“Nettwerk Sound Sampler Volume Two: A Food For Thought” Compilation (1986)

I’m currently reading Cosey Fanni Tutti’s recently released autobiography Art Sex Music.  Tutti is perhaps best known to music fans as one of the founding members of industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle alongside her partner/lover/collaborator Genesis P-Orridge.  She has also earned a well-deserved reputation as a artist, doing performance pieces with P-Orridge and others as part of their COUM project as well as being a very early participant in the mail art scene and doing some highly controversial solo work.  While there was a certain amount of “openness” to Tutti and P-Orridge’s relationship, eventually the two parted ways as romantic partners as Tutti developed a deepening relationship with bandmate Chris Carter, one that eventually led to them starting a family and collaborating musically as a duo and allowing her even more freedom to explore other forms of art.

So what does all this have to do with the 1988 comp Nettwerk Sound Sampler Volume Two?  Well, on Saturday I was doing some digging into the various Carter/Tutti projects, the most notable of which is Chris & Cosey.  And that afternoon I stopped by Silver Platters to pick up the new Purple Rain re-release and while I was there I came across this comp… which features a song by Chris & Cosey.  I pretty much had to buy it at that point. It was like it was meant to be.

Given that two of the artists on this comp are Chris & Cosey and Skinny Puppy, I expected the overall feel to be on the electro-industrial side.  So imagine my surprise when it opened with a quiet acoustic singer-songwriter type song from a young Sarah McLachlan. Yes, that Sarah McLachlan.  Huh.  Didn’t see that coming.  Fortunately things then take a weirder turn with the quasi-new-wav-ish “Greater Reward” by Severed Heads, which has a very Pet Shop Boys feel to it.  But… then we get some folk rock by Lava Hay. WTF was Nettwerk’s strategy?  These are definitely not the kinds of artists you’d expect to hear together on the same small indie label.  The side closes out with Moev’s “Open Mind”, an industrial-lite kind of number that’s pretty decent.

The B side is more electronic, with all four artists contributing somewhat darker electro-pop tunes.  Chris & Cosey’s “Trust” has a more early 1980s feel to it, along the lines of what was coming out of Germany at the time - cold synths, deep and almost mysterious sounding vocals, but delivered with a feeling of honesty that is actually a bit unsettling.  Skinny Puppy close the comp out with “Addiction (Dog House Mix)”, unquestionably the most industrial thing here and arguably the best song of the bunch.

Saktmóðigur - “Plata” (1998)

A buddy of mine in Reykjavik sent this to me the other day after he found an extra copy on his shelves when going through his music collection. (♠)  I have a  couple of Saktmóðigur’s vinyl releases, 1996s Byggir Heimsveldi Úr Sníkjum 10″ and the 2003 7″ Demetra Er Dáin, both of which I enjoyed, so while I’ve been a bit less into punk lately I was still looking forward to listening to Plata (1998).

Saktmóðigur do a bit of style-mixing on Plata.  While it’s all “punk” they move comfortably between subgenres, going from 1970s old school (“Dr. Ánægja”) to PiL-influenced quasi new wave (“Popparinn”) to hardcore (“Ég Get Ekkert”)… and that’s just on the album’s first three tracks.  That refusal to fall into one nice neat bucket is a feature of Plata, one that keeps the album sounding fresh all the way through, more like you’re listening to a playlist than an album.  It caps off with a pretty wicked cover of “99 Luftballons”, which is a fitting end. (♣)

(♠) Something I suspect every music collector/obsessive experiences at one time or another.  I know it’s happened to me.

(♣) Personally I’m a fan of punk bands covering new wave songs.  I’m not entirely sure why… but there’s certainly an ancestral relationship between the two genres, with new wave spinning out of the punk scene in the late 1970s, so maybe that’s the thread that holds it all together.  Did the reverse ever happen?  Were there new wave bands that covered punk songs?  Certainly The Bollocks Brothers did by re-making the Sex Pistols’ entire first album, giving us Never Mind The Bollocks 1983.  But wouldn’t you have love to have heard The Go-Go’s do “Livin’ In The 80s”?  I would.

The Third Sound - “The Third Sound” (2010)

The Third Sound was created by former Singapore Sling member Hákon Aðalsteinsson and released its self-titled debut in 2010.  While it falls into the same general psych / shoegaze genre signifiers as does Singapore Sling, The Third Sound is more reminiscent of 1960s psych than the it is the dense, buzzing wall-of-sound that later generations of psychers are bringing us today, closer to The Byrds and 13th Floor Elevators than say Sonic Jesus or My Bloody Valentine.  Songs like “Gloria” (not a remake of the 1964 Van Morrison classic) would be perfectly at home in a room full of folks wearing tie-dyes and bellbottoms complaining about Lyndon Johnson.  That being said parts of it are more modern, with tracks like “Re-Elevation” filling up every microsecond of space with multiple instruments to creating that buzzing sensation that the Slinger’s have nearly perfected.

I’m not sure how The Third Sound escaped my attention all these years - they’ve put out two more full lengths since their debut, most recently 2016s Gospels of Degeneration, though the fact that the band is based in Berlin may have kept them off my Iceland radar.

Bónus Plötur 7″ Singles (2017)

When I first learned of the new Iceland label Bónus Plötur I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I’d likely never get my hands on any of their releases.  The series of 7″ singles are put out monthly in minuscule editions of 30 records each and only available for sale at the vegan cafe in Reykjavik appropriately named Kaffi Vinyl.  So when the opportunity arose to get my hands on three of the five issued so far this year I jumped at it and counted my blessings.  Since all are split releases with only one or two songs per side I decided to just write one combined post to cover all three.

The Reykjavik Grapevine has a nice feature on the label that can tell you way more about it than I ever could, so go check it out HERE.  The one piece of info I can add to that story, however, is that the Krummi behind Bónus Plötur is not the same Krummi who appears on they’re third release with his duo Döpur.  I suspected, incorrectly as it turns out, that they were one in the same, and had this confirmed by a friend in Reykjavik.

BP-03
A:  Döpur - “Frosin Jörð”
B:  Roht - “Get Ekki Meira”

We first encountered Döpur, which features Krummi of Legend fame, at Airwaves in 2014.  I was trying to track down Holly at Harpa and I knew she was thinking about checking out a venue of experimental music happening there, and when I walked into the red-lit room there as a huge cat image on the wall and a couple putting on a mind-bending show (left).  We caught up with the duo again a year later at Lucky Records and once again had our minds re-arranged by their music.  “Frosin Jörð” is, I believe, the first actual recording of theirs I’ve put my hands on, and it didn’t disappoint with a raw feel laid over the machine beats, an intentionally unpolished and charged track.  The flip side is a new song by Roht, who I’ve written about a number of times recently on Life in the Vinyl Lane as it seems like every time I turn around they have a new song or tape or single.  “Get Ekki Meira” is heavy as hell, but with vocals that actually remind me a bit of an even more lo-fi Purrkur Pillnikk.  I’ve listened to a decent amount of Roht so far this year, and this may very well be their best effort.

BP-04
A:  Exos - “Zoo York”
B:  Kosmodod - “Mars Elektro” and “Magnetic Distortions”

I’m not sure what’s up with my copy of BP-04.  The others I’ve seen online all have glittery paper on the right side, whereas mine is white, plus it’s not numbered on the reverse.  Could it be an early test press?  Not sure.  It also, unfortunately, appears to have been put into its sleeve before the ink was dry and as a result I have all kinds of stains on the jacket.  But whatever, this is DIY stuff.  I’m just glad to have a copy!

I’ve never heard Exos before, and the beat-driven “Zoo York” has a slight tribal feel with its repetitive percussion and occasional higher notes that sound like two sticks being struck together.  Kosmodod I’d run across previously on the Sweaty Records Compilation a while back, a track I compared to the material appearing on Gusgus’ seminal 24/7.  And “Mars Elektro” is in that same mold, a darker bit of electronic music but one that doesn’t stray towards the more industrial side instead keeping the sonics clear and crisp (though the vinyl itself on this side is a bit noisy, despite having been cleaned).  The same was true for “Magnetic Distortions”.  I really like what Kosmodod is doing - hopefully we’ll see a full-length from him at some point.

BP-05
A:  Kuldaboli & russian.girls - “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?”
B:  Bárujárn - “Vopnafjörður”

Not only are we familiar with all three performers on BP-05, but we also have releases by each and have seen two of the three live.  The combination of Kuldaboli and russain.girls is an intriguing one, and the song does not disappoint - “Hvaða Týpu Ert Þú Að Vinna Með?” is a killer piece of electronica.  It reminds me more of Kuldaboli’s general style than it does that of russian.girls, and overall it’s probably my favorite track across these three Bónus Plötur releases.  As for Bárujárn, we seem to somehow manage to see them live almost every year at Airwaves, though usually completely by accident, and “Vopnafjörður” is consistent with their general surf-inspired sound, though this time with a touch of western thrown in for good measure.

 

I still need to try to track down the first two Bónus Plötur singles - hopefully I can track them down when I’m in Reykjavik for Airwaves in November.  Fingers crossed.

Úlfur Úlfur - “Hefnið Okkar” (2017)

While researching this post I was surprised to see that I’d somehow missed writing about Úlfur Úlfur’s 2015 album Tvær Plánetur, a CD that includes appearances by many of the luminaries of Iceland’s burgeoning hip hop scene like Gísli Pálmi and Emmsjé Gauti along with more traditional vocalists like Agent Fresco‘s Arnór Dan Arnarsson.  Plus it spawned one of the best new music videos I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so, the hot dog and burnout fest that is “Tarantúlur”.  We caught them live doing a stripped down set at Reykjavik’s Íslenski Barinn (♠) during Iceland Airwaves 2015 (below) and enjoyed them tremedously.

Now, hip hop in foreign languages can be a bit tricky sometimes.  If you have some experience with the artist’s language that helps, but you’ll likely miss out on some nuance or references; but when it comes to a language you don’t speak at all, as is my case with Icelandic, well… hip hop becomes more about the beats and the cadence.  And fortunately Úlfur Úlfur bring it in both areas (plus they give me the occasional “homey” and f-bomb to keep me at least a little connected to the lyrics).

Unlike Tvær Plánetur, 2017s Hefnið Okkar sees the wolves (♣) relying on themselves and not bringing in guests, with only one track credited as having backing vocals.  Musically Hefnið Okkar brings a more R&B vibe to the beats and music; this isn’t a straight-up bass-fest, but instead more nuanced with a number of slower, deeper jams like “15” that are defined more deliberate rapping.  But don’t worry, fans of Úlfur Úlfur machine-gun-like lyrical delivery will also find some stuff for them here too, like the second half of “Ofurmenni” - hearing the guys spit rhymes that fast in Icelandic is a treat to the ears.  If I’m picking favorites, though, I’ll take “Úlfur” with it’s slightly 1980s horror movie soundtrack vibe and building cadence, arguably the best blend of the styles of their most recent two albums.

The guys dropped three videos all on the same day to support the release of the album, so you can give them a listen on YouTube.  The most visually interesting one is for “Bróðir”, which is linked below for your viewing and listening pleasure.

(♠) Notable for having what is arguably Reykjavik’s best hamburger.

(♣)  Úlfur means “wolf” in English.