Iceland’s Dr. Gunni has made a number of appearances on Life in the Vinyl Lane. I’ve written about some of the bands he was in like Bless and S.H. Draumur, his books like Blue Eyed Pop: The History of Popular Music in Iceland, and about buying records from his personal collection. He played his first live gig at the age of 14 with his band Spiders in 1980, and he seemingly knows just about everything about everyone who was in the scene from that point forward. Of course, this is Iceland, and it seems like everyone knows everything about everyone else there…
Gunni been part of the music scene there since punk hit, and he’s an excellent musician in his own right. I have a few records and CDs from his various projects over the years, and I found a few more the other day on Discogs, a pair of 7″ records (each with five songs, so it doesn’t seem right to call them “singles”) from the early 1990s called Fins Og Fólk Er Flesk (1991) and Fuzz & Sway (1993). Mix my Discogs login with my Paypal account and stir it up in the three or so glasses of wine I’d had before screwing around online (always a dangerous combination), and less than a week later those records were in my hot little hands, waiting to be played. Ah, the power of the internet to connect people… and facilitate alcohol-aided impulse purchases.
There was a mix-up at the printing plant when Fins Og Fólk Er Flesk was pressed, the result of which was the labels getting put on the wrong sides of the record. Have no fear, though, because in punk rock DIY fashion they just added a small paper insert in with the record letting you know this. Musically this came as a surprise right out of the gate, not sounding at all like what I was used to hearing from the good doctor. The opening track “Eddi Hnifur” is some straight-up electro noise, bordering a bit on industrial, and it totally caught me of guard. The other four songs were a little bit less experimental, but definitely with very fuzzy lo-fi dirty sounding vocals and a mix of instruments and styles. For my money “Nonni Stubbur” is the winner on this record, reminding me a little of a lo-fi version of Big Black. Coming in a close second is “Kalli Klessa,” which has a cool guitar riff and opening vocals that may have later influenced the guys from the band Reykjavik!. While not at all what I was expecting, it grew on me pretty fast (and it had to, since the whole thing only clocks in at about nine minutes) and it’ll be in the queue for some future playings.
So now that Gunni had my attention it was time to give Fuzz & Sway a spin. This orange translucent vinyl gem is more noise, and maybe even noisier than Fins Og Fólk Er Flesk. Like it’s predecessor this record also includes five songs, and while it doesn’t provide run times it’s pretty comparable in lasting a bit less than 10 minutes. There isn’t anything quite as weird as “Eddi Hnifur,” or at least I don’t think there is, but that could just be me getting more used to this version of Dr. Gunni (and liking it). I enjoyed “Simbi Skítur” the most – it actually has a bit of a black metal vibe to it in a way, so maybe it just feels more familiar to me. Fuzz & Sway seemed a bit more internally consistent than Fins Og Fólk Er Flesk, with a heavy dose of fuzzy and often screamed vocals and a more standard, if aggressive, guitar attack.
I emailed Doc Gunni to ask him about these records, and he told me this was a “solo” project, but one that was supposed to be Dr. Gunni and Dr. Rhythm, the name for his drum machine, “but nobody gave the drum machine any credit” and as a result we have just Dr. Gunni, the name that has stuck with him. I’d also like to note he described this project as “a cartoon version of Big Black”… a connection I also noted above before I emailed him!
Definitely sort of fetish noise items, but I still liked Fins Og Fólk Er Flesk and Fuzz & Sway. If you’re into noise and/or industrial, they’re worth a listen.