“Put your fucking record out!” echoed out of the back of Reykjavik’s Amsterdam bar during a brief lull in Æla’s (Icelandic for “puke”) Sunday night set at Iceland Airwaves 2013. While that may have sounded like an insult, the band actually got a good laugh out of it. Apparently they’d been working on their “new album” for some time, long enough that it had perhaps become a bit of a running joke.
Well, almost two years later they finally put their fucking record out, the 12-song Vettlingatök (which according to the Reykjavik Grapevine article on the album means “Handle with Kid Gloves”… which is only a little bit like what Google Translate came back with: “Mitten”). It’s punk, but not exactly like what you think of when you contemplate punk. I remember thinking during that live show in 2013 that their sound reminded me a lot of legendary Icelandic punks Purrkur Pillnikk, and certainly the new record does as well. Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks so, and in fact it may well be part of the band’s plan, because according to the previously mentioned Grapevine review, “Æla was formed in a garage somewhere on the Reykjanes peninsula by four guys who wanted to sound like Purrkur Pillnikk.”
That’s not to say that Æla are nothing but a glorified Purrkur Pillnikk cover band or something. Yes, there are some stylistic similarities both in song structure and vocals (listen to “Fyrir þig” for an example), but the guys in Æla put their own spin on things. The band maintains a somewhat raw sound on Vettlingatök, which is good because their high energy live shows are their calling card. The recording is well balanced, giving space to all of the instruments and giving the bass a more prominent role instead of leaving it buried in the mix more or less keeping the same time as the drums. That’s not to say it’s bass heavy, but just that it’s refreshing to hear that maligned instrument find a home in the music that isn’t just the same boring chord over and over and over again. Overall Vettlingatök stays pretty rooted in it’s punk/post-punk style, though the guys do get all trippy/psych on the closing track “Vögguvísa,” which is a pretty good change of pace.
You can check out the entire album on the Æla Bandcamp site HERE, and you can order the vinyl directly from there as well. I believe it’s also available on iTunes (and the Bandcamp page) for digital download as well.