Sweaty Records – “Blizzard People” Compilation (2019)

Sometimes I ask myself questions like, “Is it OK to review a digital-only release on a blog dedicated to vinyl”, or “Should I write about this record if I’m ambivalent about it”.  If I’m foolish enough to ask things like this out loud and within earshot of Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, inevitably she’ll remind me, “It’s your blog, you can do whatever you want on it”.  Which is both true and good advice.  Recently I’ve been asking myself if a compilation could qualify for my year-end Top 5 releases list, and based on the strength of Blizzard People and my wife’s insightful reminders I think that answer is a definitive yes, at least for 2019, because it’s that good.

blizzardpeople

The digital release of the six song Blizzard People came out back in March, and conservatively I’d guess I’ve played it at least 30 times since then.  It’s definitely the 2019 release I’ve played the most times this year, and I’m still not even remotely tired of it. I’ve been holding off writing about it until the vinyl version came out and earlier this week it appeared in my mailbox, so away we go.

I was hooked right from the opening beats of Logitech’s “Leather Forecast” and its refrain, does your wife even know…  It’s mysterious and mildly dangerous, the raised eyebrow of a bystander who finds themselves surprisingly attracted to something they normally wouldn’t give a second look.  Does your wife even know… maybe you’re actually into this even though you’d never even considered it before.  And that’s both exciting and a bit unsettling, just like these beats.

While I was already familiar with Iceland’s Sweaty Records from their 2016 VA_001 comp and therefore on board with their aesthetic, it was the involvement of Kuldaboli that initially drew me to Blizzard People.  And here he’s paired with none other than Volruptus, the duo combining on the high-tempo scattershot “Nightvision”, a high-pitched Speed Racer of a jam that would wear me out on the dance floor even though it’s only four-and-a-half minutes long.

Blizzard People is available online at Bandcamp HERE, both digitally and on vinyl (€12).  And I say get it while you can because this thing is hot as hell – all six tracks are outstanding.

Kuldaboli – “Stilleben 053” (2019)

kuldabolistilleben

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.

Kuldaboli – “Ég elska þig eilífa stríð” (2018)

kuldaboliegelskaI’m starting to wonder if Kuldaboli is actively trying to avoid having his releases appear in my year-end Top 5 list.  For the second time in three years he dropped something in mid-to-late December, ensuring that I wouldn’t hear it in time for it to be considered.  In 2016 it was the brilliant CD Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, and last year (all of about six weeks ago…) it was the five-song 12″ Ég elska þig eilífa stríð.  Having met him once in person, I feel comfortable this isn’t true – it’s not like he took a swing at me or told me my taste sucks or kicked my dog.  But damn, these late-in-the-year releases are killer.  Maybe I just need to start doing Google searches for “Kuldaboli” starting on December 1 every year, and keep searching every day until I post my year-end lists.  It’s the only chance I have.

Ég elska þig eilífa stríð sees Kuldaboli at his electro-creepy best, with sinister beats, eerily high synths, and heavily modulated vocals.  Most of it is dance floor ready, though “Leyndarmál” spins out a religious-gothic-horror vibe that would be the perfect soundtrack to an exorcism.  You can listen to all five tracks on Soundcloud HERE, at least for the time being.  I particularly recommend the aforementioned “Leyndarmál” and the opening cut “Trúðu þínum eigin augum”.

The Best of 2017

Unlike many Life in the Vinyl Lane blogs, I’m writing this one on the same day I’m posting it.  It’s Christmas morning, and out my living room window I can see the rare Seattle white Christmas in effect as we got about three inches of snow last night, which is a nice touch (it’ll be even nicer if it’s all melted off the roads by time I have to leave for work on Wednesday morning…).  But since we don’t have kids and both of us have very small immediate families, this morning is much like any other winter-time weekend, only with different holiday-themed coffee cups.

Going into 2017 I decided to start keeping a log to help me with my year-end lists, and while I wasn’t as diligent as I’d have liked it still was a big help, especially in the area of new releases.  There was a lot of great new music this year!  In fact, there was so much that the choices weren’t all that easy to make.  Since Holly and I both have project management backgrounds, though, we were able to come up with a solution – we created a scrum board of our favorite 16 releases of 2017 and then used a random number generator to select which one we would play every night as we worked our way through them.  And I’m glad we did, because there were some albums from earlier in the year that had fallen off our radars a bit, and man they sounded great when we came back around to them.

2017luckybw

In preparation I also spent a few hours combing through the top albums lists of various major (and minor) publications and blogs.  Perhaps even more so in years past I was struck by two things.  The first is how few of the albums on other lists I’ve heard.  In fact, when it came to the major pubs (think Rolling Stone, SPIN, NME…) I literally had only heard ONE album on any of these lists – Songhoy Blues’ Résistance, which appeared at #31 on the Rolling Stone list, though nowhere else.  The only other one I found was in The Quietus‘ top metal albums list, having heard and reviewed Sólstafir’s Berdreyminn.    So at least there’s that.  Only Dr. Rok’s list of Top 20 Icelandic releases yielded any common ground – I’ve heard 14 of these, which probably is indicative of the real issue here, which is that I listen to a lot of Icelandic music, and that stuff doesn’t generally make the year-end lists with a few exceptions.  And that brings me to my second observation.  I’m surprised how many of the bands on these lists I have never even heard of.  In fact, on most lists I’m lucky to have heard of maybe a quarter of the artists, sometimes less.  For a guy who writes a music blog, I sure don’t seem to know much about what’s happening in music.

All that being said, the scrum board has been taken down and the votes tallied.  So without further ado…

Top 5 New Releases In 2017

  1. Neysluvara – Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Midnight Champion – Legend (Iceland)
  3. Suero – Farmacia (Argentina)
  4. Space Cadaver – Space Cadaver (US – New Orleans)
  5. Sports – Fufanu (Iceland)

hatariconsumer03

There were two albums I knew were going to be in my Top 5 even before the scrum board experiment – Neysluvara and Midnight Champion.  They were clearly head-and-shoulders above all comers in 2017.  While Legend held an edge over Hatari by virtue of the fact that they put out a full album while their island-mates only gave us a four-song EP (and one that was only on CD to boot!), we were both simply blown away by Hatari.  Neysluvara‘s brand of IDM has been pumping out of my iPod almost non-stop over the last two months and it doesn’t get old.  If I’m being honest Hatari probably gets a little extra lift by the fact that we saw them live this year and they blew us away.  I get that that shouldn’t impact a top album kind of thing, but as Holly pointed out, this is a blog and music is a personal experience, and it’s hard to separate out those personal experiences from the music itself.  So as much as I love Midnight Champion, both musically and lyrically, I’m giving the top spot by Hatari.

Suero had fallen off the radar for a while and revisiting it reminded me of just how good it is.  If there’s one thing that separates it from Space Cadaver and Sports, it’s the sonic experimentation the Argentinian’s do.  Sure, it’s all electronic music; but it’s all over the board, from pure dance numbers to crazy experiments.  And I’d be lying if the personal connection we made with the Sima brothers earlier this year on our visit to Buenos Aires didn’t have an impact on my feelings about this album.  Space Cadaver is unquestionably my favorite metal album of 2017, and while I think it’s only available on cassette you owe it to yourself to get a copy and go buy a cheap boom box at the pawn shop so you can listen to it (or, of course, simply buy a download, you know, if you’re lazy like that), and Fufanu hit it out of the post-punk park with Sports.  From a genre standpoint I’m very happy with this Top 5 list as there’s great stuff here for people of almost any musical taste.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

  1. Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Farmacia (Argentina)
  3. Kuldaboli (Iceland)
  4. Revenge of Calculon (UK)
  5. Egyptian Lover (US)

I’ve already touched on the top two bands on this list, so let me move on to the next three.  Kuldaboli’s Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016 came out at the very end of 2016, and if I’d heard it then instead of early this year it probably would have made my top five new releases list last year – it’s that good.  I got to see him perform live at Lucky Records during Airwaves this years as well as chat with him for a few minutes – good dude.  We caught Revenge of Calculon live in the cramped, damp confines of Dillon on the last day of Airwaves and they killed it with their brand of electro-movie-horror-funk and since then I’ve picked up all four of their 7″ records.  As for Egyptian Lover… how had I gone this long without ever having heard the Lover before??  I can thank our friend Ingvar for this one.  We were chatting about music over dinner when he visited Seattle and was dumbfounded by my lack of Egyptian experience.  The next day at Silver Platters he walked up to me with a box set, pressed it in my hands, and said “you need to buy this”.  And he was right. Takk, Ingvar!

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

  1. “Tug of War” b/w “Give Me the Knife” – Connections
  2. Driving the Bats Thru Jerusalem – Bonemen of Barumba
  3. 20 Jazz Funk Greats – Throbbing Gristle
  4. Special Offer – Sensational
  5. Suero – Farmacia

connectionstugofwar

Four of the five items on this list have some kind of personal connection, actually resulting in me becoming connected with the artists.  The totally random pick-up of the Connections 7″ led me to former member Nolan Anderson and his lovely wife Catherine, who today perform as the Mad Andersons.  I was able to provide a ripped copy of the songs to Nolan, which he hadn’t heard in decades, and that made me feel really good.

My post on Bonemen of Barumba somehow found its way to former founding member Mark Panick, who stunned me when he posted on Facebook that he liked the fact that I obviously “got it” in terms of what the band was doing.  We later connected online, only to come to find out that we have a friend in common – the one and only Ingvar of Reykjavik’s Lucky Records.  Mark even sports a Lucky t-shirt in a video he was in earlier this year.  Ingvar struck again with Sensational, who I turned him onto during his trip to Seattle and who he then, against all logical odds, ran into randomly on the streets of NYC just days later.  That led to me Facebook messaging with Sensational a bit and buying some mail order from him.

Oddly enough Iceland also played a part in us connecting with Ariel and Diego Sima of Farmacia in Buenos Aires – their album Suero was put out on cassette by Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the brothers while in Argentina and picked up a bunch of their back catalog from them.  As for Throbbing Gristle… this one was purely about acquisition.  My local record haunt Vortex posted on FB that they’d just acquired a bunch of experimental stuff from a local DJ and I immediately wend down to the store where I scored a couple of great condition TG titles, a great opportunity to explore some of the early works of the pioneers of industrial music.

Top 5 Live Shows

  1. Hatari – Gamla Bíó, Reykjavik
  2. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Nectar Lounge, Seattle
  3. Metallica – CenturyLink Field, Seattle
  4. Revenge of Calculon – Dillon, Reykjavik
  5. GusGus – Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik

hatariconsumer01

I thought I had this list wrapped up about a week ago.  And I did.  At least until we headed out to Nectar Lounge on Dec. 23 and caught Sir Mix-A-Lot live, which forced me into a last-minute revision.

I covered the Hatari, Revenge of Calculon, and Gusgus shows in my various posts from Iceland Airwaves this year, and actually did the same about Metallica when I wrote about the live CD of this actual show.  Each of these shows gave me something different.  Hatari was a brilliant performance, an integration of stage presence and music; Metallica was a chance to revisit my youth, the first time I’d seen the masters of thrash live since the late 1980s; Revenge of Calculon was one of those great unexpected surprises you sometimes get at live shows; and Gusgus… what more can I say about Gusgus?  They gave us a 90 minute set that had the crowd swaying and dancing the entire time and were musically brilliant as always.

As for Mix-A-Lot, he’s Seattle hip hop royalty and his 1986 debut LP Swass spent a lot of time in the cassette player of my ’84 Mustang when I was in high school.  He did shows on back-to-back nights at the intimate Nectar Lounge (max capacity 400) in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood last weekend and we had a blast at the Saturday night gig.  In addition to some new stuff, Mix gave us a ton of classics like “Testarossa”, “Beepers”, “My Hooptie”, “Swass”, and even a little “Buttermilk Biscuits”.  Of course he also played his mega-hit “Baby Got Back”, but as a Seattleite and long-time Sir Mix-A-Lot fan there was one song I HAD to hear, and he gave it to us – “Posse on Broadway”.  Rest assured Mix fans, he’s still got it.  Posse up!

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

North America
1.  Easy Street Records, Seattle
2.  Daybreak Records, Seattle
3.  Disko Obscura, New Orleans
4.  Skully’z Recordz, New Orleans
5.  Extremem Noise Records, Minneapolis

The Rest of the World
1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Reykjavik Record Shop, Reykjavik
3.  Smekkleysa, Reykjavik
4.  Tempo Musica, Buenos Aires
5.  Reykjavik Flea Market

easystreetcornell

I swear, much of these lists don’t change don’t change from year to year.  It would be a weird for Easy Street not to be #1 for me in North America given how often we go there, though the relatively new Daybreak Records definitely gives Easy Street a run for its money in the area of used vinyl.  Our trip to New Orleans didn’t yield a ton of music, but Disko Obscura’s collection of great synth albums was well worth the visit and the guy over at Skully’z turned us on to Space Cadaver and some good punk and metal stuff, which was cool.  I’ve been to Minneapolis a bunch of times, but somehow never made it to Extreme Noise, an oversight I was glad to correct this year – tons of great punk and metal there.  We have a trips to Portland (OR) and Denver already on the books for the first half of 2018, so I definitely have some more good record shopping in my future.

We didn’t do as much international travel this year has we have in the recent past, only visiting two countries – Iceland and Argentina (hard to say we “only” got to take two international trips this year… we’re super-fortunate to be able to travel as much as we do). Unfortunately the one thing we found to be expensive in Argentina was vinyl, which was seemingly completely out of whack with reality.  I found some exciting early punk stuff, but at $150+ per record US I just couldn’t do it.  I broke down and picked up a couple of titles, but our best success was in the tiny Tempo Musica where we loaded up on local CDs thanks to a lot of help from the owner (and some recommendations from a couple of guys working at a food truck earlier in the day!).  The rest of the shops are all in Reykjavik and you’ve likely heard me prattle on about them endlessly in the past, but all are great places to check out should you find yourself in Iceland.

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti
  2. Lou Reed:  A Life by Anthony DeCurtis
  3. Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 by Cyn Collins
  4. Disco’s Out…Murder’s In!: The True Story of Frank the Shank and L.A.’s Deadliest Punk Rock Gang by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone
  5. I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell

artsexmusic

I didn’t do as much music reading this year as I have in years past – probably only 7-8 books total.  That being said, I’m comfortable in recommending all of these to you.  Art Sex Music is head and shoulders above the rest, giving us as it does a glimpse into the 1970s experimental scene in the UK by Throbbing Gristle member and artist Cosey Fanni Tutti.  Tutti isn’t afraid to let us know anything about her life and art, and her seemingly near-complete transparency makes for a powerful, if at times sad, read.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her work.  DeCurtis’ book on Lou Reed was deeply researched and I was primarily drawn to the more pure biographical aspects of the narrative, not so much the minutiae of Reed’s individual releases.  Complicated Fun is an entertaining and informative oral history of the Minneapolis scene, one that in many ways is reminiscent of Seattle’s, while the last two are entertaining first person tellings of hard punk rock lives.  It also features our very own Kevin Cole from Seattle’s KEXP radio, as Kevin was a noted DJ and record store owner in Minneapolis during the era.  it’s a small, small world.

 

Well, there you have it, my faithful readers.  Thank you, as always, for your support and comments.  While at times the pure need to write overwhelms me to the point where I feel like it’s something I have to do in order to not spontaneously combust, Life in the Vinyl Lane doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it’s put me in touch with some amazing people over the years, perhaps no year more so than 2017.  And it’s these connections that make it a truly special experience.  So no matter where you’re reading this, I say “thank you”, and I’ll see you in 2018!

Iceland Airwaves 2017 – Day 3

Well, it’s the “hump day” of Iceland Airwaves – Friday.  Day 3.  The tipping point.

We finally stumbled out of bed and got ourselves organized sometime around Noon after a  late one last night and hustled down to KEX Hostel to see Mikko Joensuu.  A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to get to spend a bit of time with KEXP DJ/Program Director Kevin Cole and he was absolutely gushing about Joensuu, so I knew I wanted to check him out at Airwaves.  And Kevin hit the nail on the head with this recommendation. Mikko performed with a fairly large ensemble – somewhere around 9-10 musicians including a string section.  The rich textures of his voice reminded me immediately of my dad’s favorite, Neil Diamond.  But don’t be fooled, because this isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) music.  Joensuu brings a spiritual vibe to his lyrics and musically offers a contemporary take on folk and indie rock.  I got a bit reflective during this show, reminding me as it did of Diamond and given my dad’s passing earlier this year; I think dad would have enjoyed Mikko’s music.  One of the things that strikes me about artists, and musicians in particular, is how much they expose themselves in their work, something that is not easy for most people to do and in fact is something we’re encouraged, either directly or indirectly, to suppress.  The words of “Drop Me Down” are so spiritually heavy, and Joensuu’s delivery so authentic, that it was almost painful to listen to, but I’m glad that he was willing to share this experience with us.

airwaves17day31

Later in the afternoon we were back at Lucky Records for a pair of performances.  First was the electronica set by the previously reviewed Kuldaboli, who put out one of the best albums of 2016 in Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016.  After that we got a solid 40 minutes from Epic Rain, mostly material off the recently released Dream Sequences but also with a track from 2014s Somber Air.  They’re always a favorite, and this was their only show at Airwaves in 2017 as they prep for an upcoming French tour.  Good stuff.

The on-venue evening started weakly, and since I don’t like to talk crap about musicians on Life in the Vinyl Lane I’m not going to tell you who we saw.  But we were definitely the oldest people in the room with the exception of some of the performers’ parents, and I wasn’t interested in hearing a bunch of very young dudes telling me how “money comes and money goes” and how they’re “rollin’ kilos” in the mean streets of Reykjavik 101.  I wanted to tell everyone in the room to get off my lawn.  But after that things improved considerably with the sort of soul/hip hop performance by CRYPTOCHROME (below) in front of a small but enthusiastic group and we felt like things were moving in the right direction.

airwaves17day32

From there it was off to Gaukurinn where we saw American performer VAGABON in a stylistically diverse indie set.  That brought us to the band we came to see, the one I had circled on the schedule weeks in advance – Tappi Tíkarrass. (♠) Before Björk became a mega-famous international star, she was in a band called The Sugarcubes.  And before she was in The Sugarcubes, she was in Kukl.  And before she was in Kukl, back when she was still a teenager, she was in Tappi Tíkarrass.  They only left behind an album and an EP in the early 1980s and disbanded in 1983.  As near as I can tell, they reunited once for a show in 1987 and that was the last anyone heard from them until 2017 when the band reunited, sans Björk, and played a show at the Hard Rock in Reykjavik.  Which brings you up to date to last night when we saw them rock the house at a not-quite-packed Gaukurinn (below).  It was a fun, old school punk show, and even without Björk (who we secretly hoped might make an appearance) I’m glad to have checked this off my music bucket list.

airwaves17day33

Holly and I called it a night after that, making a quick pit stop at the Waffle Wagon on the way back to our apartment.  Our friends Norberto and J headed over to the Art Museum to catch FM Belfast and partied late into the night with a thousand of their newest best friends, because watching FM Belfast is a family experience.

We’ve passed the half-way point of Iceland Airwaves 2017, which is always a bit of a surprise when it happens… even though you know it’s coming.  Just two more days to go…

(♠) Which roughly translates to “Cork the Bitch’s Ass”.  Really.