Curver – “Sær 1991-1994” (2004)

Life in the Vinyl Lane is, as its name would lead you to believe, primarily about vinyl.  But sometimes it’s about live music, and other times it’s about cassettes, and every now and again it’s about record shopping.  On rare occasions it’s about CDs.

This is one of those rare occasions.

Look, I have nothing against the CD.  In fact I was a very early adopter – I bought my first CD player at Radio Shack sometime around 1985.  I think I paid something insane like $300 for it (which was a lot of money for a teenager in 1985), and the local mall music store Musicland probably only carried a couple of hundred titles on the format… because that’s all there was.  CDs still came in longboxes then and usually ran you about 18 bucks, which we later came to find out after a class action lawsuit was an artificially high price kept in place for years due to collusion.  The man is always looking to get his hands into your wallet.

The above isn’t intended as a socio-economical-politico rant, or a way of saying “hey, look at me, I was a cool early adopter.”  It just shows that I have nothing against CDs.  For the most part I don’t buy a lot of new CDs any more, preferring to stick mostly to used.  But frankly there’s a lot of stuff that was only released on CD and not any of our favorite retro formats, so sometimes CDs are what you get.

Icelander Birgir Örn Thoroddsen is almost certainly better known by his performing name Curver, and primarily to contemporary audiences as one half of the musical-insanity-slash-stream-of-consciousness-performance-art that is Ghostigital, arguably the best band that no one in America has ever heard of.  But Curver’s musical career predates Ghostigital by a number of years, which is why we were excited when Holly found this CD collection of his early 1990s material at the Reykjavik flea market.


We had no idea what to expect from Sær 1991-1994, and it gave us some things that made sense and others that didn’t.  You can definitely hear elements of Curver’s later electronic brutalist beats, but there’s also a ton of driving guitars and feedback.  It’s got a psych noise quality to it that reminds me a of a tighter, less rambling version of Les Rallizes Dénudés.  There are garage punk influences here, along with metal, industrial, and noise.  The songs are powerful and driving, intentionally raw and a bit grimy.

I wish I could tell you more about this CD, because there are copious notes in the booklet, but it’s all in Icelandic so I’m pretty much out of luck.  It may tell me that Curver once trained with the opera, or that he used his sonic creations to kill a rampaging polar bear, but I’ll never know.  What I do know, however, is that this is some bad-ass music that’s sure to get your blood pressure up and have you tapping your feet at 100 miles per hour.  It’s so good that if I run across more copies at Airwaves this year I might just buy ’em so I can bring them home and give them to friends – it’s that good.

Stilluppsteypa + Curver – “Inside AM” / “Make Star Shine” 7″

In my life there have been some types of technology I embraced early on.  I was using an old IBM 386 computer and modem to direct dial other computers to participate in chat boards back in the late 1980s in the days before we had the internet we know today  (when you could actually get a busy signal!), and I bought my first CD player in the days when you could walk into your local Musicland at the mall and go through their entire section of CDs in probably five minutes.  But I was also probably the last person you know who isn’t collecting social security to finally break down and get an ATM card.  And recently I succumbed and opened a PayPal account.  I know, I know.  Welcome to the modern age, you stubborn luddite.


So I needed to break in my PayPal account with a cheap purchase to make sure it was working, so to the interwebs I went and purchased this odd Icelandic noise 7″ from 1994.  As you can see, the purchase went off without a hitch.  So what was it about the Stilluppsteypa + Curver 45 that interested me?  Well, Curver (aka Birgir Örn Thoroddsen) to be blunt.  You may know him as the electronics part of Ghostigital (seen here at their infamous KEX Hostel show at Iceland Airwaves 2012), the best industrial monstrosity putting on shows today.  If Curver is involved, I know it will be interesting.


This is a pretty trippy little 7″.  The beat on “Inside AM” almost sounds like morse code to me… or more like one morse code letter looped over and over and over again.  “Make Star Shine” is a bit more mainstream industrial, though really these might be more experimental electronic since they don’t have that sheer abrasiveness that often defines industrial.  It’s interesting, and I can see some of the elements that later became part of the Ghostigital sound, especially the use of disjointed musical horns – we’ve seen them perform with live horn players at least a couple of times.  So for me this is a cool sort of historical artifact, an early piece by a guy I respect a lot.  While I’d certainly recommend Curver’s more recent projects, this one probably appeals best to the nerds (like me) and serious fans.