Þóranna Björnsdóttir – “Tónlist fyrir þungt og létt andrúmsloft” (2016)

Þóranna Björnsdóttir’s Tónlist fyrir þungt og létt andrúmsloft is the latest release on Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records label.  Having already pushed the envelope with various formats and mediums, including a release comprised of download codes laser etched onto tangerines as a delivery vehicle, it’s always interesting to see what they have up their sleeves next.  And sure enough, they brought something new to the table this time as well.

IMG_0893Björnsdóttir’s project is two 20-minute ambient electronic compositions, each of which is segmented into some different sound textures.  Overall it’s very minimal, though the B side does feel a bit heavier, more like a cold wet morning, and I believe that’s intentional.  The music itself is a combination of electronica and outdoor field recordings, a nice combination for this weather influenced piece.

Where it gets really interesting is that along with the music there’s also an app.  Created in conjunction with the Icelandic Meteorological Institution, the app “works as a self generated mixer, blending both tracks (heavy and light atmosphere) following the fluctuations of air pressure in real time.”  Mind.  Blown.  Now, to be fair I haven’t downloaded the app – it isn’t published on the label’s website yet, but I’ll certainly going back to take a look for it, because it sounds like a very unique idea and one that fits perfectly with Björnsdóttir’s work.

You can listen to both tracks on the Lady Boy website, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for that app!

“Iceland Whatever Vol. 1” Compilation (CD) (2015)

Conventional wisdom tells us that the internet, while making it easier than ever for people to communicate with one another, is ironically contributing to a growing tide of social isolation, a world in which more and more of our interactions with one another happen via a screen instead of in person.  This is undoubtedly true to some extent.  But I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet people online due to mutual interests, then eventually met in person, which is pretty cool.

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One of those people is Bryan from Theory of Whatever Records, who I originally connected with due to our mutual interest in blogging about Icelandic music (Bryan’s blog can be found HERE) and then when I purchased a copy of his label’s first ever release, the Specters 7″ by Icelandic band Kimono.  We eventually met in person during Iceland Airwaves last year at Lucky Records (where else?!), my home-away-from-home in Reykjavik.  We met up there again this year during the Tuesday night Airwaves off-venue at Lucky, and that’s where he passed off my copy of his label’s new release, the 14-song CD comp of Icelandic bands called Iceland Whatever Vol. 1.

Bryan did an excellent job in curating this comp, compiling a great roster consisting of Icelandic music scene veterans like Kimono, Ghostigital, and Þórir Georg, and adding in some new up-and-comers like Kælan Mikla and Antimony.  The same is true of the musical styles encompassed on the CD, with pop, rock, darkwave, and experimental all getting a chance to worm their ways into your ears.  We caught a few of these performers live at Airwaves this year, seeing shows by Kælan Mikla and Ghostigital, while also seeing DJ Flugvél perform with Dr. Gunni and Plúseinn (aka Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson) with FM Belfast, and all were excellent.

I’m not going to do a track-by-track review – you can check out all the songs on Bryan’s blog right HERE.  Frankly there are so many good songs on this comp that I’d need to write for a couple of hours to cover them all adequately, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention a few of my favorites.  I’m head-over-heels in love with Kælan Mikla after having seen them perform at Gamla Bíó a few weeks ago, and “Ekkert Nema” is them at their darkwavey, angst-ridden best.  Knife Fights has by far the catchiest tune with the college-rockish (OK… at least what was on college radio when I was in college in the early 1990s…) “Panic Later,” an infectious tuned down number with a rhythm that I just can’t get out of my head.  Þórir Georg’s lo-fi psych rock “Hunger” is pure simplicity and a perfect example of how you don’t need a ton of instruments and production to make a great song.  And Plúseinn’s “Empire” has all the things I love about FM Belfast, with it’s jangly electronics accompanied by soulful vocals.  The closing track is a mash-up of Ghostigital’s “Not Clean” and Kimono’s “Onomatopoeia” that originally appeared on the 2013 Ghostigital release The Antimatter Boutique, which consisted primarily of remixes, which is a solid end to the comp.

Iceland Whatever Vol. 1 is an excellent introduction to the Icelandic music scene, and it’s available at the Theory of Whatever Records website as both a digital download ($6) and a physical CD ($6.50).  For that price you owe it to yourself to go check it out… and hey, it’s a perfect way to support Small Business Saturday, which is coming up this weekend!  So go get yourself a copy, dammit, and tell Bryan you heard about it from Life in the Vinyl Lane!