Reykjavik Record Haul

We arrived in Reykjavik this morning for Iceland Airwaves, and since the festival doesn’t start until tomorrow, yours truly planned on spending as much time as possible in search of vinyl.  Only mildly deterred by the ridiculously cold and blustery weather (per an online weather site, it was 32 degrees F but felt like 19 degrees… but at least it wasn’t raining), we made it to Lucky Records, 12 Tonar, and Bad Taste Records.  It was a pretty good haul of Icelandic punk and new wave, with the majority of it coming from my friends at Lucky.

In no particular order…

LPs / EPs

1.  Berndsen – Lover in the Dark.  OK, I already have this on CD, and I’ve even blogged about it.  But it’s on bright pink vinyl, and I just had to pick it up.

2.  Orghestar – Konungar Spaghettifrumskogarins.  Try to say it ten times fast.  No really.  Try it.

3.  Bodies – Bodies. Bodies.

4.  Reptile – Fame and Fossils.  This came from way out in left field, a recommendation from the guys at Lucky, and the little I sampled sounds good.

5.  Sogblettir – Sogblettir.   With a Psychadelic 60s inspired cover, except that it’s in black and white.

6.  Sogblettir – Fyrsti Kossinn

7.  Kamarorghestar – Bisar I Bana Studi

8.  Menn – Reisn

9.  Das Kapital – Lili Marlene

10.  S.H. Draumur – God

11.  Mike Pollock – Take Me Back

12.  Bless – Melting

13.  Thorlakur Kristinson – The Boys From Chicago.  Side one, all acoustic solo.  SIde two, rock.

14.  Bubbi & Megas – Blair Draumar

 

10″ EPs

1.  S.H. Draumur – Bensin Skrimslid Skridur

2.  Theyr – Idur Til Fota

 

7″ Singles / EPs

1.  HAM – Sviksemi / Tveir Dalir

2.  FM Belfast – Underwear

3.  Retro Stefson – Qween (limited edition picture disc)

 

Man, if only I had a record player here!

 

 

 

“Satt 3” Compilation

Released in 1984, the three-album SATT compilation (showing a lot of originality in being named “1”, “2”, and “3”) provides a look at the transition the Icelandic punk scene made towards new wave.  Many of the bands featured have no releases of their own, so their appearances on SATT may represent their only commercial recordings.

The first wave of Icelandic punk bands are absent, and to be honest I only recognized one or two bands across all three albums.  The primary reason I picked up SATT 3 in Reykjavik last year (I didn’t get the other two discs) was the inclusion of one very important band – Tappi Tikarrass.  And why is Tappi Tikarrass important?  Well, it was the first serious band of a woman who later became arguably the most important and widely known export of Iceland, then teenager Björk Guðmundsdóttir (followed closely in importance in my mind by kokomjolk, the absolutely delicious Icelandic chocolate milk drink that features a cat in a striped sweater on the box – delicious!).  Ingvar at Lucky Records pointed me in the direction of this album as an affordable vinyl recording of Tappi Tikarrass, and when I brought the album home I was excited to see that there were actually two songs by the band included – the track list on the reverse of the album jacket left one of them off.

Even as far back as 1984 Björk’s voice had that recognizable quality, one that developed even further during her time with KUKL and The Sugarcubes.  It’s not all about Tappi Tikarrass, though.  There are some other solid tracks on this compilation, particularly on side two.  Með Nöktum, featuring former members of Þeyr, contribute, and Bylur provide a jazz/funk number that is very different from the rest of the album’s songs.  Some of the album has that distinctly Icelandic new wave sound, with somewhat musically disjointed tracks and vocals that sort of flow over them, not necessarily with the music.  I’m going to try to pick up SATT 1 and SATT 2 when I’m in Reykjavik next week – if those two records are as good as SATT 3 they’ll be well worth the money.

Daniel Agust – “The Drift”

Have you ever followed your footsteps,
Into the unknown,
Where the ground is hollow,
In the arms of darkness?

So opens Daniel Agust’s masterpiece, The Drift.  Agust, the lead singer of Gusgus, released this, his second solo album, in 2011.  We didn’t know what to expect when we picked it up, other than that it included a cover of Gusgus’ “Feel Like Dancing” from the 24/7 album, which we loved, so it seemed like a safe bet.  And was it ever.  While the Gusgus cover (is it really a cover if you’re singing a song from your band, but do so in a completely different style on a solo album?  Enquiring minds want to know.) has an interesting country/western vibe to it, the entire album is an impressive experience.

Agust delivers 11 impressive tracks on The Drift, with a style all his own that has twangy guitars, some honky tonk, and his amazing vocals.  I have to confess that I think he may have one of the very best voices in music today – so clean and full of emotion that it just sucks you in.  If you ever get a chance to catch him live, either solo, with Gusgus, or his other project Esja, you have to make the effort to go.  Bottom line is that I have yet to find a Daniel Agust band or project that I haven’t enjoyed immensely.

 

“Geyser – Anthology of the Icelandic Independent Music Scene of the Eighties”

If you want to check out the Icelandic punk/new wave scene from the early 1980s, and get exposure to as many bands as possible, you really have two primary choices:  the Northern Lights Playhouse and Geyser compilations.  Of the two, Geyser appears the most available, and has the added bonus of having the greater number of bands featured (11 in all).  Northern Lights Playhouse features more songs, but less bands with only six… though four of these do not appear on Geyser, so in a perfect world you’d have both.  However, with Norther Lights Playhouse costing $60+ on vinyl compared to maybe $10 for Geyser (or cheaper), the later is the overall winner.  Northern Lights Playhouse does get points, however, for being available on the Icelandair music channel on their flights… or at least it was this summer.  Good work Icelandair!  Pretty gutsy for an airline.

I find it ironic that the subtitle of this album indicates it is an anthology of the “Icelandic Independent Music Scene”.  As if there is really a music scene in Iceland that isn’t independent.

Most of the classic Icelandic punk and new wave bands are here.  Theyr, Purrkur Pillnikk, Bubbi & Das Kapital, Vonbrigdi… even the Bjork/Einar Orn project KUKL.  Two of the tracks are previously unreleased elsewhere.  As an added bonus the reverse of the album cover also includes 12 paragraphs on the bands featured.  Geyser was created in 1987 for release outside of Iceland, intended to draw attention to the Icelandic music scene.

Perhaps the most intriguing track on the album is “Edda” by Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, described as “a farmer and the official head of the heathen sect of Asatru”.  What he does isn’t what we today think of as music.  Instead it’s the Icelandic style of poetry chanting.  It’s haunting and soulful.

Your introduction to Icelandic music awaits!  Get some!

 

Utangarðsmenn – “Geislavirkir”

Bubbi Morthens has a long and distinguished history in the Icelandic music scene.  Sometimes it seems like it’s actually harder to find a group he wasn’t involved in.  Utangarðsmenn (“Outsiders” in English) was one of his earliest bands, and also one of the most successful, playing some large shows in Iceland as well as opening for the Clash.

Released in 1980, “Geislavirkir” is a different example of Icelandic new wave, with a heavy dose of reggae influence (there’s even a track titled “Chinese Reggae”). When I first put this vinyl on the turntable at Lucky Records, I wasn’t particularly impressed.  I was on the hunt for Icelandic punk and new wave, and this really has a different sound and tone to it, which was not what I was looking for.  Fortunately Ingvar insisted that I needed this album, and the price was right, so I picked it up.  Thank you, Ingvar, because “Geislavirkir” has some great music on it.

With 14 tracks, “Geislavirkir” is a fairly substantial album though it still clocks in at a relatively tight 36 minutes.  And some of it is in English… it’s unusual in that it has songs in both Icelandic and English, something I generally haven’t seen in my (admittedly limited) experience with Icelandic bands, especially from this era.  It’s hard to describe in terms of a style.  The release year certainly puts it in the midst of the punk/new wave era, and certainly a lot of punk (especially from England) had reggae influences.  But like many Icelandic bands, Utangarðsmenn take it in sort of a different direction.  There are some hard numbers here, along with some that are slower.  There’s even a 50’s-style rocker.  Personally, I even hear a little early Blue Oyster Cult in the style, but maybe that’s just me.  Their follow-up LP, Í Upphafi Skyldi Endinn Skoða, includes a cover of The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, which gives us a little more insight into their influences.

There actually is an Utangarðsmenn album, their self-titled release from 1994, available on iTunes, and it includes at least a few tracks from this record (“Hiroshima” and “Tango”).  Go check out the samples and see what you think. Utangarðsmenn may just expand your musical tastes.