Ghostigital – “In Cod We Trust”

I haven’t been posting a lot over the last few months, and that’s been causing me a little angst.  I really enjoy Life in the Vinyl Lane and interacting with the people who read it, and I feel I haven’t been doing my part.  There’s actually a reason for this – I’ve been doing my writing somewhere else.  No, I haven’t been secretly writing music stuff for some other blog somewhere.  I’ve been wrapping up a book, which I’m pleased to say as of this weekend is more or less finished and ready to go to the publisher.  Alas, it’s not a music book… but maybe next time.  I’d still like to do something on Icelandic music someday… (publishers, feel free to contact me!)

Anyway… I was browsing Facebook this morning when I saw that one of my friends just picked up a vinyl copy of the first Ghostigital album, Einar Örn.  Or is it actually an Einar Örn album titled Ghostigital?  I’ve never been 100% sure, and Discogs doesn’t include it as part of the Ghostigital discography.  Regardless, it’s the same dudes, Einar and Curver, and includes a healthy does of Sensational, just like the subsequent Ghostigital releases… so whatever.  To me it’s all part of the same thing.

Seeing that post put me into the way back machine to the first time we ever saw Ghostigital, at Ia small club called Batteríið during Iceland Airwaves 2009.  Holly sort of had a clue who they were, but I don’t think any of us were quite ready for what happened. This was quite possibly the first time I’d ever had my mind completely blown by a musical performance.  I mean completely and totally.  Sure, I’d been pleasantly surprised by bands before.  But never had I experienced such an unexpected and incomprehensible musical assault on my brain.  I was like a pinball machine that had been jostled too much, with “TILT” flashing in my eyes. It was one of those deals where when it was over, you didn’t even know what to say.  I’d never seen or heard anything like it before.

Here’s a photo I took of that show.  Einar sounded alternately desperate (“It’s dark in here… it’s so dark… I can’t see anything…”) and aggressive, like a coiled spring.  I felt like he might dive into the crowd at any moment.

ghostigitallive2009

Now, I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t come out of that show a convert (though “Good morning… good morning to you…” did become our catchphrase for the rest of the trip!).  That didn’t start to happen until a few months later when I decided to give In Cod We Trust (2006) a shot.  Holly had picked up the CD on the trip, and after the first play I still wasn’t sold.  Then I played it again.  And everything changed.

In Cod We Trust is a album that requires multiple listens to digest.  It’s not easy.  There’s a lot going on here.  It’s kind of electronic, kind of industrial, more than a little hip hop, but, you know, with trumpets.  It features a song about the Cod Wars between Iceland and the UK, which I hadn’t realized were an actual thing until I looked them up.

ghostigitalcodwetrust

Where do you start with an album like this?  Well, at the beginning.  The first track, “Good Morning,” is the best song on the disc, and probably one of my top three all-time Ghostigital tunes (right up there with “Don’t Push Me” off of Division of Culture & Tourism).  Killer, slow, heavy beat, catchy vocals, and the hip hop stylings of Sensational giving a completely different vibe than Einar’s singing.  Sensational makes another appearance on “Northern Lights” – he’s been on every Ghostigital album, and I’m always drawn to the songs he performs on.  But he’s not the only guest vocalist here.  In fact pretty much every song has at least one guest singer, perhaps most notably Mark E. Smith of The Fall appearing on “Not Clean,” the song that has the chorus “In cod we trust…” that gives the album its name.

There is a certain amount of humor in Ghosigital’s lyrics.  I mean, this is the same group that recently gave us a trippy electro version of “Green Eggs and Ham” on their 2013 album The Antimatter Boutique.  And a song about a pair of pants on the floor (“Trousers”).  And hover skates (“Hovering Hoover Skates”).  And, you know, cod.  But while some Ghostigital lyrics will make me crack a smile, this isn’t comedy.  It’s more like cracking into someone’s skull and reaching down into the deepest depths of the unconscious.  The place where your fears dwell.  The emotional sea where confusion and fear and anger dwell.  Curver takes that roiling mess and turns it into sound.  And Einar spits it all out into the microphone, a stream of consciousness, a complete and total exposing of the most primal parts of the mind.  To watch him perform is to see a man possessed, eyes wide, moving around spasmodically, looking right through you like you aren’t even there.

Ghostigital isn’t for everyone.  And I don’t mean that in a “if you don’t get this you’re an idiot” way.  It’s disjointed.  It’s powerful.  It breaks you down.  But if you give it a shot a few times, you may start to make sense of it, to feel it.  Then again, you may not.  But personally I think it’s worth the effort.

Iceland Airwaves 2014 – Day 1

We hit the streets of Reykjavik running this morning, going down to Sandholt Bakery for coffee and pastries before heading over to what is perhaps my favorite record store in the world, Lucky, to get my fill of vinyl.  And fill up my bag with vinyl and CDs and tapes did Ingvar and Gestur.  Not only did they have some stuff I’d requested on hold, but they also put together a pile of recommendations for me to go through, and about an hour and a half later I waked out with a pretty health score, all of it Icelandic music, including some stuff for friends back home.

reykjavikrecordhaul2014

Time was limited today as we were meeting some friends for lunch, but that didn’t keep me from stopping by Reykjavik’s newest music store, Reykjavik Record Shop.  I didn’t have enough time to go through all the stuff there, but I did pull the trigger on a Þeyr 7″ that I’ve been wanting for some time.  I’ll likely head back tomorrow to keep digging.

After lunch it was down to KEX Hostel to see Kiasmos, the new electronic partnership between Janus Rasmussen, best known as the male vocalist in Bloodgroup, and Ólafur Arnalds.  The duo have a new album that just dropped, and hopefully my copy will be waiting for me in the mail upon our return from Iceland.  The pair packed the house and played a relatively short 20 minute set that was available as a live stream on KEXP radio.  They killed it, and by the reception they got it was obvious that there are a lot of people keeping an eye on this pairing.  We also got a chance to meet and say hi to Life in the Vinyl Lane reader Leana who was working the merch table at KEX, which was very cool.  Hopefully our paths will cross again on this trip.

kiasmosairwaves2014

Next up was Good Moon Deer at an off venue in the lobby of movie theatre, Bíó Paradís, a surprisingly good place to see a show.  We’d seen Good Moon Deer last year and came away impressed with their combo of experimental electronica combined with a live drummer, and this year was no different.

After dinner it was down to the tough choice of the night – where to go for the on-venue program.  Holly and I decided to post up at Húrra for the entire evening, as we liked how most of the card there looked.  The evening opened with the punk rock stylings of Börn, a band recently reviewed here and one getting a lot of international attention.  Personally I think they are one of the few bands to take the foundation laid by some of the classic Icelandic punk bands like Purrkur Pillnikk and Þeyr, and give them a more modern punk twist.  Great set.  Next up were a pair of electronic performers, Seattle’s own Vox Mod and his blistering set of high energy beats, and the psychedelic electronica stylings of Iceland’s own dj flugvél go geimskip (photo below), who’s blend of innocence and sincerity combined with some hints of Japanese and Persian stylings made for a truly unique experience.  From there it was the competent (the bass player was fantastic) indie of Sindri Eldon & The Ways, then a couple of punk bands, Muck and Pink Street Boys.  Muck’s music generated an impressive mosh pit that lasted throughout their hardcore set and, no joke, resulted in one fairly nasty cut to a mosher’s forehead, while Pink Street Boys pounded the audience with a wall of sound and noise that eventually also gave rise to a pit.  Ghostigital closed it out with a robust 50 minute set and absolutely destroyed the place, taking control of the crowd early and combined stream of consciousness industrial and some classics from their albums.

djflugvelairwaves

After leaving Húrra we made a stop at the hot dog stand for some of the famous Icelandic franks and dodged the drunks on our way back to our apartment… worn out, but ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

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.

curverandeinar

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.

stilluppsteypacurver

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.

Rave Mix

Every January Holly and I host a party for all of our friends, and tonight is, I believe, our 15th Annual Post-Holiday Holiday Party.  It’s hard to get together with your friends during the holidays – people are traveling, have family commitments, shopping like crazy, etc, so we figured we’d have our party a month or so after the holiday insanity came to an end, when every has had a chance to wind down and catch their breath.  Sometimes our parties have a theme – night at the movies, the 80s, lounge style… you get the drift.  And every year we also burn a soundtrack of some of the tunes we played  and provide copies to our guests.  They’ve become popular enough that every year at least a couple of people who couldn’t make it to the party ask us to send them one of the CDs.

This year we went with a rave theme.  Now, neither of us were ever ravers.  But we’re not going to let that stop us, and with that in mind we came up with a party CD that’s a bit electronic, a bit dance, a little industrial, and somewhat random.  Our friends Tristen, Matt, and Ken provided some suggestions and even sent us some discs, which helped out a lot.  So in case you’re interested, the songs that made the cut for this year’s CD are:

“Codename:  Rondo” – Ghostland Observatory

“Don’t Push Me” – Ghostigital

“City” – Legend

“Levels” – Avicii

“Hustler” – Simian Mobile Disco

“Time to Get Away” – LCD Soundsystem

“Backpack Rehab” – Bassnectar

“Weirdo” – Iiris

“Jesus is My Personal Trainer” – Depeche Mode vs. Goldfrapp mashup

“Relax” – Keoki

“K2R” – Halleluwah

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my “Frankie Say Relax” shirt and find my glow sticks…

 

Purrkur Pillnikk – “Googooplex”

I’ve written about Purrkur Pillnikk before, specifically the 1981 Ehgjl En LP.  Basically they were an early 1980s Icelandic punk band, members of which later spun off into other groups such as KUKL, The Sugarcubes, and Ghostigital.

Their sound was sort of punk/new wave transitional with odd musical structures, and it’s easy to see the roots of KUKL and The Sugarcubes here even though those bands benefitted significantly from Björk’s vocals.  Purrkur Pillnikk consistently used a lot of echo in their vocals, and I think to some extent their music, that in many ways gives their sound a sort of “distant” feel, almost like it’s coming from someplace in the room other than your stereo speakers.  It’s music that’s hard to get a grasp of, slipping through your fingers and ears, lacking recognizable structures and patterns.  This makes it seem disjointed and almost forces you to pay attention to it, because you couldn’t possibly just ignore it in the background, even with the volume low.

Googooplex itself as a physical album is also odd, a double 12″ with 13 songs, which threw me off the first time I tried to play it since I assumed the speed was 33 1/3 (and I was wrong, with music that sounded like the record was melting in slow motion… you should give it a try) instead of the correct 45 rpm.  I found my copy on eBay for a pretty reasonable price, around $25 or so.  In general Googooplex seems a bit less expensive than Ehgjl En and the overall sound quality is really good, aided no doubt by the wider grooves on the 45 rpm 12″ format.  Ehgjl En has the added advantage of being available on CD, though I doubt you’d ever find a copy.  You’d be better served buying what is more or less the band’s entire output via iTunes for $19.99, an album called I Augum Uti, which we also have and I can safely recommend.  It’s a great way to get exposure to the early Icelandic punk/new wave scene, as well as the music that later developed into The Sugarcubes.