Börn just completed a month-long U.S. and I was bummed that a work trip caused me to miss their Seattle show. I enjoyed both the cassette they released under their old name Norn as well as their 2014 self-titled LP. I made a point of going to see them at Iceland Airwaves last year, catching their show at Húrra that kicked off the festival and where they played a hard, edgy set to a surprisingly large crowed for so early on a Wednesday night, coming away even more impressed.
Not only was I disappointed about not being able to see them live again, but to add insult to injury Börn brought copies of their brand new four-song 7″ to sell at their shows. I didn’t want to miss out on getting one of these, and fortunately my friends at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records were more than happy to make sure to put aside a copy for me when they took delivery of their store copies. And yesterday what did I find waiting for me in my mailbox? The new 7″, along with a pair of CDs I’d ordered. These are the things that make a record collector’s day. As I understand it the record came in various colors… mine is sort of a bluish-gray. I saw a picture of a light green one on the band’s Facebook page, but I’m not sure how many different versions there are. Thank God I’m not a completist.
I was struck immediately by the first track, “Engan Skal Hungra,” a very post-punk sounding number with a low, driving rhythm, a simple and very effective guitar that gives shape to the song, and of course Alexandra’s powerful, emotional, angst-ridden singing. If there’s such a thing as post-post-punk, this is it. “Einskis Virði” is the most jarring song on the record, with its doomish low end, repetitive bursts of high end guitar, and desperate vocals, all combining to stop you dead in your tracks and involuntarily ball your hands up into fists. The EP closes out with another purely post-punk number, “Niðurvald.” This is where Anna’s guitar truly shines, working more like a musical paintbrush than an exclamation point, creating an almost constant swath of sound over the top of the bass and drums. She’s so good on this track that I actually had to make a point of going back to listen to it again because the first time I was so focused on her playing that Alexadra’s vocals sort of moved into the background and became more like a fourth instrument and I needed the second time through to hear her. This isn’t a mixing problem – the vocals are right there to be heard. This is just some great guitar playing that distracted me from the other elements.
I’m impressed with the overall mix on this record. All four performers have their space and can be clearly heard (I wasn’t so focused on the guitar on “Niðurvald” because of the mix, but because it was so damn good!). Júlíana’s bass and Fannar’s drums are every bit as critical as the guitar and vocals. But don’t take my word for it; you can check out all four songs for free HERE. Börn’s sound is continuing to develop and mature, and I’m looking forward to seeing (and hearing) more from them in the future. They’re not officially confirmed yet for Airwaves 2015, but I suspect they’ll be playing a bunch of shows again this year and I’ll be sure to search them out.