Kuldaboli – “Stilleben 053” (2019)

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Outside of the big hitters like The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men, and the like, it’s pretty rare for me to run across Icelandic vinyl out in the wild.  I figured I’d have a shot, though, on our recent trip to Berlin and Copenhagen given that so many Icelandic electronic artists move to Berlin and the close ties between Denmark and Iceland.  And the first nugget I found was this newly-released five-song collection by Kuldaboli, which was in the New Arrivals bin at Berlin’s Hard Wax.  I’d just learned of the release while at the airport in Seattle waiting to depart, so I was pretty excited to lay my hands on a copy.

The down side is that all five of these tracks have appeared elsewhere previously.  “Nýtt heimsmet í kvíðakasti karla”, “Maður er negldur”, and “Svæsin blæti” all appeared on the 2016 CD Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, while “Sovétríkin” was part of a super-rare split 2017 10″ release with Kosmodod and “Strangar Reglur” was on the first Sweaty Records CD comp called VA_001.  I’ve never managed to get my hands on that split 10″, so at least one of the songs was new for me.

I’d probably refer you to my post on Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, which is linked above, for more on Kuldaboli’s overall sound.  I’m a huge fan, so even if I’d known there was only one track here I didn’t have I still would have bought Stilleben 053.  You can check it out at the label’s Bandcamp page HERE, though I don’t see the vinyl for sale there, so it might be a bit harder to track down.

Milena Glowacka – “Radiance” Cassette (2019)

milenaglowackaradianceLet’s get something out of the way right up front.  I have no idea how to write about Radiance.  But I also feel compelled to write something about it, because it’s one of the best new releases I’ve heard in 2019.

There’s an undercurrent of ambient throughout Radiance, a slowly drifting foundation.  But on top of that we’re provided a range of different sounds, from the spacey dripping-liquid-mercury of “Try Out On You” to the metronome-like thumping beat that opens “Lusty At The Touch”, seemingly disparate sonic elements that Glowacka somehow combines into a cohesive whole.  “You Are Such A Disappointment” could be the soundtrack to every nightmare I’ve ever had, right down to the title itself, the high pitched buzz punctuated by low end mechanical beats creating feelings of both anxiety and existential dread.

Released digitally and on cassette by the Icelandic label FALK, Radiance is available for streaming on Bandcamp HERE.  The cassette copy comes with a download, so spend a few extra Euro and get a tape for your Walkman while you’re at it.  You’ll be the coolest kid on the block.

Dynkur – “Tschüssi” (2019)

dynkurThe opening beats of Dynkur’s new release Tschüssi hit you head-on like the pounding of some kind of industrial press, a massive machine punching out widget after widget after widget in rapid, unending succession.  Thump thump thump… even when the more more subtle, dreamier synths appear they are pounded into the background… thump thump thump… at least that is until it’s time to get funky, spacey electronics jumping to the fore and bouncing around like rubber super balls in a small room.  Only then does the machine let up, though just for a bit because it comes back again with a vengeance.  The beats are prevalent throughout Tschüssi, but on “Arecibo” they take on a different quality, less mechanical and more electric, buzzing with current and just a hint of interference on the back-end giving things a rawer, more powerful feel.  It’s definitely the most aggressive track on the album, one that would be at home in a windowless basement, cut off from all natural light for decades… Things close with “Ocean Of Sound”, the first time Dynkur pulls vocal samples into his compositions, which he does to great (and creepy) effect.  It’s a tremendous closing gesture, the record achieving maximum intensity as its final final statement.

Dynkur is Icelander Thordur Arnarson and those evil masterminds at FALK (Fuck Art Let’s Kill) are responsible for this gem making it onto vinyl.  Tschüssi was released in a super-limited pressing of just 40 copies, so if you want one (and you know you do) you better get on it quick HERE, because at just €12 for 25 minute of bangers these are going to be gone before you know it.

Þeyr – “Þagað Í Hel” (1980)

I spent a few decades actively involved in the sports memorabilia world, both as a collector and a seller.  In fact my dad owned and operated a baseball card shop in the 1990s back when that was actually something you could earn a living at.  I’ve attended shows and conventions in at least a half dozen states plus Canada.  I’m not active in it any more – I sold off most of my stuff over the years, and at least some of that money ended up going to records.

But that’s not why I’m bringing up my hobby history.  It’s because the sports memorabilia world was the first place I heard people refer to “The Holy Grail”, or often simply “Grail”, in a context that didn’t involve blood and wine.  Back in the day auction catalogs constantly tried to outdo each other in hyperbole, and one of the ways they’d do that was to refer to a rare or valuable item as “The Holy Grail of [fill in the blank]”, with [fill in the blank] replaced by “Tobacco Cards” or “Babe Ruth Cards” or “Hall of Fame Autographs” or “Greg Jeffries Donruss Rookie Cards”. (♠)  Generally the term was used to describe the best of something.

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In the record collecting world the term Grail is used in a similar way, but one that is more personal.  It’s not unusual for a collector to as another “what’s your Grail”, meaning the record that you desperately desire but don’t have either due to cost or scarcity, the record that always seems to have been found by someone else 15 minutes before you got to the shop or show, your elusive vinyl nemesis.  I don’t think I’ve had a Grail per se since getting back into vinyl, but the closest album is probably Þeyr 1980 debut Þagað Í Hel.  It’s the one album that I’ve actually told people, “if you ever get a copy of this for sale, put it aside because I’ll 100% buy it”.  It’s the only album I ever marked as a “Want” on Discogs.  And I haven’t seen one for sale anywhere since I started looking a few years back.  Sure, an acquaintance on Facebook had a line on one for a while, but that fell through, and apparently I was a few weeks too late to Reykjavik Record Shop a few years ago and a collector from Japan walked out with their copy.  I wouldn’t say I’ve been actively looking for it, but I’d also say I put more effort into trying to find a copy than I have for any other record.

And about two weeks ago I got an automated email from Discogs letting me know that a seller just posted a copy of Þagað Í Hel that day.  Within five minutes of getting that email I ordered it, then endured a painful 10 day wait for it to make it here from Sweden.  On Thursday I snuck out during my lunch break and picked it up at the post office, and today I’ve been sitting here just sort of looking at it, almost afraid to play it.  The collecting drive is often more about the chase than the actual having of the object, a perversely masochistic mindset.  But I can’t put it off any longer.  It’s been cleaned on the Okki Nokki and is ready to hit the turntable.

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Þeyr got their first record deal on the strength of a couple of pop songs they’d written, but when they went into the studio to cut Þagað Í Hel their style changed to something more new wave-ish, so much so that it almost didn’t get released.  Reportedly somewhere between 300 and 500 copies were pressed, and according to legend the masters were destroyed in a fire, which likely explains in part why none of these eight songs ever made it onto CD.

The opening track “En…” is reminiscent of early Talking Heads, followed immediately by the rockabilly-inspired “…Nema Jói”, so clearly there are no rules being followed here.  Which leads us to “Hringt”, adding a sort of disco thing to the mix and starting to give me the sense that Þeyr was still exploring at this point in their trajectory together, not yet having established the more post-punk sound that came to define their handful of later releases (they last performed in 1982 and put out their lasts release, a 7″, in 1983).  By the second half of “Heilarokk” we start to get some glimpse into the direction they eventually went, breaking free of traditional song structures into something unique to Þeyr.  Of course the ABBA-like “Eftir Vígið”, replete with it’s female vocals and harmonies, is like an unexpected bucket of ice cold water on your head.

Þagað Í Hel certainly wasn’t the record I expected, but it does provide some insight into the band’s early influences and is an intriguing starting line when you consider how they sounded on Mjötviður Mær (which was the very first record I ever wrote about on Life in the Vinyl Lane) just a year later.  It remains impossibly hard to find, but fortunately some intrepid souls have recorded these eight tracks and posted them on YouTube!, so if you want to give them a listen just go search there using the album name.

(♠)  No one has ever said this about the 1988 Donruss Greg Jeffries rookie card, at least not with any level of sincerity.  Jeffries was projected by many to be “the new hot rookie”, and that year my dad bought an insane amount of 1988 Donruss baseball cards.  I spent uncountable hours sitting at the small table in his shop going through box after box of these cards, sorting them numerically and putting aside the Jeffries cards.  He went on to be a solid player for a dozen or so seasons, but never became a star and those boxes of Jeffries cards became little more than recycling fodder.  But hey, dad was paying me by the hour, so I was happy to sort, sort, sort…

Þórir Georg – “Fallið Er Dáið” (2019)

thorirgeorgfallidÞórir Georg has a broad musical palette – indie, folk, hardcore, metal… his musical travels are far and wide, and the one thing you always know you’re going to get from Georg is 100% sincerity.  Whatever he is working on at the moment, he’s pouring everything he has into the music.

Georg’s latest release is a 19-minute ambient track recorded on the day he learned of the passing of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith.  Somber ambient, it captures the damp cold of a Reykjavik winter, the wind penetrating even the thickest leather jacket, your pant cuffs soaked and wicking up cold water as you trudge through the few hours of twilight before darkness arrives again.  It’s a reflective piece that captures the sense of loss we feel when someone important to us dies.  It doesn’t matter that we never met them, because their art touched us at times in our lives when that was of paramount importance.  It’s a different kind of mourning than one experiences for a friend or loved one, but a strong feeling nonetheless, one still capable of dampening our mood.

Bluesanct put out Fallið Er Dáið (which translates to The Fall Is Dead) in a limited edition of 50 cassettes.  It’s available both in physical format as well as digital at the label’s Bandcamp page HERE, and you can also listen to the entire thing for free.