Icelandic music erupted in Groningen, what to expect in Reykjavik?

Icelandic catch of Eurosonic Festival, highlights for Iceland Airwaves.

For the last 20 years the most northern city of The Netherlands has been the host of one of the biggest showcase festivals in Europe: Eurosonic Noorderslag. From wednesday until friday mid-january the Eurosonic festival takes place all over Groningen and showcases a selection of the best upcoming artists from all over Europe. Every year one country gets the opportunity to show even more of its best. In 2015 Iceland had the chance to erupt some of it’s finest over the Dutch crowd and the European music industry.

15678184524_533ef72911_zA grand total of nineteen Icelandic bands showed the diversity of the Icelandic music scene. A spectrum ranging from the folkrock of Kaleo to the Vikingrock of Skálmöld and the electronic tunes by M-Band. Out of curiosity many of the Icelandic bands got the attention they deserved. Low Roar and Kiasmos for instance played for a full house where M-band had to compete in the scedule with Rökkurró. The biggest competition however came from the best known Icelander who wasn’t playing at the festival: Björk. The singer of MAMMÚT as well as Sóley were criticized as sounding too Björkish. Another Björk-like act was DJ Flugvél og Geimskip. Although pretty out of the ordinary live one of the most fascinating experiences.

As Iceland Airwaves is only one month away now Rokmusik asked me to make a selection of the Eurosonic-delegation. A couple of them like Solstafír, Skálmöld and Rökkurró are not playing at this years Airwaves as they would most likely have made it into my top 6.

Kiasmos:

16114514429_83b4eaaf74_zThe Icelandic band which definitely got the most attention during Eurosonic, and my personal favorite, was Kiasmos.  Although Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen (of e.g. Bloodgroup, Fura, Byrta) had been making techno-music together for many years besides their own projects the release of their untitled debut-album put them really on the map. Their performance in Groningen (Eurosonic) attracted so much audience there was a line in front of the venue until after their gig. And for a reason, their music, and especially live, is exhilarating. Although the entourage was limited to some small spots on the stage and slow video visuals behind them, the energy of Kiasmos was contagious. Something to experience as often as possible.

Dj Flugvél og Geimskip:

16298295992_74748fb4ac_zSeeing DJ Flugvél og Geimskip for the first time in Húrra during Airwaves in 2014 the first thing I noticed was the number of spectators. The venue was crowded and I was barely able to see a little girl on stage in between her electronics. But her and the crowds enthusiasm made me decide to buy her CD and take a second look during Eurosonic. The Dutch usually being quite sober regarding foreign music were at first a bit flabbergasted by the performance of DJ Flugvél og Geimskip (Steinunn Eldflaug Harðardóttir). Was she really singing about going into outer space with a spaceship? Singing a song with cat sounds? In the end they just danced and enjoyed but the enthusiasm came this time mostly from the performer herself. If you want to have a pleasant, perhaps a bit weird 45 minutes during Airwaves you should definitely have to check her out. She is cool!

Sóley:

16113438930_f9c4e015f5_zAfter the band Seabear decided to take a break it’s keyboardplayer Sóley started her own musical project. Ever since her debut-EP ‘Theater Island’ she gradually found her way into becoming a well known Icelandic solo artist.  Her songs getting darker and more macabre over the years her latest album ‘Ask the Deep’ is probably her most intriguing. Ironically she is probably also one of the most intriguing Icelandic artists at the moment. During Eurosonic she played in a church which was surely one of the best performances I have seen from her. With new material to be released just before Airwaves might be even more exciting, in a darkish way.

Fufanu:

16135614239_05a12966e2_zIt happens not that often a band really makes a complete change of style. Being known as the techno-duo Captain Fufanu Kaktus Einarsson and Guðlaugur Einarsson one day decided to do something else. They found themselves a drummer, lost the captain-part and started re-inventing post-punk, but with 21th century equipment. The result is astonishing, fresh and ironically also great to dance to! Comparing bands is always difficult and quite personal but the first bands that popped to my mind were the legendary Joy Division and the Danish The Woken Trees. Fufanu however sounds less depressing. The title of their debut album ‘Few More Days To Go’ is a bit confusing as the album is album is gonna be released after Airwaves, November 27th. They’ll probably play the album integral during the festival which is a good thing as experiencing Fufanu live is pretty amazing.

Vök:

16113315177_51c9cff681_zEver since I first saw Vök for the first time during Airwaves 2013 when they were still young and looked a bit shy on stage. Two years later and having seen them play at several festivals all over Europe (SPOT-Festival, Eurosonic-Noorderslag and by:Larm) they have become an Icelandic band that has really grown. Especially in comparison with e.g. Samaris. It could be the result of Ólafur Alexander joining Margrét Rán and Andri Már in the band or just the maturing of their sound. Especially live they sound richer, darker and more impressive than on their debut-EP ‘Tension’. The follow-up EP ‘Circles’ already included the contagious song ‘Waterfall’. The wait is now for their debut album. But before that I’m gonna enjoy them live again! And I can assure you, even in the unlikely event equipment fails on them they manage to keep the crowds attention. Not many bands with such a professionalism.
Tonik Ensemble:

One of the few bands I didn’t see during Eurosonic was Tonik Ensemble. Tonik Ensemble is a musical project by Anton Kaldal Ágústsson. In 2015 his latest album ‘Snapshots’ was released which got many great reviews. As I had seen him play live a couple of years ago and at the time he couldn’t impress me I decided to skip his show. Reading about and listening to ‘Snapshots’ I realised I had missed probably one of the most exciting acts from Iceland at the moment. Creating soundscapes by using electronics, acoustic instruments and vocals he manages to hypnotise the listener. Definitely one act I’m not gonna miss during Airwaves!

12086534266_5db9c860b0_zAs seventh and bonus-recommendation: Berndsen! Although Berndsen wasn’t included in the line-up of Eurosonic 2015 he was performing there in 2014. Ever since I finally discovered him in 2011 I’ve been trying to see him perform as often as possible. His fun and joy of bringing back the eighties-sound to 21th century is contagious. After two excellent records he is currently working on his 3th album. For as far his partner in crime Hermigervil didn’t try to fool me the new sound might be a bit different as expected but live it is gonna be instant coolness.

The line-up of Iceland Airwaves naturally also contains many many more (hidden) gems. The only way to find them is attending Airwaves or check Rokmusik for regular updates during the festival!

Website Iceland Airwaves

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