Hatari – “Neysluvara” (2017)

From Iceland Music’s recent interview with the band Hatari:

Interviewer:  What is Hatari?

Response:  Hatari is a multimedia project that aims to reveal the relentless scam that we call everyday life.

Interviewer:  What is everyday life?

Response:  It is an ongoing parade in which we all take part.  A hyper-individualistic… pit… where our identities are commodities and mechanisms of social cohesion are systematically undermined.

Using music as a method for socio-political commentary is, of course, nothing new.  But this level of clarity is perhaps a but unusual.  The English language Reykjavik Grapevine asked Hatari for an interview to be included in their special Iceland Airwaves 2017 edition, and the band responded instead with a page-long passage from Noam Chomsky about neoliberalism.  They offer critiques of the capitalist system they find themselves living in, yet still release a physical album, a four-song CD that was selling for 2.500 kr (♠) and unabashedly entitled Neysluvara, which translates to Consumer.  The packaging is unique and thoughtful, as is the well-designed insert booklet.  There’s an acknowledgement on their part that these two parts of their project, the political and the commercial, on the surface appear to be at odds, but note that they themselves have grown up in this capitalist system and as a result are a part of it whether they want to be or not.  They dress in what could be described as fascist bondage chic. Their lyrics are dark and so are their videos.

And they put out what may very well be the very best album put out by anyone, anywhere, in any genre in 2017. (♥)

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There was a lot of chatter about Hatari’s live show as Airwaves 2017 got underway, and while we’d never heard their music we made a point of getting to Gamla Bíó early on Thursday, November 2 so we could stake out a good spot to catch the performance.  And right from the very start we knew we were in for something special.  The audience was rapt and the performance was, quite frankly, flawless.  There were costumes and great music and dancers dressed like the walked off the set of The Road Warrior who had fanny packs full of lollypops that they tossed into the crowd.  Musically it was IDM at its finest – it didn’t even matter that the vocals were all sung in Icelandic, because the cadence and venom with which they were delivered told you everything you needed to know.

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Shriveled fruits of vanished expectations
Keep the riffraff enraptured.
Spiritual bankruptcy
Sucks the marrow from initiative
And suffocates it in bitterness.
— “X” (translated from Icelandic)

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Neysluvara opens with “X”, a song that, based on lyrical translation, is a screed against the  rich and powerful who use their power to keep the majority down, scratching away to barely make enough to survive.  “Our daily bread / Is salt in our wounds”, we’re told in a raspy delivery over dark IDM beats.  “Tortímandi” (which translates to “Destroy”) maintains to pounding assault, but with the addition of some higher range harmonies that soar about the wall of pain the rest of the song delivers.  Things let off just a little on “Biðröð Mistaka” (“Queue Mistake”) with a less oppressive song foundation and more room for the higher pitch vocals to own an entire part, almost giving a sense of hope before the final third kicks in and the primary vocals pound the now-whispy higher ones into submission.  The EP closes with “Ódýr” (“Cheap”), and here again we gain the benefit of translated lyrics that accompany the video.  The pace here is much slower, the vocals more pained and desperate.

The years slip from you like breadcrumbs tossed in the trash.
They pile up on the heaps of broken dreams.
You look back and think:
Why did I sell myself –
Why did I sell myself –
So cheap?

It’s a fitting end, like a resigned sigh as life comes to an end and you realize your mistakes.   Certainly you can listen to Neysluvara as a treatise on nihilism, but in fact I think it’s the opposite, instead a call to recognize what’s happening and do something about it.  The what, of course, is entirely up to you; but as they say, the first part in finding a solution is recognizing that you have a problem.

I can’t praise Neysluvara enough.  I’ve played it at least 20 times, if not more, since our return from Iceland in early November, and as I mentioned earlier it will definitely appear on my Top 5 list for 2017.  Tracking down a copy may prove to be tough, but I believe you can access all four tracks at the band’s website HERE and leave you with the video for “X” below.

(♠)  Roughly $25 US.

(♥)  You’ll just have to come back to the blog on December 25 when I post my “Best of 2017” lists to see just how highly I regard Neysluvara.

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