DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip – “Our Atlantis” (2019)

Steinunn Harðardóttir is an artist.  She makes music, she paints, and she is seemingly surrounded by a light golden aura of happiness that I swear I’ve seen regardless of whether she was on stage or in the crowd watching someone else perform.  Her music reflects this in the high, innocent pitch of her voice and the frequent appearances of cats and outer space in her lyrics.  In interviews she makes it clear that this happiness comes from viewing the world is absurd.  Which, of course, it is.  Most people are bummed out at a thought like that.  But not her.  That absurdity is a source of freedom.

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DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip live at Iceland Airwaves, 2014
Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane

Atlantis is a myth.  It was first mentioned in the works of Plato, written down almost 2,400 years ago.  There are those who believe Atlantis was more than simply a fictional utopia Plato used as a means of teaching his lesson, taking the position that the philosopher’s work is actually a piece of history and that Atlantis once existed back in the mists of time.  The theories believe the Atlantians to have been part of an advanced human pre-history or, in more recent years with the popularity of the UFO movement, space aliens.  Perhaps most importantly, though, the city serves as a source of inspiration for artists and unfortunately strip mall psychics, who for $20 will read your palm and tell you that you’re the reincarnation of a great Atlantian warrior.  I wonder if they had cats there…?

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Our Atlantis opens with “The Sphinx”, the early portions of the track transporting us to Egypt with Persian-influenced jazz, sitting in a dark bar that feels impossibly hot and humid, the scent of syrupy coffee and unfiltered cigarettes simply hanging just below the ceiling in bluish clouds before turning into mist that permeates everything.  Wait. That got strange quick.  Snap out of it, man.  As we progress the beats change, throwing off their warm deserty vibe and becoming cold and clinical, dance floor bangers, with Steinunn’s voice flying way overhead, like the clouds above the pulsing, roiling ocean.  The ocean that today covers Atlantis.  Or so the story goes.

Surprises are always waiting around the next corner whenever DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip is involved.  Like “Elsta lag í heimi”‘s highs and lows being invaded intermittently by a sic-fi midrange that pops in with the suddenness of the USS Enterprise dropping out of warp, only to disappear again just as quick.  Are these people who live in Atlantis aliens who arrived from space on a starship?  Or the scolding vocals on “Allt er bara bull” that rip you away from her soprano and drop you back into reality for a moment.  Am I in trouble?  Did I forget to take out the trash?  Did I forget to use the new cover sheet on my TPS report?  Oh, and I did I mention that the first song, the previously mentioned “The Sphinx”, was premiered by means of a video game that Steinunn made and posted for free on the internet?  You know the one.  The completely psychadelic bizarro-fest that finds you trying to find animals while fighting off enemies with your one means of a defense, a battle-axe made from a Pomeranian.  Wait, you haven’t played it yet??  Well, here you go.  And don’t say I didn’t warn you.  That Pomeranian can do some damage.

The second half of Our Atlantis is darker.  Is the city falling into decay, starting it’s slide to oblivion that will eventually find it at the bottom of the ocean?  “Atlantis” with it’s ever-changing and unpredictable flow makes us off-balanced, our footing not as solid as it was.  “Let’s Go!” kicks in and Steinunn is getting insistent – let’s go! – before dropping into a Metropolis-esque set of industrial beats, everything growing dark and dangerous, with lasers cutting through the air and leaving behind the scent of ozone, the complete anthesis of the aroma of that Egyptian bar we found ourselves in at the start of the album. But wait, what’s that I hear in the distance on “Our World Is Way Too Big”?  That Persian influence is back, not jazzy this time but more electric.  We close the side with “Apocalypse”.  Is that a harmonica I hear?  Of course it is.  I’m pretty sure one of the Four Horsemen (♠) plays the harmonica on his way to level your city and dump it under the Atlantic.

Experience tells me that DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip isn’t for everyone, but I can’t get enough of her music and live performances.  If you’re interested in giving her a chance, the vinyl is still available through the label HERE.  Who knows.  Maybe you’ll start to believe in Atlantis too…

(♠)  To clarify, I’m referring here to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations.  This is not to be confused with The Four Horsemen of professional wrestling fame, Ric Flair’s personal hit squad.

Muted – “Empire” (2018)

mutedempire2Empire is exactly what I needed on a gray morning.  I took the day before Thanksgiving off in an attempt to recover just a little from a grueling work schedule that will only get more intense over the next few weeks, but I still found myself spending an hour unraveling emails this morning and I have to jump on a conference call later.  Such is the “day off” sometimes.  I need something to chill out the mental burn, and Muted’s chillwave is certainly helping.

Muted is Icelander Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson, who currently lives and works in Germany like so many other electronic musicians from his homeland.  One of these days I need to get over to Berlin and do some record shopping.  Anyway… the vibe I get from Empire is something more upbeat than ambient, but more chill than house, a nice sweet spot that pumps enough energy into the room to act as the soundtrack to either hanging out or getting stuff done.  “Vogue” has a pulsing low beat that’s near perfect, not to fast, not too slow, and ideal for my mood right now.

Six of Empire‘s ten tracks are instrumental, while the remaining four feature different female vocalists who also hail from Iceland, most notably Jófríður Ákadóttir (a.k.a. JFDR) and one of my favorites, DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip.  The vocals stay within the general feel of the album, subtle and swaying, well integrated with the music.  “Undraveröld ft. dj. flugvél og geimskip” probably stands out the furthest from the rest of the album, due in part to Flugvél’s unique style and the use of bird sounds, giving the whole thing a bit of out-in-nature whimsey.

Empire is available on the Muted Bandcamp page HERE, and it looks like you can still order the limited edition (of 150) vinyl as well.

Skelkur í Bringu – “Þrífðu Þetta Hland” Cassette (2017)

I’m completely and totally intrigued by Steinunn Eldflaug Harðardóttir, aka dj. flugvél go geimskip (translation – DJ Airplane and Spaceship).  Her quirky live performances include lots of lights, lengthy stories about cats in outer space, and a set-closing audience participation segment in which we’re all told we have to do karate chops in order to get back to planet earth (♠).  However, her music definitely isn’t for everyone and I’m pretty sure that I was the only one in our Airwaves crew last year that was way into her stuff.

Steinunn collaborates with a number of other artists, perhaps most notably the one-and-only Dr. Gunni.  She also plays bass and sings in a psych rock band called Skelkur í Bringu who we saw on opening night of Airwaves at, of all places, the Hard Rock Cafe in Reykjavik (♣), and I was spellbound both by the music and the visual performance.  At the end of the show she had cassette copies of the band’s new live album Þrífðu Þetta Hland for sale, each in an individually crafted and decorated case (yes, that’s zebra pattern fabric on mine…), so I of course plunked down my kronur for a copy.

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Þrífðu Þetta Hland is a full-on psych trip, weirdly reminiscent of a slightly more structured version of Les Rallizes Dénudés.  Steinunn’s vocals retain the high-pitched, spacey quality she uses to such great effect in her solo work, not so much floating on top of the music but instead piercing it like stainless steel spikes.  Sometimes the band wanders about in a trippy soundscape, but at others they break free into weirder territory.  “Símanúmerið Hans Sigga” is pure punk rock at its core, while “Say No to Science” starts like a deranged surf tune before devolving into sludge metal.  You never know what you’re going to get from one song to the next with Skelkur í Bringu.  If you’re only going to listen to one song, though, make it “Dýragarður”, which is the best synthesis of all the band’s sonic elements wrapped up into one near-perfect tune.

While the video below wasn’t shot at the performance we attended, it was done just a few days prior by our friends over at KEXP and is pretty damn cool, plus it’ll give you a sense of their live vibe.  You can also listen to the album itself HERE, as well as buy the digital download for any amount you want to give the band – you can literally get it for a buck if you want, so help support indie music!

(♠)  Asking people to do karate chops in a packed club should be a recipe for disaster.  And in anywhere other than Iceland it probably would be.  But somehow it happens and no fights break out.

(♣)  That a city with as strong a small-club music scene as Reykjavik now has a Hard Rock Cafe (again… the first iteration of the HRC there went out of business around 2005) is unsettling and may be an indication that Reykjavik has jumped the shark.  That being said, the basement is a pretty cool little venue.

Iceland Airwaves 2017 – Day 2

Day 2 didn’t know if it wanted to be rainy or sunny in Reykjavik, so instead it decided to be both at the same time.

But a little rain couldn’t stop us and after sleeping in we hit the streets just after Noon.  Our first stop was the retail space/office of FM Belfast‘s Lóa, who posted on Facebook yesterday that she’d have some pre-release copies of the band’s new album Island Broadcast available.  The vinyl copies were still in transit, but I picked up a signed copy of the CD as well as a signed print drawing she did of the entire band (Lóa is an accomplished artist across multiple mediums).  After that it was off to Bíó Paradís to catch the electronica set by one of our favorite Lady Boy Records alumni, Andi, who as usual did not disappoint with a fun mid-tempo set.  From there we popped over to Íslenski Barinn for some lunch, and while there heard one of the most unusual live performances we’ve ever experienced at Airwaves.

When people ask me “what kind of music do they play at Airwaves” my canned response is “everything but country and jazz”.  Well, the opening song by this female duo in matching dresses who go by Bergmál seemed to effectively cross country off the list with a somewhat comical song about how not remembering someone’s name is about the meanest thing you can do.  But then things took a turn for the surreally weird with a song literally about women farting.  And then came the pièce de résistance, a song called “Your Anus Is Not of Uranus”, which helps clarify the fact that the planet is not the same thing as, well, you know… your anus.  A song that includes the lyrically incredible Biology… and astronomy bitches… the four of us were laughing so hard that we were all in tears.  That was followed by songs about necrophilia and menstruation, because of course it was.  Just check out their video.  You’re welcome.

Later in the afternoon we headed over to KEX Hostel to catch the Russian new wave/punk band ГШ/Glintshake (below/left), a show that was being broadcast live back to Seattle (and across airwaves17Day21the planet via the black magic of the internet).  And man did they hit it out of the park.  With a funky rhythm section and sometimes jangly, sometimes disjointed guitars, they maintained a old-school punk rock edge with a pop aesthetic.  We scored a spot right in the front and as always at the KEX shows the sound and lighting was perfect.  As soon as the show ended I get a text from my buddy Travis in Seattle telling me he’d just heard this band live on KEXP and that I had to check them out… and it was the show we literally just saw.  I’ll definitely be trying to track down some of their albums.

After a couple of beers at the KEX bar it was out to the beautiful theater Gamla Bíó for some metal and industrial.  Godchilla opened up the on-venue evening and delivered a heavy sludge metal set that was thick and driving.  Next up was Une Misère (right), a airwaves17day22relatively new Icelandic hardcore band that provided an unexpected shot in the arm that hit me like a dose of meth. (♣)  With three guitars this six-man outfit came out in straight aggro style, got in our faces, yelled at us, and drove nails into our skills with the sheer wall of power they produced.  Une Misère came, saw, and conquered all before them and left us all impressed.

And then shit got weird.

Like, really, really weird.

The band I was most interested in seeing tonight was Hatari (below), (♠) who have built a reputation not only for their music but for the extremeness of their visual performance.  Some folks who saw their show at KEX earlier in the festival were uncertain about the whole thing but the high stage and dark room of Gamla Bíó was the perfect setting for their brand of harsh IDM.  The place was packed and the mood just right when the guys came out dressed in their best bondage gear and proceeded to tear our faces off.  The sheer performance was impressive, with all three members staying within their on-stage personaes throughout flanked by a pair of female dancers who looked like they walked off the set of one of the Road Warrior movies… at least until they opened up their black fanny packs (yes, fanny packs) and started throwing suckers into the crowd.  It was pure, controlled insanity and the crowd lapped up every last drop of it.  Their new album just dropped and you know damn well I picked it up.  While the CD will lack the stunning visuals of the live performance, the music in and of itself was outstanding and I have a feeling it’s going to be in regular rotation upon our return.  We ran into the guys later in the evening, and they couldn’t have been nicer and more reserved.  Holly and I agree that this was definitely one of the Top 5 shows (out of 300 or so…) we’ve ever seen at Airwaves… and might just be #1.

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Following that we bounced out to Gaukurinn where we saw an interesting trio of performances.  First up we caught the tail end of the set by CeaseTone, a sort of modern new wavy group.  Next was the enjoyable singer-songwriter tunes of Soffía Björg who held the audience in the palm of her hand throughout her 30+ minute performance.  Then it was Hong Kong’s A New World If You Can Take It (ANWIYCTI), a band featuring three bass players and a drummer.  Their low beats were intriguing, though might have benefitted from higher pitched vocals to offset the chest-pounding low end.

That brought us to our last stop of the night as we popped next door to Húrra.  There we caught the tail-end of dj. flugvél og geimskip who absolutely packed the house and had requested in advance of the show that people vape during the performance, all the better for all her crazy lighting.  But we were there because we had an appointment with the good doctor.  And by good I mean bad.  And by doctor I mean the yellow rubber-glove-wearing Dr. Spock (below).  It didn’t take long from the start of the set for a fairly substantial mosh pit to break out in the small confines of the Húrra performance space, and the crowd and band fed off of each other’s energy throughout the blistering punk/metal set.  The “Sons of Ecuador” killed it, as did their insane Beach Boys cover and interlude featuring Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer”.  Horns and raised fists all around.

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After a late-night hot dog, interrupted by three dudes not wearing any shirts screeching around in a BMW convertible with the top down at 1:00AM, it was time to call it a night.

Two days down, three to go!

(♣) Disclaimer:  I’ve never done meth.  I enjoy having my teeth too much for that.

(♠) Not to be confused with the 1962 John Wayne movie about big-game hunting called Hatari!, because that would have been even weirder.

Iceland Airwaves 2017 – Day 1

Norberto and I were up at the crack of not-dawn here in Reykjavik on Wednesday morning.  About 7AM, to be precise.  It wasn’t because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because we were meeting Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane and our friend J, who arrived from Seattle a few days after us.  That meant all of us were feeling a bit groggy today as Iceland Airwaves Day 1 officially began.

Much of the day was spent eating, getting our wristbands, and generally bouncing around town, and we didn’t see any off-venue shows.  Our plan for the on-venue evening was to post up at the Hard Rock Cafe, where a handful of bands we like were all scheduled to play.  This is the second time the Hard Rock has been in Reykjavik; the prior restaurant closed around 2005, literally a few weeks before Holly and I arrived in Iceland for our first ever visit.  But given the growing recognition of the country’s music scene it’s not surprising that the corporate juggernaut that is the Hard Rock was open to giving Reykjavik another chance.  As an added bonus the new location, which opened in 2016, includes a cozy basement venue that is an official on-venue this year.

The night opened with PHLEGM, the hardcore duo we saw play Lucky Records on Monday, and they gave us another high-energy, enjoyable set.  From there it was on to a band I was looking forward to seeing and one creating quite a buzz, Skelkur í Bringu.  They’re perhaps most notable for being a project of one Steinunn Eldflaug (below), better known by her nom-d’electronica dj. flugvél og geimskip, she of the trippy sonic soundscapes about cats in space.  Skelkur í Bringu is a three-piece, featuring Eldflaug on bass and accompanied by an impressive guitarist and an even more impressive drummer.  There were big noises, references to snakes, and some overall strangeness, but none of that took away from the obvious musical talent this trio brings to the stage.  I found them to be incredibly intriguing and impossible to ignore, enough so that I made a point of buying their new cassette Þrífðu Þetta Hland, each copy of which comes in a unique hand-made package (mine is a stencil cut cardboard box with zebra pattern fabric on one side).

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Next up was Benny Crespo’s Gang, a group we haven’t seen for years, and after the show tonight I’m kind of kicking myself that we’ve passed them up so often.  They played a solid modern rock set, sharing lead vocal duties across three of the four members in a well-received show.  We Made God packed the house for their intense post-rock/post-metal performance and didn’t disappoint – it sounded like a lot of folks were at the Hard Rock specifically to see these guys and their almost hardcore-style compositions.  DSCF4672 copyGuitarist Arnór waded into the crowd on multiple occasions while bassist Stúni (left) intrigued me with his three-string guitar.

For my money, though, the big winner was Kælan Mikla, which should come as no surprise to any regular Life in the Vinyl Lane reader.  Truly the one thing I can say about their performance tonight is “wow, what a difference a year makes”.  This was our third time seeing them in as many years, and tonight’s show was light years beyond what we saw before – they are incredibly poised on stage, thereby closing the loop between their sonic and visual  performances.  Someone needs to sign this band immediately, and given that Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke was in the house tonight, maybe they’ll get that piece of press that pushes them forward to the next step in their musical lives.  I certainly hope so, because they fully deserve it.

Day 1 of Iceland Airwaves 2017 is in the books.  I can’t wait to see what Day 2 has in store for us!