Bónus Plötur 7″ Singles

When I first learned of the new Iceland label Bónus Plötur I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I’d likely never get my hands on any of their releases.  The series of 7″ singles are put out monthly in minuscule editions of 30 records each and only available for sale at the vegan cafe in Reykjavik appropriately named Kaffi Vinyl.  So when the opportunity arose to get my hands on three of the five issued so far this year I jumped at it and counted my blessings.  Since all are split releases with only one or two songs per side I decided to just write one combined post to cover all three.

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The Reykjavik Grapevine has a nice feature on the label that can tell you way more about it than I ever could, so go check it out HERE.  The one piece of info I can add to that story, however, is that the Krummi behind Bónus Plötur is not the same Krummi who appears on they’re third release with his duo Döpur.  I suspected, incorrectly as it turns out, that they were one in the same, and had this confirmed by a friend in Reykjavik.

BP-03
A:  Döpur – “Frosin Jörð”
B:  Roht – “Get Ekki Meira”

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We first encountered Döpur, which features Krummi of Legend fame, at Airwaves in 2014.  I was trying to track down Holly at Harpa and I knew she was thinking about checking out a venue of experimental music happening there, and when I walked into the red-lit room there as a huge cat image on the wall and a couple putting on a mind-bending show (left).  We caught up with the duo again a year later at Lucky Records and once again had our minds re-arranged by their music.  “Frosin Jörð” is, I believe, the first actual recording of theirs I’ve put my hands on, and it didn’t disappoint with a raw feel laid over the machine beats, an intentionally unpolished and charged track.  The flip side is a new song by Roht, who I’ve written about a number of times recently on Life in the Vinyl Lane as it seems like every time I turn around they have a new song or tape or single.  “Get Ekki Meira” is heavy as hell, but with vocals that actually remind me a bit of an even more lo-fi Purrkur Pillnikk.  I’ve listened to a decent amount of Roht so far this year, and this may very well be their best effort.

BP-04
A:  Exos – “Zoo York”
B:  Kosmodod – “Mars Elektro” and “Magnetic Distortions”

I’m not sure what’s up with my copy of BP-04.  The others I’ve seen online all have glittery paper on the right side, whereas mine is white, plus it’s not numbered on the reverse.  Could it be an early test press?  Not sure.  It also, unfortunately, appears to have been put into its sleeve before the ink was dry and as a result I have all kinds of stains on the jacket.  But whatever, this is DIY stuff.  I’m just glad to have a copy!

I’ve never heard Exos before, and the beat-driven “Zoo York” has a slight tribal feel with its repetitive percussion and occasional higher notes that sound like two sticks being struck together.  Kosmodod I’d run across previously on the Sweaty Records Compilation a while back, a track I compared to the material appearing on Gusgus’ seminal 24/7.  And “Mars Elektro” is in that same mold, a darker bit of electronic music but one that doesn’t stray towards the more industrial side instead keeping the sonics clear and crisp (though the vinyl itself on this side is a bit noisy, despite having been cleaned).  The same was true for “Magnetic Distortions”.  I really like what Kosmodod is doing – hopefully we’ll see a full-length from him at some point.

BP-05
A:  Kuldaboli & russian.girls – “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?”
B:  Bárujárn – “Vopnafjörður”

Not only are we familiar with all three performers on BP-05, but we also have releases by each and have seen two of the three live.  The combination of Kuldaboli and russain.girls is an intriguing one, and the song does not disappoint – “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?” is a killer piece of electronica.  It reminds me more of Kuldaboli’s general style than it does that of russian.girls, and overall it’s probably my favorite track across these three Bónus Plötur releases.  As for Bárujárn, we seem to somehow manage to see them live almost every year at Airwaves, though usually completely by accident, and “Vopnafjörður” is consistent with their general surf-inspired sound, though this time with a touch of western thrown in for good measure.

 

I still need to try to track down the first two Bónus Plötur singles – hopefully I can track them down when I’m in Reykjavik for Airwaves in November.  Fingers crossed.

Úlfur Úlfur – “Hefnið Okkar”

While researching this post I was surprised to see that I’d somehow missed writing about Úlfur Úlfur’s 2015 album Tvær Plánetur, a CD that includes appearances by many of the luminaries of Iceland’s burgeoning hip hop scene like Gísli Pálmi and Emmsjé Gauti along with more traditional vocalists like Agent Fresco‘s Arnór Dan Arnarsson.  Plus it spawned one of the best new music videos I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so, the hot dog and burnout fest that is “Tarantúlur”.  We caught them live doing a stripped down set at Reykjavik’s Íslenski Barinn (♠) during Iceland Airwaves 2015 (below) and enjoyed them tremedously.

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Now, hip hop in foreign languages can be a bit tricky sometimes.  If you have some experience with the artist’s language that helps, but you’ll likely miss out on some nuance or references; but when it comes to a language you don’t speak at all, as is my case with Icelandic, well… hip hop becomes more about the beats and the cadence.  And fortunately Úlfur Úlfur bring it in both areas (plus they give me the occasional “homey” and f-bomb to keep me at least a little connected to the lyrics).

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Unlike Tvær Plánetur, 2017s Hefnið Okkar sees the wolves (♣) relying on themselves and not bringing in guests, with only one track credited as having backing vocals.  Musically Hefnið Okkar brings a more R&B vibe to the beats and music; this isn’t a straight-up bass-fest, but instead more nuanced with a number of slower, deeper jams like “15” that are defined more deliberate rapping.  But don’t worry, fans of Úlfur Úlfur machine-gun-like lyrical delivery will also find some stuff for them here too, like the second half of “Ofurmenni” – hearing the guys spit rhymes that fast in Icelandic is a treat to the ears.  If I’m picking favorites, though, I’ll take “Úlfur” with it’s slightly 1980s horror movie soundtrack vibe and building cadence, arguably the best blend of the styles of their most recent two albums.

The guys dropped three videos all on the same day to support the release of the album, so you can give them a listen on YouTube.  The most visually interesting one is for “Bróðir”, which is linked below for your viewing and listening pleasure.

(♠) Notable for having what is arguably Reykjavik’s best hamburger.

(♣)  Úlfur means “wolf” in English.

Ljáin – “Endasálmar” Cassette

ljainThere is so much black metal coming out of Iceland these days that I’m beginning to wonder if the entrance to Hell isn’t actually on the island after all. (♠)

Endasálmar opens with the brief and creepy “Eilíf þjáning”, a sort of Gregorian chant kind of thing that leads into Ljáin’s brand of black metal emphasizing distorted guitar and almost lo-fi-ish vocals that sound more like an instrument than a(n) (in)human voice, so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a purely instrumental album.

There appear to be three different colored versions of this tape – black, green, and blue, each in an edition of 50.  While I don’t see these for sale on the Ljáin Bandcamp page, you can still listen to the album in its entirety THERE, so if you want a taste of the more extreme side of metal go give it a listen.

(♠) The volcano Hekla was believed by many (and by many faiths) to be the gateway to Hell.  I can neither confirm nor refute this.  I have driven past it before, but didn’t notice anything particularly unusual or Hell-like.

Skáphe – “Untitled” Cassette

skapheuntitledSeems like it’s been a while since Iceland’s premier black metal label Vánagandr put out a new tape, so I was a bit surprised and excited when I found one in the box that came in the mail the other day from Lucky Records.  I felt like the kid in Time Bandits finding a chunk of concentrated evil.  It’s the second Skáphe release put out by the label, but the first one I’m hearing because the other cassette got completely destroyed by my previous tape deck, probably its way of trying to warn me of the dark power the tape contained.

Untitled could just as easily be called “VII”, since that’s the name of the only track on the album, a 22-minute song that is so depraved it simply repeats on the other side as well because I’m not sure you could handle 44 minutes of unique music from Skáphe.  Comprised of elements that are at times completely at odds with one another, and at others perfectly aligned and committed to destroying your soul, “VII” comes doesn’t provide you any respite – even the slow parts are heavy.  The most notable element to my ears is the drums which at times feel as if they’re possessed by a spirit as they go flying off on their own pace completely separate from what the other instruments are trying to do and creating a very jarring effect that throws off your equilibrium.

You can experience Untitled HERE if you dare, all 22 minutes of its abyss-opening glory.

Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson & BJNilsen – “Abstract Art Automat”

abstractartautomatI completely lack the ability to write about this type of experimental ambient music.

Abstract Art Automat, a collaboration between Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson of Stilluppsteypa fame and Sweden’s BJNilsen, came out late last year as a limited edition (of 50) cassette.  The compositions remind me a bit of the kind of thing you hear inside one of those enclosed habitats at either a zoo or an aquarium, the kind where you’re surrounded on all sides and looking through glass at the animals and/or fish and they’re pumping in surreal sounds that are short of a cross between ambient electronica and animal noises.  Abstract Art Automat simply does away with the animal noises, though there are certainly environmental sounds like the sloshing of water that would be right at home in one of these enclosures.

There’s definitely an appeal to this kind of non-beat-driven music; I find that it can unlock my brain and get me out of purely linear thinking.  It might be a bit tricky to track down (though copies have sold on Discogs in the past), but if this kind of electronica is what you enjoy it’ll be worth the effort to track down a copy.