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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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Passing Judgement: Music: Reviews: Lagaffe Tales, LaFontaine, Untitled2Music

You know it’s been a while since I last did any actual reviews on this blog. Mainly because I’m often too busy running around like an idiot trying to do other things as well. But a few electronic releases have been fluttering out from several Icelandic producers over the last few months, so perhaps (since no one else is really doing it) it should be good to take a bit of stock with what’s goin’ on down in 101 Reykjavik.

THE HOUSE THAT LAGAFFE BUILT…

Whatever Flass FM, Fatboy Slim, or a hundred other publications are telling you, dubstep, Nu-trance, or the ever catchy acronym EDM is not the biggest thing in electronic music right now. In actual fact… it’s house! Yup that’s right, after residing in a quasi-underground position a decade ago, and even though it’s now been around now for so long that it’s become codified in the way that jazz and blues are, house music has come back in a huge way and is now bigger than ever. Clubs, festivals, and the charts are being fed on an ever expanding diet of Seth Troxler, Eats Everything, Disclosure, Julio Bashmore and dozens of other pretenders to the scene. Everywhere you look there’s the recursive feel of cool young things discovering house music for the first time and believing they’re discovering a new untouched sound. Aww, bless ’em!

And in Iceland everyone is also catching onto the House spirit in a big way. One of the local labels trying to tap into this demand are LAGAFFE TALES, run by local DJs/Producers Viktor Birgisson and Jónbjörn Finnbogason. Their aim they say is to “Focus on the Deep House groove that makes us move. We aim to release and support music that makes people dance, although passionately and come together for that good feeling that it brings us.”

They’re top blokes, and their efforts in spurring a focus for house music in Iceland are to be applauded, but after listening to the last couple of releases, I would say that the quality of their output has been a bit patchy to say the least. Take their latest official release, “Feel The Night,” from Anglo-German producer SIGGATUNEZ. The opening track “Through the Night” has a simple hi-hat intro and jazz piano intro, before its tries to build on a simplistic warbling two-note pad riff. But it just feels washed out and rather bland. It fails in its first objective, which is to get you dancing, as there really isn’t much of a groove there. It also fails in being a sit and listen track as there’s not enough in the song to keep your head interested. the second track “I Feel Like A…” tries to up the ante by upping the BPM and the action on the rhythm section with rasping and clunking percussion joining the chippy hi-hats. Meanwhile a floating vocal sample gets chopped, screwed, and slotted in various areas. But again the synth sounds just sound too flat and seem to stagnate, with not enough attack to complement the rhythmic efforts.

Things though are on much surer ground with their other recent release “Long Shot Poems For Broke Players,” by local producer MOFF & TARKIN (Who funnily enough cites an old review I did of him a long ago with the comment “Some douche who did not even bother to notice that I am only one guy.” Ouch!), which remembers the prime directive when it comes to house music – It should make you want to dance.

The self-titled opening track has a simple, direct approach to house, with stabby attacking pads that form the basis for some sturdy piano led classic ’90s style house. It also helps that there’s a bit of friction with his use of vocals samples with some old geezer (Charles Bukowski?) bitching about the people around him. It’s not reinventing the jacking house wheel, but man it´s certainly got a groove thang going on.

Things get even harder on “Talking To Myself,” a hefty piece of deep house that starts off with a thudding kick beat and deep atmospherics, before it really hits with a pulsing, rolling bassline as soul vocals flit in and out of earshot. It definitely has that darkened. underground, smoky. French filter house quality to it, but the overall feel you get is one of being propelled to move, to shake, and more importantly, get a sweat on. I can really picture myself losing it to this in one of weaker moments at Dolly

CRACKED ICELANDIC EARTH

“You know Bob, I feel that you’re more likely to give a positive review to some obscure techno bands,” said no one I’m going to tell you about a while ago, when we were discussing the finer points of Icelandic music. This caused me go a little bug-eyed and fall off my chair. You see, in the 3 and a half years I’ve been squeezing out bitter notes about the paltry efforts of local musicians, I’ve never seen the Grapevine, or the other Icelandic papers, do any actual reviews of techno music. (And no, Gus Gus does not count!).

In fact to be honest I’ve can’t really recall any out-and-out techno releases of note coming from Iceland for a while. There was a release from Exos last year, which slipped out so quietly it was like a fart in the night. I haven’t had a chance to hear that yet, but most of the local players have been either quiet, or have moved into more “song” based territory (I’m looking at you Yagya).

But over the last few months, there’s been a small flurry of activity from a younger, fresher breed of Icelandic producers that want to bring the tek-tek-tekno back onto our dance-floors in a big way. Spearheading this charge are two fine young gents, LAFONTAINE, and UNTITLED2MUSIC, who have been forging a hive of energy in creating some decidedly dark, blistering techno beats that’s shaking us from our addled floppy house torpor.

In many ways these two share similar strands of techno DNA in their influences, being that they seem to be shying away from the neon gloss of Gus Gus style tech house, or the wide open spaces of Basic-Channel influenced dub techno from the previous generation. Looking up at the above video of a recent DJ set from Lafontaine (As well as one from Untited2Music), they seem to be getting their kicks more from the darker side of the warehouse, the side of the warehouse that has you huffing in lungfuls or dry ice and getting blinded by strobing lighting, while your dodgy chemical intake makes you wobble uncontrollably to artists such as Truss, Perc, AnD, and Rrose. All heaving low-end monotone bass combined with a constant barrage of grumbling earth sounds. 

Take “Mescaline,” the latest release from LaFontaine on Aura Mirror. The opening track “Peyote” has that heavy booming bass note chug and four to the floor kick thumps, with whooshing, cracking sounds that fly past your ears. Turn it up loud and it’s kinda like a jet going off. The remix by Captain Fufanu sees them try to turn the track into stuttering electro with tinny hi-hats and hi end toms pinging around a sampled clip from the original track. the musical equivalent of a badly trained monkey eating all your ecstasy.

The second track “Mescaline” is even more cavernous as it rumbles with a low lit, dark ambient throb and creaking, stretched strings before erupting into a full tilt roar that would give Raime a big chubby one. The remix by United2Music meanwhile essentially aims to add more of a swing groove to the proceedings.

As with his remix of “Mescaline,” Untitled2Music’s latest EP, “Spirit Pt 1,” also sees him looking to occupy that same dark meter. But whereas LaFontaine’s music feels more as if it was chiselled in a pressured underground cave, “Spirit Pt 1” has that feel of empty black space, of industrial Sci Fi terror at the edge of some distant mining colony. The tracks “Decase” and “Prototype” have bridge panel alarms going off to distant ambient sounds and burbling bass lines. Meanwhile “Gates Of Hell” and “Mind” have simple cracked open perpetual machine rhythms set to some decidedly grubby drones that remind you a  little of Prurient’s recent forays into techno beats.

It worth noting that while both these releases are pretty damn good and, to use the required term, banging, these guys are not quite the finished articles just yet. When listening recently to the recent releases from the likes of Function and Shifted, you can hear them add more depth and texture to their rhythms and bass sounds that just drag you deep into the darkness and eyes closed, fist pumping action. With LaFonatine and unlimited2Music, their music isn’t quite at the level where you could say the tracks “sing” to you. But they have all the fundamental components locked and bolted down, and they certainly have the right attitude when it comes to making and listening to some well proper warehouse techno. I’d expect some good things from these guys in the near future.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Iceland, music

 

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Music Moment: Legowelt, “The Paranormal Soul”

So where were you in ’92…..?

Well i don’t know about you but I was slowly losing my mind out on a local hillside, or at a semi-legal party/rave in a near abandoned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, with only a dozen crates of beer, a cabinet size speaker system and 150 people and a flock of sheep for company   (Shades of Hacker Farm there). Thanks to such jolly times, there’s a heavy imprint of the good old days of rave/techno/house in the deep neural crevices of my memory banks (And praise be for that!).

This link to the past has meant that one aspect of this year’s electronic environment in 2012 rather intrigued me. It’s kind of ironic the way I’ve noted that some of Iceland’s local music scene seemed to be stuck in the ’90s, when at the same time, so many of today’s young n’ fresh artists have been using the likes of Youtube and archival websites to explore, source and strip-mine many of the original sounds and styles of the first wave of rave for today’s productions. You’ve got the revival of the classic “Mentalism” Hoover synth, playing rinsed out hardcore breaks and rhythms with a straight face, early ’90s style house jacks, and explorations in old school acid sounds. And that’s before we even get to “Hipster House.” There is a lot more out there, believe me!

But when you have a guy like LEGOWELT, then there is something about his music that takes you back to that time, that place. Also known to his mum as dutch producer Danny Wolfers, he’s been releasing an extraordinary amount of music under numerous pseudonyms for nearly a decade now. Clearly not buckling to any kind of trend of standard evolution in electronic music, he simply makes what he likes, what he likes being  old school electro style techno and house, swathed in thick blankets of smooooooth analogue synth lines that just open your neural pathways back to the early days of those Warp releases and crazy imports from Detroit.

He’s got a new album out right now, ‘The Paranormal Soul,’ and each track is very much a belter in their own way. But it’s the 2-track combo near the beginning of the album that caused my serotonin levels to red line. “Elements Of Houz Music,” has a simply deceptive bleep and bass style, riding on a single throbbing bass line with the synth pads floating around it like moths to a flame, all the while the high hats are skittering away. “Rave Till Dawn,” meanwhile tinkers with an nice hardcore breakbeat and single note synth lines that give this all a weightless feel to it.

To paraphrase a friend, I’m not always looking for cutting edge modernity, and I don’t mind looking back, or being nostalgic with my music. But if you don’t jack properly into the feelings and atmospherics of those times like LEGOWELT is doing with his music right now, them I’m not really interests, thanks.

Goodnight…

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in music, Video

 

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Music Moment: GHOSTING SEASON, “Far End Of The Graveyard”

Owww….

WHY AM I SO SORE??? oh yeah, maybe it has something to do with this incredibly dumb idea that I’ve signed for in running this year*s Reykjavik Marathon. People actually still laugh at the idea of me doing this. But i can tell, from where I’m slouched, it’s not that funny. Because of the weather this means that I’m going to World Class, the mecca for all knakkiroid gorillas and terracotta monster women in this country. Seeing my jiggly mubbs and moobs all over the place must surely disgust and repulse the core of their beings. Good!

However this has meant that every muscle of my being is screaming their confessions. And it’s not helped that our little bastard cat seems to have a meth heads discarded supply from the previous weekend’s partying. I swear if he skittered any harder, he’d tear a hole in space/time. I’ve had to kick him out of the house in the end.

But it’s given me a change to catch up on actual things. Like reading and listening on my YouTube feeds. And i came across this lovely little track i put up a while back. GHOSTING SEASON are a Leeds bunch who made some delightful ghostly house noises. A rolling beat that rises in the background noise and drones till it tingles with electric venom. BURN THE WITCH!

Goodnight…

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in music, Video

 

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Saturday Night Fighting Music: “Please put all your money and sweets in the bag. Hurry along now…”

The moon is out…..

The animals wake from their slumber, hungry, expectant…

The can smell the putrid stains of flesh, fluids, alcohol and sex. they seek to quench their thirst and basest desires. all to a mix of thumping, dry-humping B-Grade B-beats, Opal and bauturs from Nonnabitti. Too much money will have been spent and too few brain cells saved…

I LOVE SATURDAY NIGHTS!!!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in music, Video

 

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Spooky Shit on a Sunday: Don’t go into the house alone….

Well finally Halloween is here. But strangely the mood down at the farm is not particularly spooky. Perhaps this is due to the fact we did the horror stuff last night. Took Sigga to Bío Paradís to watch “The Evil Dead”. We even managed to secure free tickets from a girl whose friends couldn’t attend. And she thought it was boring! Ok, horror movies aren’t really her thing, but she felt it was a bit stupid and even yawned at one moment. The philistine! (although i will admit the element of slapstick in several scenes)

But i will not give up in trying to convince the naysayers that Horror is indeed excellent. so in the last installment of Scary shit on a Sunday, i  shall shed a solitary spotlight on that old spooky theme. THE HAUNTED HOUSE!…… wooo…..

Right first off is a true cult classic. I give you the 1963 film THE HAUNTING. Directed by Robert Wise, the premise is simple. A scientist and a group of volunteers descend upon an old mansion to investigate whether the paranormal exists. While there they uncovers eerie event and sinister sounds. But is it all in their heads, or are they experiencing a real life Haunting?

The Haunting is a classic example of the adage “less is more”. The chills are created with the use of sound and lighting, but we never see any actual real ghosts. they tried to ruin its reputation by remaking it in 1999 with the director of Speed. The fools! Watch this one instead with all the lights off….

Next on our list is a highly underrated horror film that doesn’t get aired often enough. I’m talking about the 1980 horror film THE CHANGELING. It stars George C Scott as a man who moves acorss the US after the death of his wife and child in New York. Renting out an old Mansion in Seattle to start his life again, he finds that the place is haunted by a poltergeist, the spirit of a child. As Scott delves into the mystery of the spirit, eh uncovered a grisly tale of abuse and murder.

Like the Haunting, the Changeling is a film that prefers to keep the spooks unseen . Using no special effects, they use sounds and implied violence and allows the viewer to work things out for themselves.And there are some genuine scares, such as the séance scene. Again a lovely chilling film…

For our final film, it’s time to get some decent monster shock and scares. And I’m going for a superior 80’s B movie that really did freak me out when i was younger. That film is HOUSE. Made in 1986, it about a Vietnam Vet (Played by William Katt) whose son disappears while visiting his Aunt. After his marriage falls apart, he ends up inheriting his Aunts house after she dies. After moving there, he realises that the house infested with ghost and the odd demon who do not want him there. Can he survive what the house throws at him?

OK, while the scares in the first two films are implied, House simply goes for the old “things jumping on you from behind the door” school of scares. But for a low-budget horror, it actually does this really well. when i saw this as a 12-year-old, i remember i couldn’t sleep properly for a few nights. Yes i was a bit of a sensitive child in those days.

so with these 3 films, i will send you off to have a lovely Halloween evening. Try not to have nightmares…..

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Film

 

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