Ghostigital only played a handful of live shows between 2009 and 2011…. and I was lucky enough to see two of them. At Airwaves in 2009 they were in the middle of a bizarre lineup that found them wedged in between the very 70s ABBAesque pop stylings of BB & Blake, and the Icelandic hip hop band XXX Rottweiler. I was woefully unprepared for the Ghostigital experience that time, but I was more than ready when they took the stage at Faktory in 2011. At least as ready as you can ever be to see Einar Orn and the Ghostigital experience. And trust me brothers and sisters, it is an experience. I think the best word to describe my state of mind after seeing their 2009 show is “stunned”.
It took about a year following my first Ghostigital experience before I could screw up the courage to actually listen to their current album at the time, In Cod We Trust. I didn’t take to it immediately, but I’m glad I gave it a chance and stuck it out – there is some brilliant music on there. It’s not feel-good, and it’s not safe pop background music. I mean, not everyone can write a song about the Cod Wars fought on the high seas between Iceland and England, and actually make it good. The music intense, in-your-face, disjointed, and jarring. But it will get you moving, as we saw at Faktory in 2011 when the packed crowd looked like a small sea of bobbing heads.
2012 saw two new (though related) releases from Ghostigital – their third LP, Division of Culture & Tourism, along with a Record Store Day Europe 12″ called Don’t Push Me. One of the great benefits of our modern age is the accessibility of music (and just stuff in general), and I was able to track down a copy of the 12″ on eBay, which held me over until the full album was released (even though I have Division of Culture & Tourism on mp3, I strongly suspect I’ll be picking up a copy on vinyl as well when we’re in Reykjavik in a few weeks – vinyl is better!). And I know we’re going to see them again live, hopefully catching both of their scheduled shows. If you’re interested in the Ghostigital live experience, check out the KEXP radio website (www.kexp.org) – they’re broadcasting some live sets from Airwaves this year, including one of the Ghositigal shows.
Einar Orn is one of those names in Icelandic music that seems to keep showing up no matter where I look. He was part of one of the earliest important punk bands in the country, Purrkur Pillnikk, and later a member of both KUKL and The Sugarcubes alongside Bjork. Today he works for the city of Reykjavik making sure your busses run on time. And continues to make challenging music,
Division of Culture & Tourism is a kick-ass album, and one featuring collaborations with a number of other great musicians. Rapper Sensational is back, reprising his intermittent appearances on the first two Ghostigital albums – it would be amazing if he could join them live, as his lyrical style is perfect for the band’s sound. David Byrne of Talking Heads fame contributes on a track, as does Suicide’s Alan Vega. When it comes to collaboration, Einar Orn’s usual approach is to send a track to his collaborator and basically allow them to do whatever they want with it. Based on the results, it seems like a good plan – my favorite two songs on the album are “Don’t Push Me,” featuring Sensational, and “Dreamland,” featuring David Byrne. Byrne does most of the vocals on “Dreamland” with Einar coming in for the chorus parts (if you can really call it a chorus), and he delivers the best line on the album with “I was born in the Devil’s toolbox / I went to school where the wind don’t blow.” An honorable mention goes out for “Hovering Hoover Skates”, which has a solid beat and some pretty funny lyrics, including references to mustaches.
What makes me so spectacular?
Is it my fabulous hat?
No, no, no,
It’s my mooo-stache,
It’s so great!
The Don’t Push Me EP consists of four tracks – the album versions of “Don’t Push Me” and “Scary Scary”, along with a song not found on the LP, “Elastic Tongue”, and a remix of “Don’t Push Me” by the Icelandic duo Gluteus Maximus. The remix is the highlight, as Gluteus Maximus completely stripped out the music from the original track and replaced it with a heavy, quick bass-beat. It’s a more stripped down, minimalist approach than the original, and very cool.
It’s not dance music, but I have to admit I always find my feet or my head moving, or fingers tapping, when Ghostigital is playing.