Steindór Kristinsson – “Klippur” Cassette (2020)

Iceland’s Eyewitness Records, now renamed as Eyewitness Inc, is back again with another intriguing electro release. This time it’s a six-song cassette by Steindór Kristinsson. It’s an interesting collection of tracks. Two (“Anin” and “Upstairs”) are beat-driven yet still experimental, the beats standing front and center and providing enough structure to hold things together. The next three songs (“Noise”, “Aspect”, and “D”) offer more of a horror sensation, creating fluid and sinister vibes that lack the structure of their predecessors. The tape concludes with “Windy”, a track that brings the two themes together, a blend of styles and tempos that keep you unsettled.

You can listen to Klippur on the Eyewitness Bandcamp page HERE, and it looks like they still have copies of the cassette for sale as well. I suspect this is limited – some of the other Eyewitness releases were in editions of 50 or less, so you may want to jump on it if you want a physical copy.

Velvet Villain – “Velvet Villain” (2020)

Velvet Villain are a hard rocking duo from Reykjavik, Iceland featuring Jón Gauti and Jóni Sölku . That’s basically as much as I’ve been able to find about them online. But really, what more do you need?

This seven-song record came out in July in a ridiculously limited pressing of 10 copies. It’s on clear vinyl and the jacket reverse is numbered with a sticker. A monthly later Velvet Villain put out their debut album Dead By Midnight on various streaming services. It doesn’t appear that the two releases are identical, at least not in comparing song titles. Five tracks on both versions, with the vinyl having two that don’t appear on streaming (“12:59” and “Maístjarnan”), while the Spotify’s Dead By Midnight includes three tracks not on the vinyl (“Wicked Love”, “Out of Sight”, and “Here Comes the Rain”).

Stylistically Velvet Villain is somewhere in the intersection of hard rock, post-punk, and metal. There’s a layer of angst in the vocals, given even more weight by the tuned down guitar. For my money I recommend “Life In a Fishbowl” and “I Wanna Know”, the latter being the heaviest thing on the record, slow and sludgy.

RIP Eddie Van Halen

I’m not going to tell you anything about Eddie Van Halen that you don’t already know. I learned of his passing earlier this week the way we seem to hear most news for the first time these days – on social media. Honestly I feel like it should have hit me harder, like it did when we lost Cornell and Bowie and Prince. Maybe it didn’t because those losses came out of the blue whereas Eddie had battled cancer for some time. Maybe it’s the 2020 malaise spread all over us like a layer of goo and making us numb. I don’t know.

You see, Van Halen was my first “Favorite Band”, a label that is incredibly meaningful when you’re 12 or 13 years old and just starting to form opinions about things that even adults care about. 1984 had just come out and “Jump” was all over MTV, and it was one of the very first records I ever bought. At that point I lacked context, so it came as a bit surprise to learn that Van Halen had five other albums as well. Wow, five more records that are as awesome as 1984! I had to buy them. Over the course of a few months I did, some on tape and some on vinyl.

And I was shocked by the lack of synthesizers and songs that sounded like “Jump”.

I think it was a friend’s much older brother who cued us into some of the best tracks on Van Halen, and it wasn’t long before I gained an appreciation for “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”. I even had a Van Halen painter’s hat to which I attached a pair of Van Halen buttons, the height of shopping mall and arcade fashion in the 1984 tween set.

Van Halen was also the first band that kinda-sorta broke my heart when, not that long after me declaring my undying loyalty to them, they parted ways with David Lee Roth. In my naiveté never dawned on me that such a thing was even possible, and yet it happened to my favorite band. I gave Van Hagar a chance, picking up 5150 as soon as it came out, but I couldn’t get into it. It wasn’t that the new incarnation of Van Halen was bad, they were just different, and different enough that I couldn’t connect. That didn’t stop me from experiencing them live as part of the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour, but to be honest by then I was more interested in seeing Metallica and the Scorpions than I was Eddie and the boys.

All that being said, I do still love me some Van Halen from the David Lee Roth era. With that in mind (and not that anyone asked), here are my favorite songs from each of the first six albums.

  • Van Halen – “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”
  • Van Halen II – “You’re No Good”
  • Women and Children First – “Everybody Wants Some!”
  • Fair Warning – “Unchained”
  • Diver Down – “Where Have All the Good Times Gone!”
  • 1984 – “Panama”

RIP Eddie, and thanks for all those great licks.

MYRKFÆLNI #4 Compilation Cassette (2020)

My favorite zine from Iceland is back with its fourth issue, the third to include a cassette comp of some of the most interesting music coming from the island. There are a few bands here I’ve only recently discovered, like AfterpartyAngel (“Cathexis” might be my favorite track), Captain Syrup, and BSÍ, but most of the rest are new to me. Stylistically the tape covers a lot of ground, from the dream pop of AfterpartyAngel to the quasi-industrial Ægir, the haunting post-punk of Umer Consumer to the garage funk of Captain Syrup.

You can pick up the new issue of MYRKFÆLNI on Bandcamp HERE, along with back issues and some cassette releases they’re putting out as a label.

ANWIYCTI – “A New World If You Can Take It” (2014)

I always try to do my homework before Iceland Airwaves, checking out at least a few songs from any bands I’m not familiar with. It can definitely help when you’re trying to plan out your night. I remember doing this exercise before the 2017 festival and landing on the page for ANWIYCTI because I had to do a double take. Wait, there’s a band from Hong Kong playing this year? Cool! Their lineup is three bass players and a drummer? Wha…? But I was 100% intrigued. We managed to catch half of one of their sets and it was what you’d expect – loud, pounding, percussive.

I’ve had ANWIYCTI in the back of my mind for a while and decided to order their album during one of those Bandcamp “all money goes to the artist” Fridays. The album, the title of which is the full phrase that makes up the acronym, came out in 2014 in a numbered limited edition of 500 on white vinyl (which you can get HERE). And it’s not exactly what you’d expect given that three-bass-attack lineup. There’s some dark dreaminess here, a fluidity that isn’t exactly shoegaze but something more nuanced. Sure, the low end is right up front and in your face, but it’s not always pounding, the edges instead smoothed over with thick layers of long sonic waves. Definitely something different and worth checking out.