Iceland Airwaves 2012: The 405 Preview
The 405 spent the best part of a week at Iceland Airwaves in 2011, and, as you'd be able to tell from our coverage we fell a tiny bit in love with the festival, the people, and Reykjavík in general. Well, to be accurate, it was more of a head-over-heels kinda infatuation.
This year we are to head back to the otherworldly isle, for five days of music in a plethora of bars, venues, parks, and, well any location where a brass instrument can be forced in (steady). Running from October 31st - November 4th, Airwaves showcases the finest acts to come out of Iceland, the land where everyone is a musician, and indeed Scandinavia in general; alongside more established acts from across the globe. Though one facet of the festival that won't be present this year is legendary venue NASA, a place which we spent a lot of time in last year, which was sadly torn down over the summer to make way for a hotel.
With so many artists to experience, here is a small selection of who we'll be looking forward to. Though this being Airwaves, we're prepared to blown-away by complete unknowns either at the more intimate Off-venues during the day, or in the vibrant streets and venues of the city at night. Check the schedule for the full line-uo
Michael Gira decided to reactivate seminal industrial post-punk band Swans in 2010 after a 13 year hiatus, having disbanded in 1997 not long after two-hour LP Soundtracks For The Blind. This year Gira and co created another gargantuan release in the form of the universe-and-soul-shattering critical-smash The Seer, a 90 minute magnum opus; as he describes it took "30 years to make. It's the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined". After immersing yourself in a darkened room for the entirety of the bleak, uncompromising journey, it's a verisimilitude that holds a resounding strength - stream here.
It'll be fascinating, and potentially devastating, to see this played out in a live setting in the usually serene setting on the second floor of Harpa, Reykjavík's magnificent cultural centre on the seafront.
Sóley, or to use the full name Sóley Stefánsdóttir, first came to my attention last year when she followed in a long-line of Scandinavian acts by playing at vital cultural entity Ja Ja Ja at The Lexington in London. Though, it turns out I was familiar with the pianists work prior to this, as Sóley is a member of Icelandic folksters Seabear.
Her debut LP We Sink was released in late 2011, and it's an album that breezes into the psyche via a rich, confident, flow of charm, as her alluring vocals emerge from a dreamlike piano-sautéd state.
I Break Horses
Poor horses. First they were to be Held, before being Pulled Apart, and now they are to be Breaked. Despite the slightly savage moniker, the sound that Swedish duo I Break Horses create is a coruscating, glowing lesson of outstanding shoegaze, if the shoes in question lived in a laptop. Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck are behind the electronic project that started out as a humble entity in a bedroom with the release of 2011's gorgeous Hearts, though with recent shows have managed to transfer the M83-esque grandiose elegance to a live setting.
With IA moved forward a few weeks this year with the result a drifting into plummeting temperatures, IBH are sure to melt even the most frozen of hearts. Awwwwww.
The avant-garde master of visceral electronica may have been born in Melbourne, Australia, but for the past few years has been based in Reykjavík. With the intense, hypnotic soundscapes that he creates, it provides a very fitting backdrop to the harsh yet beautiful Icelandic landscape - I witnessed this at first hand recently at Semibreve Festival, with an eviscerating, head-fucking and gorgeous experience that will stay with me forever.
It's worth noting that Valgeir Sigurðsson is also playing - who is founder of Bedroom Community and produced Frost's 2009 transcendent By The Throat. Both are playing the Bedroom Community-curated Iðnó on Friday.
Fannar Ásgrímsson is one part of ambient duo Plastik Joy, though this year released material as part of a separate duo specialising once-again in ambient matters with Jonas Thor Gudmundsson, under the nom de plume of Asonat.
Their debut album Love In Times Of Repetition got a release in early 2012 on emotionally charged electronica-label n5MD, and the native Icelanders concocted an atmospheric, gentle IDM-soaked duvet, if the members of Boards of Canada were to climb inside said duvet and give you a lovely spoon. Asonat are on at Faktory Upstairs, so make the most of the chilled-out vibes before the party gets started in the Downstairs part of Faktory after.
Purity Ring, Doldrums, Útidúr, TheeSatisfaction, Kwes and Borko.
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Iceland is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on this Earth – and that’s not just because they celebrate “Beer Day” which involves heavy drinking and plenty of bar crawls on the anniversary of the lifting of prohibition in Iceland. So, hosting a festival in the country’s capital, often seen as one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world, seems like a no-brainer. [read more]
Here are a few recommendations for anyone feeling dizzy from the sheer volume of Icelandic acts to check out - from cosmic art-pop to oddball disco to dreamy soundscapes to chaotic rock 'n' roll to a full symphony orchestra - there's a rich musical menu on offer at Airwaves '14. Most will play several shows - one official festival show, and at various "off-venue" daytime gigs - so there'll be multiple chances to check them out. [read more]
Maybe you're going to Iceland Airwaves, too. Or maybe you're not and you've often wondered about visiting Reykjavík (the northernmost capital of a sovereign state – thanks Wikipedia). In any case, we've asked some of our Icelandic artist friends to share with us their favourite places in the city, from pubs and cafés to bookshops and fried chicken shops, cause, you know, it's not (but almost is) all about music. [read more]
So Rob Da Bank's all singing, all dancing, fancy-dressed brainchild, Bestival, is here, and I, for one, am excited. With draws such as the likes of a Bollywood field, a wealth of comedians and spoken word artists and cinematic events to keep you busy, even if you don't plan on seeing any music at all, you won't be short of choices for what to see, but just in case you are a bit interested in the music, and, well, we'll assume if you're reading this then you are... [read more]