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.
Well, we’re back from our trip to Berlin and Copenhagen and after putting in some time all the records purchased on the trip are clean and housed in new sleeves. So what to play first? So many choices… ultimately I decided to go with a comp and give myself a bit of a mix, and my hands landed on this intriguing little number I picked up at Berlin’s Space Hall. Tropical Goth Records is the label of Chris Video (aka Shredder), originally founded in Brooklyn in 2016 and subsequently relocated to Germany, and this appears to be the label’s first non-Shredder record.
The opening track “Like It Hard” by Le Chocolat Noir is definitely noir, as in synth-noir, a dark and edgy number with elements of anxiety-laden doom, the perfect introduction to this comp. On the other end of the spectrum is Snuffo’s “Ringbahn Blues”, thump thump thump, a pure beat-driver with no filler to get in the way, thump thump thump, relentless and pounding, thump thump thump. Somewhere in the middle lies Hellboii and his hard techno “battlegiveitup2THEDIRECTWORK”, a 130 bpm banger that borders on hardcore and features trippy, almost computer-like vocal samples. But just when you think you have a handle on things, the closing track, Facket Strejkar’s “Järntorget” actually has true vocals on it, which kind of blew my mind with its unexpectedness. This is a well-curated collection of tracks that orbit the same dark core, but with each doing so in its own unique way.
You can listen to Tropical Goth Records Compilation #001 on the label’s Bandcamp site HERE, though it doesn’t appear that they currently have physical copies for sale. That being said, there are a number of copies of the vinyl listed on Discogs, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting one. It may only have six tracks, but at about 35 minutes you’re getting plenty of music and every track is solid, so it’s well worth the price.
Let’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.
The 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.
I went through a phase as a teenager during which I tired to watch as many weird movies as possible. To some extent I succeeded. But this wasn’t an easy thing to do back in the 1980s. Obviously there was no streaming and movies on cable were limited to a relatively small number of channels like HBO and Showtime, so the best source was your local video store. If you were lucky it was a big shop. It if was a mom-and-pop place, well, your options were pretty limited. Plus there was the whole problem of getting to the video store if, like me, you lived kind of in the sticks. Someone’s parents had to drive you and be willing to wait around while you read the back of the box for every strange thing that caught your eye. Times were hard. We earned it.
Somehow I missed Liquid Sky, which is too bad because I’m pretty sure I’d have rented it over and over again. Holly and I ran across it on a streaming service the other day and it kind of blew our minds. The story is that aliens come to Earth searching for heroin, only to find that human brain chemistry during orgasms is more power, so they start basically “taking” people when they’re in the throws of passion. Because… it’s the early 1980s. And there were Russians involved in the filming. Add in some neon, tons of make-up, androgyny, drugs, sex, and a cast and crew with almost no filmmaking experience and you have a major head-trip.
Almost the entire Liquid Sky score was composed on a Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument, it’s 8-bit recordings contributing to something that sounded both futuristic and sort of child-like at the same time, a step in what quickly became rapidly-evolving progression of musical technology. Much of it has a plinky, calliope-like sound to it, but with added elements that take that familiar feeling and twist it, infusing an undercurrent of creepy dread into everything. Most of the tracks are instrumental, with the notable exception of the no-wavish “Me And My Rhythm Box” in all of it’s delightful strangeness. The entire thing is pretty bizarre. Just like the movie.