Emmsjé Gauti – “Þeyr” (2013)

I was a bit late to the Emmsjé Gauti party.  As a student of Advancement, I of course blame myself for this.  My first experiences with him were live shows, and given that I can’t speak a lick of Icelandic I was left with only the remaining two elements from which to form an opinion – the sound and the show.  And Gauti just isn’t as flashy as some of his peers in the Icelandic hip hop scene, so to my detriment I probably dismissed him a bit.  My bad, because his sophomore album Þeyr is a pure flow machine.


Am I the only one who gets just the slightest hint of Kid Rock’s beats in “Nýju Fötin Keisarans”?  That perfect small dose of otherness infused into the otherwise smooth electro-beats give it the perfect whiff of something special, something to differentiate Gauti from the pack.  Throughout Þeyr the beats and flows have their roots in R&B.  A prime example is “Hvolpaást” with it’s pure sweet smoothness like a layer of impossibly rich whipped cream, a bit sticky but oh so delicious.  But don’t think that means Emmsjé can’t get the party started, because he can and does on jams like “Verum Heimsk”, bringing faster cadence and ever-building beats and snare snaps.  This is the kind of track you want to spin when you’re deep into the night, maybe the peak already happened but you’ve still got that energy and you want to groove, baby.

You can give Guati a listen for free, including all of Þeyr, on Soundcloud HERE.   If you’re looking for something new in hip hop, the sound of the Icelandic language alone will make this worth your time.

Emmsjé Gauti – “Vagg & Velta” (2016)

We first encountered Emmsjé Gauti on the main stage during the closing night of Iceland Airwaves 2015.  The thing I remember most about his set was being surprised that he had 3/4 of Agent Fresco as his backing band – it was unusual to see a hip hop artist with an actual band behind him.


Fast forward to 2016 and Gauti has a new double album out, Vagg & Velta.  His style is more on the R&B side of hip hop – the songs are very musical and not as beat-driven as the less poppy forms of the genre, and Gauti’s delivery doesn’t give you the impression that he’d like to cave your face in.  In fact I’d go so far as to say that Vagg & Velta is more music for the bedroom than for the street; his swagger is more of a player than that of a tough guy.  The hardest song on the album is “15.000,” and perhaps tellingly it features his fellow hip hop countrymen Úlfur Úlfur spitting rhymes.


Lest you think I’m dissing this record, let me be clear – I’m not.  Gauti might not be in uncharted waters as far as the Icelandic scene goes… but he’s probably pretty far from shore with his style.  There’s still plenty of F bombs on Vagg & Velta (pretty much the only English words I can hear in his Icelandic rhymes), but he still keeps it sounding pretty sweet most of the time.



Definitely the kind of record to put on when you’re just chillin’ with that special someone.

Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 5

This will probably be a bit briefer than I’d like it to be, but today we leave Reykjavik and head back home, so that means last minute packing and goodbyes with not enough time and not enough sleep.

The Sunday schedule is pretty limited with only a handful of off-venues going during the day.  We saw two acts at Lucky Records, singer-songwriter Man in Between and the punk/noise duo Döpur, a project by Krummi of Legend, Esja, and Minus fame.  I missed Döpur last year so I was glad to be able to catch them this time around, and they had Lucky almost complete full for their noise/drone set.

We headed over to Vodafone Hall for the main on-venue program, arriving probably 30 minutes after the first performer was scheduled to start only to find a long and growing line outside.  We were afraid this was going to be a repeat of Saturday’s attempt to see Beach House, since the capacity of Vodafone is quite a bit lower than the number of festival passes sold.  After about 15 minutes a staff member came out and let everyone know there were some delays and that they’d be opening the doors soon.  <phew>  At least it wasn’t raining.

The line-up at Vodaphone was strong, though the first four or five performers all shortened their sets a bit to try to get things back on schedule.  Vök opened, the second time we’d seen them on the trip, and they put together another great set.  I made a point of picking up their CD at Lucky earlier in the day.  Next was an interesting run of three performances, all of which saw the instrument playing band members of Agent Fresco performing.  First they backed hip hop artist Emmsjé Gauti, then they did their own five song set as Agent Fresco which featured my favorite song of theirs, “Eyes of a Cloud Catcher” off of A Long Time Listening, and concluding as the backing band for the hip hop duo Úlfur Úlfur, who I really enjoy.  Next up was the UK hip hop duo Sleaford Mods, with their more cadenced storytelling delivery who were interesting to listen to but not terribly compelling to actually watch.


Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

That all led up to the two main performances, beginning with a roughly hour long set by the electronics group Hot Chip, who put on a great show both musically and visually and seemed to surprise the crowd with an electro cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”  The crew at Vodafone turned the stage surprisingly quickly following that set and the world’s greatest party band, FM Belfast, hit the stage and took it home.  I’m convinced that every Airwaves should end with an FM Belfast set – it’s simply the perfect way to conclude your festival on a high energy high note.


Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

It’s hard to believe it’s all over… sad, but we’re all so tired that bringing some sense of normalcy back to our lives will probably be a bit of a relief too.  Takk to all our friends we got to see this year, old and new, and we hope you’ll all be coming to Iceland again next year for Iceland Airwaves 2016 from November 2-6.  Early bird tickets go on sale November 16…!