Skjálfti – “Every Day Eternal” (2020)

This is the humdrum of everyday life translated into sound. The everyday repetition of menial tasks. The washing up the dishes, cleaning, walking to the store to buy groceries. The worries, fears and anxieties of existence.
— From the insert included with Every Day Eternal

I’m hardly a devotee of noise. However, I’m completely and utterly fascinated by it, both sonically and as a subculture. So while I’ve read a decent amount about noise and checked out some of the more well-known artists, I have to be careful in writing about it to not come across as a tourist or some kind of academic trying to put it into a nice neat box with a bow around it. Because if there are two things noise is not, it’s nice and neat.

Skjálfti’s Every Day Eternal, a 15-minute expression of harshness, was released on March 13, and it may in many ways have come out at just the perfect time to become the soundtrack of the debacle that is 2020. Nothing about this year has been normal. We introduced the term “shelter in place” to the lexicon. Jobless rates reached Great Depression levels in a matter of weeks. People go about their days wearing masks and side-glancing suspiciously at those around them, as if they expect COVID carriers to have a scarlet “C” emblazoned on their clothes. Or conversely they see the masks as part of some government conspiracy, in which case they look at their mask-wearing neighbors as dupes and sheep. The humdrum of everyday life has been both turned on its head and also become oddly more mundane at the same time as we all sleepwalk through our days, barely sure of what day of the week it is or even the season. Every Day Eternal is the noise crackling across your brain as you deal with the stress and pressure, coupled with the constant barrage of real and not-so-real stories and the insanity that is the comments section of any online post or story about politics, COVID, or just about any other topic under the sun. Add to it all the building reckoning of hundreds of years of colonialism and systemic racism and, well, it’s a wonder we haven’t all gone completely insane.

I’m not attributing any kind of political statement to Every Day Eternal – the artist’s own description of their motivations is quoted at the start of this post. But the consumer of art always brings their own context to the process of experiencing the art, and as such it’s all but impossible for me to listening to it without acknowledging that my own headspace, which is driven by a range of unexpectedly converging events of the first half of 2020. It is, in some ways, the soundtrack of the new normal.

Every Day Eternal is available digitally on Bandcamp HERE, as well as on a super limited numbered edition (of 23) on 3″ CDr.

Grafnár – “Útför Heiguls” Cassette (2020)

Grafnár’s six song, 15-minute Útför Heiguls is a grindcore crusher, a frenetic blend of punk, thrash, black metal, sunk in a 50-gallon drum of 10W-40 oil. Sonically it’s surprisingly diverse – I often find grindcore’s assault on my ears has a sort of numbing quality that makes it hard for me to distinguish one song from another, but Grafnár’s occasional directional changes keep Útför Heiguls feeling fresh (as does the fact that all but one song comes in at three minutes or less).

Útför Heiguls is available on Bandcamp HERE both as a download and on limited edition (supposedly of 100, though I don’t see that on the release page) cassette.

IndiaBoy & Pési-B – “The Rise of India” (2020)

With all the record stores closed I’ve been spending more time online looking for new and interesting music, and with Bandcamp offering specials that funnel profits to the artists or social causes quite a bit of my buying is happening there. Which is how I came to receive this CD copy of The Rise of India the other day. I’d originally run across the listing for it on Discogs and it intrigued me enough to go find and order it on Bandcamp.

I don’t know anything at all about this project other than that it’s based in Iceland. The artists describe their style as trap and that seems to fit as well as anything, the beats low and varying in tempo, the raps a bit languid and sticky as they coat the music in a layer of lyrical goo. The words are in Icelandic, though I find that doesn’t bother me especially with this more trap-like style where the flow and sounds are what I find most captivating. If I’m picking favorites I’d point you to the pair of “Ekkikan Et” and “Restinpeas Coby & Brian”. I’ve been playing this sucker non-stop since it arrived – definitely one of my favorite 2020 releases to date.

The first edition of the CD release is in an edition of 100. The packaging is a bit DIY, the booklet and inserts unevenly cut and the jewel case barely closing as a result. But that’s part of the charm. You can listen to the music and pick up the CD or a download on Bandcamp HERE, and it looks like there is also a limited edition (of one!) on clear vinyl as well.

Fylgja – “Aska Vors Lands” Cassette (2020)

What is dungeon synth, and why am I listening to it on a wet, cold Saturday, the day after learning that my state is going to extend its COVID stay-at-home order another four weeks? If I’m being honest I picked up Aska Vors Lands because it’s an Icelandic release. But it turns out it’s a pretty appropriate soundtrack for how we feel after being cooped up in our house for the last six weeks or so and now facing at least four more. It sounds like we feel right now – gloomy, gray, sluggish, and a bit desolate. Today we decided to get some takeout for lunch and texted two friends to tell them our plans. One of them came to meet us. Not so we could all eat together, mind you; the restaurant isn’t open for eating in, and the social distancing orders, combined with the rain, made eating outside together impossible. No. He came out just so he could talk to someone face-to-face for 15 minutes after being stuck alone in his place for the past six weeks. We’re all going a bit stir crazy, to the point where a trip to the hardware or grocery store seems like a luxury. You almost feel like you’re breaking the rules or doing something subversive just by getting into your car. And let’s not even get started with the fact that we’re wearing masks everywhere…

Aska Vors Lands captures this malaise perfectly with it’s subtlety and methodical pace. There’s no buildup here, just a mildly disconcerting steadiness, as if it had no beginning and would never reach an end, always existing. That’s not to say the album’s one 22+ minute track is monotonous. Fylgja provide variant sounds, though they all exist within the same mood, the same gray ash world where nothing grows and the wind never stills, not even for a moment.

The digital track is available on Fylgja’s Bandcamp page HERE, while the cassette can be purchased for seven bucks on Big Cartel HERE. I suspect the tapes are fairly limited, but can’t find any confirming info at this point. I doubt they’ll be available for long – all the label’s other releases are sold out, so this one probably will be soon too. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ægir – “Crooked Bangs” (2020)

A friend sent me a physical copy of Ægir’s January 2020 release Crooked Bangs. These CDrs were produced in limited quantities, the packaging handmade and the art and track listings handwritten. They’re individually numbered and mine is either #26 or #36… it’s hard to tell. I don’t see the CDs mentioned on Bandcamp so I can’t be sure how many were made, but my best guess is around 50. It was released on the Why Not? Plötuútgáfa! label, one that has an interesting collection of artists such as World Narcosis, GRIT TEETH, Godchilla, BSÍ, Brött Brekka, Dead Herring, and Laura Secord, most of who I’ve written about before. Ægir also runs the label, and I always keep my eyes peeled for anything he releases on it.

Crooked Bangs opens with what sounds like the artist getting ready to perform – not so much warming up as getting settled in for the set. What follows is a journey through subtle electronics and analog percussion, soundscapes that give the impression of being loosely outlined and then executed live in an in-the-moment spirit. Is it possible to describe Ægir’s approach? I don’t know for sure. At times quiet, at others frenetic, you can feel his flow in the drumming, almost visualize him in your mind behind the kit and lost in the moment. To my ears the most intriguing track is “Maybe A Bit Insecure”, probably because it utilizes sonics that sound like some kind of voice samples, though they’re barely recognizable as such.

You can listen to Crooked Bangs and purchase it digitally on Bandcamp HERE.