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“And One List To End Them All” The pick of 2013….

Wow….

Can there such a thing as too much music? Possibly. All I know if that this year, I bought more music that I have ever done before, and I barely scratched the surface of what was going on in the outside world. I don’t even think you can properly gauge a real consensus just by lists alone. But hey this is what the public wants, then this is what they will get.

Here is a selection of what tickled my fancy in 2013. Will likely realise I’ve forgotten a whole pile of extra records once this is posted….

ALBUMS

Forest Swords – Engravings

The Body – Christs, Redeemers

Akkord – Akkord

The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra

RP Boo – Legacy

Nguzunguzu – Skycell

Heatsick – Re-Engineering

James Holden – The Inheritors

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty

Grouper – The Man Who Died In His Boat

Cult Of Luna – Vertikal

These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds

Carcass – Surgical Steel

Jetsam – A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes

DJ Rashad – Double Cup

BARNETT + COLOCCIA – Retrieval

Dolly Dolly – Antimacassar

Kemper Norton – Carn

Special Request – Soul Music

Clouds – Ghost Systems Rave

Pharmakon – Abandon

Machinedrum – Vapor City

Alexander Lewis – A Luminous Veil

Raspberry Bulbs – Deformed Worship

Stella Om Source – Joy One Mile

Miles – Faint Hearted

Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

Patrica  – Body Issues

Yves De Mey ‎– Frisson

eMMplekz – Your Crate Has Changed

Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

 

SINGLES/EPS

Moin – EP

JK Flesh / Prurient ‎– Worship Is The Cleansing Of The Imagination

Bass Clef – Acid Tracts Vol.1

Slackk – Failed Gods EP

Beneath – Duty/Texers

Etch  – Old Scool Methods EP

Legowelt – Teen Romance

Pye Corner Audio – Superstitious Century

Mordant Music/eMMPlekz – Nothing here Of Any Value

DeFeKT – Transmuter EP

Joe – Maximum Busy Muscle

Shifted – The Cold Light (Parts 1 And 2)

Objekt – #3

Tessela – Hackney Parrot

Demdike Stare – Test Pressing series 1-4

Matt Whitehead – A Is For Acid

Daniel Avery – Reception (Perc Remix)

Powell  – Fizz & Untitled

Sophie – Bipp/Elle

Prurient – Through the Window

Evian Christ – Salt Carousel

Concrete Fence (Regis & Russell Haswell) – New Release (1)

Randomer – Bring/Curtains

_Unsubscribe_ – Spek Hondje

 

REISSUES/COMPS/MIXES

Various – Classroom Projects (Trunk Records)

Various – Mutazione: Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980 – 1988

Kode9 – Rinse 22

Various – The Outer Church

Various – Grime 2.0

Various – Celluloid: Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1979–1987 (Strut)

Sandwell District – Fabric 69

Ben UFO ‎– Fabriclive 67

Mike Ratledge – Riddles Of The Sphinx

Electronic Explorations – The Warehouse Session Mixes

Livity Sound – Livity Sound

Alastair Galbraith – Cry

Vazz – Chronoillogical (Glasgow Recordings 1982​-​1987)

Simon Fisher Turner – The Epic Of Everest

Footsie – King Original Vol 2

Demdike Stare – Post Collapse

Blackest Ever Black – NTS Radio Sessions

Various – The End Of Civilisation (Mannequin Records)

Galcher Lustwerk – 100% Galcher

Rrose – Secret Thirteen Mix 065

Einóma – Secret Thirteen Mix 096

Mark Pritchard – FACT Mix 406

Visionist – FACT Mix 398

Grouper – FACT Mix 379

Various – Halha: 20 Years Of Downwards

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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ANOTHER BORING ICELANDIC END OF YEAR 2013 PICTURE LIST, BLAH, BLAH, ETC……

As it’s the time of year when we get all listicle MAD and stuff, it’s probably the time for me to try to sort out if there were any albums that would make some kind of best of list, etc.

So here are some Icelandic albums that did (Or didn’t) get me going in 2013. In no particular order of course!

 THESE GAVE A STRANGE TINGLY FEELING

tranquil

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THESE CREATED A DIZZY ELATED FEELING…..

daneil bjarnarsoin

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THESE HELPED CURE MY ASYMMETRICAL SOUL…..

mammut

benni

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Honourable Mentions

Morð – Morð

Cell7 – Cellf

Sin Fang – Flowers

Strigaskór nr. 42 – Armadillo

Múm – Smilewound

Amiina – The Lighthouse Sessions

COULDN’T, WOULDN’T, REALLY SHOULDN’T

Kaleo – Kaleo

Grúska Babúska – Grúska Babúska

Steinar – Beginning

Leaves – See You In The Afterglow

Jóhann Kristinsson – Headphones

Per:Segulsvið – Tónlist fyrir Hana

Dj. flugvél og geimskip – Glamúr í geimnum

Einar Lödahl – Tímar án ráða

And way too much other shit to go into….

(Edit – a slight change to the title cos it was apparently causing a little confusion)

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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Passing Judgement: Mammút, ‘Komdu Til Mín, Svarta Systir”

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Five years can be a long time between albums in music. If you’re lucky, then you can be a band like Portishead or even HAM, where the absence only serves to increase the expectations of your fans. Of you could go the way of the likes of The Stone Roses and Guns N’ Roses, whose long absence and delays in making and releasing their music only seemed to rob them of any energy and impetus, the end result being music that was boring and stodgy, making you wonder why they bothered in the first place.

With this in mind, it’s still hard to get my head round the fact that this is the same amount of time that has passed since the release of ‘Karkari,’ the second album from Icelandic indie rockers, MAMMÚT. What have they been doing with time? Well instead of living in plush country mansions, nurturing heroin addictions and battling with world music and gout, they’re still in plain public view. playing gigs and festivals, getting art degrees, having fun and generally becoming elder statespeople (While still being young and fresh-faced) of the Icelandic indie music scene.

But after the procrastination, the long wait is over and Mammút have now finally released their third album, ‘Komdu Til Mín, Svarta Systir,’ (or ‘Come To Me My Black Sister,’ in English). The album itself seems to have been a fairly long and slightly painful germination process, with work starting on it back in 2010, but with the band, according to interviews, starting and restarting it from scratch several times over. The band have also been quoted as saying that at one point they thought the album would never be finished. But somehow they’ve managed to break through this impasse and in doing so have given us an album that is rather different to what’s come before. Whereas ‘Mammut’ and ‘Karkari’ were rough, murky, yet energetic albums of indie powerpop, with KTMSS we see these wee cherubs breaking from their enclosed spaces and is running around the hills bright-eyed and crystal clear. 

You can tell easily tell that a lot of time and effort has been spent on this album, with the production work coming from longtime collaborator Flex Arnarson, and Magnús Árni Öder (Who did some rather sterling work with Lay Low on ‘Brostin Strengur’). It feels like in trying to get an album that they were satisfied with, Mammút have taken their entire sound and recording process, stripped it down to their constituent parts and given them a through working over before slotting everything back together. Now their music sounds like a well oiled machine, with every instrument and sound overdub linking effortlessly with everything else

From the first track “Ströndin,” with its intro of woodblock style percussion and icy trumpet synths, the real delight in listening to KTMSS is how everything just seems to have stepped up a gear. For example, the drums of Andri Bjartur are no longer a case of your standard “My first indie drumkit.” Instead they rumble and tumble all over the place with some real potency, with the smashing intro and rolling rhythms he does on “Bloðberg,” a clear example. Meanwhile, the guitars of Alexandra and Arnar throughout the album are clean and pure, only garnished with some reverb, sustain and delay. Songs such as “Til Mín,” and “Ró” display that sort of rural expanse that you often hear in the early music of Explosions In The Sky and Band Of Horses.

But it’s the vocals of Kata that define the real emotional core of KTMSS. Yes, like most other people who first came to Iceland, when I heard her sing “Svefnsýkt” all those many years ago, I made the mistake of thinking that this was some obscure Björk song from the 1990s. But despite the odd vocal infection that seems inherent in women who sing in Icelandic, she has a timbre and register that’s hers alone. On this album she really pushes her range and expression, with one minute it”s nothing but soft, delicate, almost “Krútt” high registering notes, then it descends into full throated wails and screams. A song such as “,” where it is just her and a single guitar, she is the one that give the song that sense of sadness and portent. 

With its widescreen sound, grandeur of execution, and feelings of using your ears for eyes, Mammút seem to have moved into that territory of making “Big” music, of not being a rock act that uses standard rock tropes such as riffs or power chords. Instead they use the studio as an extra instrument to fill up the music with vocal overdubs, atmospheric vapours and keyboard glints, that takes their music beyond the confines of 101 and into the big bad world outside. This kind of approach is not new of course. You can trace a lineage of bands making “Big” music from the ’80s, with the likes of U2, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Simple Minds, through to ’90s indie acts such as James, all the way to modern artists such as Sigur Rós and even Coldplay (ahem). Bands that started off intense, twitchy and claustrophobic, but who grew into making music that traded with elemental imagery that invoked feelings of natural wonder. You know, glaciers, canyons, prairies, and other landscape based gubbins.

But before you start thinking that they’re on the road to making shitty, bombastic stadium rock, it worth noting that Mammút have also managed to make a very economical record that uses the decidedly post-punk idea of taking out anything that would be deemed superfluous or needlessly extravagant. Everything that is in that album is there for a purpose. There are no such things as solos, repeating of choruses in different keys, or long drawn out track closings. In fact many of the songs end abruptly, such as in the case of “Þau Svæfa,” where the song actually breaks down as it was skipping on your CD player. Add to this the fact that the album has only 9 tracks that total 35 minutes, then you have an album that is tight, and very much focused in what it wants to get across to the listener.

While ‘Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir,” is an album that couldn’t be described as “mental,” (As one friend of mine said it was), it’s most definitely an album that shows Mammút to at least be stretching themselves both in their sounds and themes.  As an exercise in production, atmosphere and texture, I’ve gotta say that it certainly smacks a lot of its contemporaries out of the park.

‘Komdu til Mig Svarta Systir,’ is available via Record Records, or from Tonlist.is 

EPILOGUE: Naturally, of course, with anything to do with Icelandic art and culture, there always has to be some kind of drama, and with Mammút there is no exception. In this case the album title ‘Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir’  (Taken from a poem by acclaimed Icelandic poet Davíð Stefánsson, though like most non-Icelanders I’ve never heard of him), has seen Kata recently displaying a literal, artistic interpretation of the phrase in her stage presence, with her donning black facepaint, and looking like she’s spent a day in the mines, or playing a chimney sweep extra in ‘Mary Poppins’ (You can see this when they appeared on Studio A last week) This has led to a fair bit of hand-wringing and slightly breathless commentary on some Icelandic FB music groups about the reasoning and nature in using the “Blackface.” (Even I got involved for a cpl of posts!) is it offensive? Is it derogatory? Is it art? Is it political correctness gone maZZzzzzz…..

Here’s the thing. Unlike the previous artistic generations, musicians and artists like Mammút are not idiots and they will at least have a passing awareness of the outside world and what goes on with regards to race, culture, and the history of appropriation. Context, as with everything, is the key here. Unlike the usual cases in the past of blackface (Where white people are impersonating actual black people and their perceived mannerisms), Kata isn’t really impersonating an actual black person, but simply taking on the elemental aspect of the nature of  the use of the word “Black” in the album title and the poem. It doesn’t help that many foreign fans of the band will be unaware of the the origins of the title and where it comes from, so hence they go “What’s with the blackface?” But I don’t think we need to get all riled with indignation about this. The intent is not what a lot of people will think it is.

Of course you can still argue though on whether or doing such an entry-level gesture of artistic expression  (“The album title talks of a black sister, so therefore I will put on black make up and will be her!”) is one that has any merit or not. Personally, I wished that she had gone the way of whatshername Die Antwoord and done a whole body paint get up. that way she would have looked like an evil smurf!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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Linkbait!! (Or… stuff I did gone done wrote…)

More posts will be following soon while I get back on the writing horse….

In the meantime, here are some things I’ve written over the last couple of weeks to tide you over for the next couple of hours.

AIRWAVES – Yeah i wrote some reviews on it. No I’m not going to do an analysis/review on it this year. Can’t be doing with it any more these days (I have my reasons). But still, here’s what happened

Thursday night at Hressó

Saturday night at Harlem

Saturday night at Cafe Amsterdam

After all that was done, I decided to decompress by going and listening to some loud and nasty punk 7″ singles with Birkir Fjalar for his HALIFAX COLLECT blog. You can read the results HERE.

 

NOW BEGONE CHILDREN!!!

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Iceland, literature

 

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Reykjavik Grapevine: Reviews: Live: Wacken Metal Battle 2013

So last month, local technical death metal band OPHIDIAN I won the annual WACKEN METAL Battle at Harpa Concert Hall.

Of course myself and GV intern John (Random Quote. “Oh Maaaaaan! I so fucking stoked for this! METAL!!”) went along to check out the proceedings.

You can read about it all HERE. And while you’re reading it you can also hear the madness that comes from their brains below….

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Iceland, live music, music

 

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Live Reviews: Reykjavik Grapevine: Musiktilraunir 2013! The Fresh First Pressings!

A few weeks ago, I decided to go back to the site of many a troubled moment for yours truly and review once again the unsigned bands competition, Musiktilraunir. And, after some finicky editing work from the masters, the article is now available HERE at the Grapevine site to read in all it’s glory,

It wasn’t too bad an experience (although they wouldn’t allow me to walk into the venue with my beer – FASCISTS!!! etc), but this time my wingman was the ever effusive (Yet totally cynical) Birkir Fjalar, who was there to provide a second voice and some context. Birkir is actually the second person I’ve been with to this who was once a judge at the contest (The other was Sindri Eldon), so his opinions on the contest are something that people should take good notice of.

Musiktilraunir seems to have really changed now since I started laying my eyes and ears on the thing 4 years ago. Since OMAM have signed to Universal, and now Samarís have signed to One Little Indian in the UK, the contest is now seen by many people as a clear fast track to the top. Win this, and you are at least guaranteed a big shot at something. In fact the prizes this year were also shifted with pretty much the winner getting everything (Including 250,000 ISK from record label Sena), and the runners-up getting comparatively fuck all, not even a spot at Iceland Airwaves.

Because of this the acts show a more polished and professional schtick with everyone seeming to exhibit clear signs of over earnestness. In fact only the acts Skerðing or In The Company Of Men seemed to have no fucks to give about the austere sense of the occasion. A lot of the contestants are a lot older now with most being in their early/near mid ’20s (perhaps a sign of the growing delayed adulthood that most of society exhibits these days?), and the “Craft” is so much more evident now. Yes, the “Craft.” I had to explain this to my editor, being that you get people who are so proficient on their instruments, but when it comes to actually making really interesting songs or doing something that would make you sit up and take notice, they lack that certain spark. Some of the acts such as CeaseTone showed this in spades.

Indeed what was not conveyed in the review was Birkir’s views on the how the event looks and feels now compared to previous years  He was frankly bored over the first half,  and apart from a few acts that did interest him (Such as Kjurr), it wasn’t really raising his blood pressure that much. He noted that back in the day, many of the acts were much younger, near to the age of the kids that were in Yellow Void. He also noted that in past contests, there was also more of a sense of youthful aggression and snottiness, that they were doing things THEIR way. It was interesting to note that the GV Facebook page that day posted a video of cult ’90s Icelandic band Botnleðja performing at the contest back in 1995. the fact is that this is way rougher, harsher and brighter than what was played this year, yet I honestly think that if this band entered this year, they’d never actually reach the final. 

But there were some good points. Both of us did think that for the best part, the judges got it right with the final three, especially the winners, VÖK. I do hope that they can really expand on their sound and try to do their own thing away from the meddling of many of the more established scene heads. What was impressive and made them more distinctive than Samarís was that they had better melodic hooks and a much more powerful, and more sensual vocalist. There is some real potential going on there

Ahh, perhaps all of this comes in waves. Perhaps in a year or two, we’ll see bands kick against this sterile nonsense and try to do something to stir up the established order of things. If it does, I certainly hope to be there at the front laughing my head off.

To sign off, here’s the best song from the winner Vök. I’m off to the pub now…

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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Musings And Shit: “Shut up, you fuck! I can’t hear the drop with your yacking!” A SONAR Requiem…

Um-tss, um-tss, um-tss…..

Yup last week saw every man, woman and sheep in the greater Reykjavik area (And Beyond) put on their Ravey Davey Gravey faces as they headed over to Harpa to have some fun at the first SONAR festival to be held at Reykjavik. Myself and a few other refugee writers wrote about our exploits while we were there. And you should read them. There’s lots of insight and swearing and stuff!

Read Friday HERE

Read Saturday HERE.

So in the end how was it? Well I’m  not going to go too overboard with the criticism. the fact remains that as it was the first year, you almost expect quite a few things to go wrong and some aspects of planning and execution to take a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-arse approach. But it needs saying that there were a few issues that will need addressing by the organisers themselves for next year, such as:

– The procedures for picking up press passes from the Box Office was farcical and amateurish at best. We almost had the situation where our Editor almost didn’t get in because someone else took her pass.

– Crowd control could be improved. You had two big halls with two entrances to each, but only one was used. creating a situation where with booze and chemicals, there were a couple of flashpoints between punters pushing past each other. Maybe one door for entry/one for exit?

– Sound and lighting. These were overall great (Ghostigital did fuck us over with the volume, although that was their intention!). But the Bay Area had quite a few problem in the sound/light dept. It was good that you sought to rectify this, but perhaps a different approach was needed? Can Kaldalón be used in any fashion at all?

– Prices. OK you had small and large cans of beer for 800 and 1000ISK each. Annoying, but standard festival gouging of the punters. But what WAS sneaky and petty was that Harpa only allowed small cans to be available on Friday, with the large ones somehow becoming available on Saturday. No matter how you look at it, you were treating us like fucking plebs Harpa. Remember who it is that’s stopping you and your debt from rolling into the sea.

OK that sounds awful. But one, two, or all of those things are not enough to derail a festival. These are lessons learned and it was almost certainly bound to happen, so apart from the beer prices, they didn’t sour the event for me too much..

In the end it’s all about THE MUSIC. And overall…. it was really good. I know that some write ups suggested that Harpa is really an unsuitable place for dance music. True, the shiny, austere surroundings of Harpa may stiffen up people’s ability to go crazy. But here’s the thing – where else are they going to have it in Reykjavik? Volta? Dolly? Laugardalshöllin? We have to realise the fact that the main only reason that Reykjavik got SONAR in the first place because of the facilities at Harpa And in the end that’s something people will have to get used to. I had no real issues with having it at Harpa (Issues above notwithstanding).

I do agree about the schizo line-up. You had some top DJs toiling away in the car-park at 8 or 9pm to barely 6 people, while the pop/soul parts were on a lot later, mostly because they were the big draws and therefore should be on at the prime time. Someone said that Icelanders don’t do “early” in their concerts and party going – Well they should fucking get their heads together and start wising up on this then, because it would make the organisers job so much easier.

Apart from that there were way more hits and misses in my experiences. The only bum notes were The Jack Magnet Quintet, and Axel Boman. The other acts were good, or really, reallllly good! Thanks to having a roaming remit (Unlike Airwaves), I could avoid stuff I knew I may have been bored with. This meant not having to endure the crowd asshattery during James Blake and a few other sets, while finding some nice moments, such as Captain Fufanu.

It was also interesting seeing the crowd mix there. Unlike Airwaves, you got a truer pictures of the people who go out in Reykjavik. there were quite a few clashes between the underground electronic guys, the krútt kids, the artist gangs, the orange guido mob and their partners, as well as the old duffers who come out to and major event at Harpa. There was loving and mutual loathing across the board amongst some of these groups. Personally I found it all hilarious. Ben – This is the real Reykjavik!

But all I would recommend is that you go to the links at the top and read the reviews. It was a blast, and I do hope that next year’s event will with be just as good, or better, with some top names involved (PLEASE Get Function, Regis or Raime!! I promise I will clear your house for 3 months!!)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Iceland, live music, music

 

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