the acts, the dynamism of the music in the line up was absolutely brilliant. Can’t wait personally.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Iceland, live music

 

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SONAR Reykjavik Is Upon Us. Where Are My Poppers & Cat’s Urine??….

Currently trying to get a large pile of course essays, papers and work entries read, written & understood tonight. For tomorrow the beat driven shindig known as SONAR REYKJAVIK starts in earnest. The Grapevine asked me to write an intro to the festival and suggest some of the acts you should go and see (amazing what 3 cups of tea and 2 hours of writing can produce). Of course i was required to be a bit diplomatic in tone on the intro. It definitely seems like a decent festival this year but there were some issues that irked me about this year’s lineup that I will talk about at a later date. As for picks, there are definitely some ones worth watching (Not Diplo though). Read all about it here!

Now in order to get everyone hopped up for this weekend before you call your dealers (Beer is going to be lovely and expensive), some of the artists who I bigged up have released some teaser mixes for you listen to.

First is Icelandic Techno warhorse EXOS who did a mix for the Party Zone radio on Ras 2 show last week with some of his favourite techno tracks from 2013. including the likes of Rrose, Clouds, Randomer, Paula Temple, Orphx along with a nice bubbling start made up of local artists such as Yagya and Octal. A really well put together mix that thrusts along with a real sense of purpose.

Next up is local House cat HOUSEKELL, who as part of the BORG cartel (note – he’s the quiet one) put together this hard and heavy mix as a teaser for his set on Saturday. One hour of classic deep/garage house sounds. Lots of dirty high hats and soulful vocals with some tracks from BORG upcoming debut vinyl release from Alex Agore! Bumpin!!

So I hope to all see you at Harpa this weekend. And make sure you bring some cats urine with you. I can’t seem to get hold of my regular contact! *ahem*

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Iceland, mixes, music

 

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Album Review: Reykjavik Grapevine: Benni Hemm Hemm, “Eliminate Evil Revive Good Times”

 

After a small break from doing this sort of thing, I was asked to listen and review the latest album from Benni Hemm Hemm for The Grapevine. And you can read said review HERE.

Actually really enjoyed listening to this. there’s a sense that his songwriting has “grown up,” in both the sound textures created and the lyrical themes he pursues. It’s well proper folk for people with a brain in their nut. Am amazed though that people haven’t shouted from the rooftops more about this album.

 

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Iceland, literature

 

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