Iceland Airwaves (Nov 3-5, 2017) – Review

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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I’ve worn plenty of wristbands in my day, but this one I wear with MOST PRIDE. Having been accepted to my second Iceland Airwaves Music Festival as a media pass holder is an opportunity that I do NOT take lightly, and I tried my best to capture the highlights of this magical, musical mystery tour.  Not only does this “land of Ice” know know to shatter glass ceilings and defy the odds of artistic potential and possibility, but it does so in a way that is warm (“land of fire”) and welcoming, and so in the least bit pretentious. The sky is definitely the limit for this innovative, ingenious, impressive Island. The music, people, and scenery is uncharacteristic of anywhere else.  ❤ 

Here are some of the bands that left a lasting impression in my mind and made me question the boundaries of human creativity (click on names or links below to see the full reviews): Hatari, Hogni, Hormonar, Kiriyama Family, We Made God, Omotrack, Rythmatik, Captain Syrup, Arstidir, Between Mountains, Axel Flovent, Mani Orrason, One Week Wonder, GDJYB (non-Icelandic), and Mammut (a personal favorite).  Since my review for Mammut was taking a very long to write (I often find it most difficult to write about bands that move me the most), I decided to write a combined review on their 2017 & 2018 Airwaves shows. Other Icelandic bands I have written about in the past are Asgeir, VAR, Vok, Kaleo, For a Minor Reflection, Sin Fang, Agent Fresco, Lay Low, Rokvva, Samaris, etc. See my reviews on Asgeir and Low Roar. See videos below from Airwaves 2017 when Mammut performed ‘Kinder Versions,’ ‘Pray for Air in the Water,’ ‘The Moon Will Never Turn on Me,’ ‘Walls,’ and ‘What’s Your Secret(these absolutely SLAY):

 

Hatari: “We are the screamer, We are the echo, and We are the chambers” – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 5, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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HATARI was BY FAR my favorite, unexpected discovery of Iceland Airwaves 2017. Their name, which translates to “hater” in Icelandic, suits the venomous vibe of their “experimental bondage  dark ambient darkwave goth punk synth” (check out their Bandcamp). Formed back in 2015, this transfixing trio — Klemens Hannigan (vocals), Matthías Tryggvi Haraldson (vocals), and Einar Stéfansson (drums, also the drummer for the amazing band Vok!)  — have already earned themselves Reykjavik’s Grapvine‘s “Best Live Band” pick of 2016 and 2017 (check out their comical interview).  Their BDSM garb and bizarre masks (worn mainly by Einar) perfectly compliment the cult-like atmosphere that they create with their dark, enigmatic electronic-punk and their eccentric, bizarre behavior (crawling on the bar, swinging around poles, and screaming like the devil). What’s most compelling about Hatari is their discerning dichotomies: devilish, primal screams delivered with a stolid, poker face… disturbing, suicide lyrics shouted to happy techno beats… fearful, yet amused. They exude a mystery and allure that is truly magnetic, and I had such a hard time pulling myself away. Mad props to Hatari for helping the crowd unleash our inner demons and making us “haters” against all the rampant hypocrisy that exists in this world. AND, I later learned that Bjork was one of the unexpected crowd members that Matthías locked eyes when he swung down from the pole that show. ONLY IN ICELAND. ❤️ Can’t WAIT to see them again at Airwaves this year!

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Hogni: “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere” – Live at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves (June/Nov 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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“I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love can’t you tell?”… I’M IN LOVE with this song ‘Moon pitcher‘ that Hogni wrote for his fiance in his debut album, Two Trains, released Oct 2017 by Erased Tapes record label.  Hogni quotes: “I feel I tried my best to create an honest and passionate piece of musical work and I hope you will find the time and space to enjoy it as well as finding that connection. As a musician you aspire to create that other world, that sense of hypnosis.”  I def entered that other world, “CAN’T YOU TELL.” 🙂 ❤

Hogni was one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and I could not wait to see him again at Iceland Airwaves 6 months later. His deep vocals and ethereal, experimental electronic arrangements simply SLAY, and I was so happy to hear the new gems from Two Trains, an album that he describes in the following words:

“The music on Two Trains is a blue-print of a period in my life where I collided with my own self, and at that point I felt the indifference between the personal and the universal, the absolute consciousness of life’s unconsciousness. Perhaps it’s a feeling that cannot be conveyed, like watercolours that just seem to wash off into the sea. But also a flashing mirage that you can enjoy before you arrive at your last destination.”

Hogni also alludes to this album as a personal expression of the tugging dichotomies he faces while living with bipolar disorder: “I’m bipolar. I got very sick and it has affected my life drastically. This album bears witness to it… (In) the last few years, the swings have decreased in size. When I was the most ill a few years ago, I felt terrible, even if you couldn’t see it. There was just so much going on, lots of fun, and even excitement about going to the psych ward for the first time. Like I was going down a new path for myself. But I haven’t seen it as exciting since then.”

Maybe this phenomena is what he was describing in his song (video below) where he sings:  “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere.”

Previously known as frontman of the well-known indie rock band Hjaltalin and former member of ambient-techno group GusGus), Hogni proves that “Two Trains”, “change and metamorphosis” are his preferred method of transportation in this journey we call life. His “I can do whatever I dream” (lyrics in one of the videos below) is infectious and his tenacity for movement and exploration are an inspiration to us all: “My life is untethered, in many ways,” Högni says. “I try to focus on making good music and seeking inspiration, chasing experiences, travelling and finding adventures.

Aside from fronting two touring bands, Hogni has made time to score numerous theatre pieces, most notably The Heart of Robin Hood (dir. Gísli Gardarsson), staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and Angels of the Universe (dir. Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson), the Icelandic National Theatre’s 2013 adaptation of a well-known and loved novel and film of the same title.mHe has also written music for film and television, including a well-received score for short film Víkingar (dir. Magali Magistry, 2013) which won the Golden Rail award and was nominated for the Discovery award, both at the Cannes Film Festival. There really is no telling where his “Two Trains” will take us next. I don’t know about you , but I am surely ALL ABOARD. ❤

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Hormonar: “Our songs are like a female orgasm; there’s no one big explosion, but many high points” – Live at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves (June/Nov 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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Photo credit: Ian Young (www.nounpusher.com)

Hórmónar (Whoremoans) definitely roused plenty of hormones at Iceland Airwaves this year, and it is no surprise that their fan base is multiplying rapidly. They were one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and their liberating (shirts off at the ed), sexually-charged punk rock performance had both men and women in a tizzy. It therefore was no surprise to later find out that these 5 friends (Brynhildur Karlsdóttir-Vocals, Urður Bergsdóttir-Bass/Vocals, Katrín Guðbjartsdóttir-Guitar, Hjalti Torfason-Saxophone, Örn Gauti Jóhannsson-Drums) won the 2016 Icelandic Music Experiment. Brynhildur’s vocals were unpredictable, edgy, and hot, and plenty of men shouted “are you offering?!” in response to her asking the audience, “Are you HORNY?!!” In a previous  interview with the Rekyavik Grapevine, Brynhildur said: “Our songs are like a female orgasm; there’s no one big explosion, but many high points.” Their smoking hot, super-seductive,  “drive-you-wild” energy sparked some serious attention at Iceland Airwaves this year, earning them the “Peoples’ Choice Award” at the Grapevine Music Awards. I am so glad I was able to see them up close without getting burned. 😛 Can’t wait to see my three favorite songs (videos below) from their album ‘Nananana Búbú” once more at Iceland Airwaves 2018. ❤

 

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Omotrack: “Why is life equalized, some people just can’t see… Everyone has blind spots except for me” – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 4, 2018)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

It was so awesome to have run into the talented brother duo (Markús and Birkir Bjarnason) front-men of Omotrack at Songhoy Blues (at Reykjavík art museum) only a few hours after catching their last set of Airwaves at the bookstore on Laugavegi. They’ve got such an infectious indie/pop/electro sound that kinda remind me of a funkier version of two Bombay Bicycle Club and Two Door Cinema Club. It’s pretty rare to see synths and brass (trombone, trumpet, saxophone) battling for the spotlight! The trumpet and sax were nailing their harmony parts! I loved all of the tracks in the set, especially the 4 below that I got on video: Hippo Trip (new), Imaginary Mountains, Old Habits, and Blind Spots. I especially love ‘Blind Spots,’ and assume that the lyrics were inspired by their experience of growing up as two Icelandic toddlers in remote village in Ethiopia called “Omo Rate” (which inspired the band name), witnessing disparities between people of different ethnicity and social class:

“People treated differently, due to their ethnicity.. Who can tell wrong from right, and sit back watch people fight… Why is life equalized, some people just can’t see… Life can’t be overpriced… Everyone has blind spots except for me.”

Not able to speak the local dialect of Daasanach or easily blend in, Markús and Birkir relied on each other for friendship, fun and musical entertainment and started creating music together as early as 5 and 3 years old. Now, in their early twenties, the band has put down some strong roots into the Icelandic music scene and recently placed third in Músiktilraunir, Iceland’s annual “Battle of the Bands” for young and emerging talent who are hoping to take their careers to the next level. “We tried to enter two years ago, but we only had two songs,” says lead singer and guitarist Markús. “We had been a band for maybe ten days. Now we have more music, and we feel more comfortable, so we just thought: let’s try this.” I’m so glad they did. Their bronze finish not only earned them a spot at Iceland Airwaves, but also a supporting slot with the contest’s winners, Between Mountains. Can’t wait to see them again at Airwaves this year!

So lucky to run into them later that night!

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Arstíðir: “I’ve been waiting for someone to say, That my patience was worth all the way” – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 3, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

ArstíðirDaníel Auðunsson (Guitar, vocals), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (Guitar, baritone guitar, vocals), Karl James Pestka (violin, viola, electronics, vocals), and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano, baritone guitar, vocals) are well-established in the Icelandic music community, having had two #1 hits in 2008 that put them on the map. After the release of their debut album in 2009, Árstíðir released a second album that was produced/mastered by the super talented Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. The band has already toured 30 countries and it set to tour again once they release their third album (on the way!). With influence of Beck, Paul McCartney, Philip Glass, Neil Young, Takashi Tateishi, Árstíðir finds a home in everyone. I love the violin in the last video that I captured (see below). Feels like it should be in a chase scene in a movie! Make sure to check out their new album ‘Nivalas‘ release just this year!

 

Between Mountains: “Deeper in the city, I feel your face” – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 5, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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What a treat it was to catch this impressive YOUNG duo — Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir (16 years old) and and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir (14 years old) — at Iceland Airwaves 2017, just 6 months after they won Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic “Battle of the Bands.” They call themselves “Between Mountains” because they are both from different fjords (in Westfjords region of Iceland), with a giant mountain between them. Not only do they harmonize beautifully together on vocals (even with mountains in between!), but they incorporate keyboard, xylophone, and accordion into their songs with a capacity that demonstrates proficiency way beyond their years. I’m so glad I got to meet both of them (picture below) after Rythmatik’s last Airwaves show at the Hard Rock Cafe last year. Lucky for us Katla is the sister of  Hrafnkell Hugi Vernharðsson (voal/guitar for Rythmatik), and it was much easier to say hello since I already knew him. What a crazy small beautiful world it is, ESPECIALLY in Iceland. Don’t miss Between Mountains at Iceland Airwaves 2018! ❤

Lucky to meet this impressive duo!

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