Tómas Jónsson – “3” (2020)

I have a copy of Tómas Jónsson’s 2016 self-titled debut, but for whatever reason it never made it onto the blog. That has me curious enough to want to go back and give it another listen. But for now I’m sitting down on a dark, rainy Friday morning and spinning his latest release, 3.

For some reason I was expecting this to be a jazz album, and while at times jazz-like elements such as brush drumming and slow piano passages come to the surface, the description isn’t quite right. It’s a blend of jazz and electronic and ambient, yet none of those things at the same time. It’s definitely chill out music and perfect for rainy mornings and coffee and an intentionally slow pace. There’s a soothing quality that takes the edge off the frustrations of work and COVID and whatever else burdens you, the slow lifting of that weight off your shoulders. The B side cuts loose a bit more, upping the tempo at times, but still retains an overall relaxed feel (OK… “Sálmurinn Um Gaukinn” will likely get your blood pressure up as it approaches crescendo…)

My good friends at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records put this out on their label, so while that may make me biased I’m still digging this album and recommend you check it out.

S.O.A. (State of Alert) – “First Demo 12/29/80″ 7” (2014 / 2020)

It’s very rare that I’m the guy who gets lucky with limited releases. I’m not going to get into line at 3AM for Record Store Day and I don’t stay on top of enough label and artist social media pages to catch wind of things, so when I do end up with something super hard to get there’s a good chance I paid a pretty penny for it.

But a week or so ago, I got lucky. I happened to pick up my phone during the workday and saw a post on the Henry Rollins Facebook page announcing a re-release of S.O.A.’s First Demo 12/29/80 7″ by Dischord. That in and of itself wasn’t terribly interesting, as you can find copies of the original 2014 pressing fairly reasonably priced. What was interesting, though, is that Rollins was offering a small number of these via his website that were signed by him. I figured what the hell, clicked the link, and bought one. I didn’t think much about it until later when I went back to the page to read the entire post, and then looked at the comments – it turns out the signed version sold out in 11 minutes. I was just lucky enough to see it right when it posted and to pull the trigger on it immediately. I’m not sure how many signed copies there are, but it’s a pretty cool piece especially since I’m a big fan of Rollins’ work, especially his writing, photography, and spoken word stuff.

As for the record, S.O.A. is some pretty great early hardcore. Of the eight songs, six last for under a minute with the longest clocking in at 1:49, so you’re in and out of the whole thing in less than seven minutes. But it’s seven minutes that will blow the paint off the walls.

Schimpfluch-Gruppe – “Paris Aktionen” (2009)

I’m not sure what it says about me that I keep purchasing random records like Paris Aktionen, records that are not only non-musical but bizarre to the point of unsettling. Often the albums are noise, but some, like Paris Aktionen, are the audio of what were very visual performances that when taken out of context of the visuals (which, from what I saw online, were disturbingly bizarre) are just… sounds. I know the chances of me ever listening to these albums more than once is about as close to absolute zero as you can get.

And yet I’m always intrigued, and often my curiosity gets the better of me. I feel like listening to things like this actually does expand my mind a bit, broadening the sense of what is possible, and that’s never a bad thing. But is it worth, in the case of Paris Aktionen, 28 minutes and 12 seconds of my life? I have to admit the second half of side A got fairly interesting, but to call it anything resembling musical would be a stretch beyond even the elasticity of Mr. Fantastic.

What did I learn from Paris Aktionen? I have no idea. Maybe something, maybe nothing. But I know I’ll keep buying records like this in an effort to broaden my thinking and outlook.

Steindór Kristinsson – “Klippur” Cassette (2020)

Iceland’s Eyewitness Records, now renamed as Eyewitness Inc, is back again with another intriguing electro release. This time it’s a six-song cassette by Steindór Kristinsson. It’s an interesting collection of tracks. Two (“Anin” and “Upstairs”) are beat-driven yet still experimental, the beats standing front and center and providing enough structure to hold things together. The next three songs (“Noise”, “Aspect”, and “D”) offer more of a horror sensation, creating fluid and sinister vibes that lack the structure of their predecessors. The tape concludes with “Windy”, a track that brings the two themes together, a blend of styles and tempos that keep you unsettled.

You can listen to Klippur on the Eyewitness Bandcamp page HERE, and it looks like they still have copies of the cassette for sale as well. I suspect this is limited – some of the other Eyewitness releases were in editions of 50 or less, so you may want to jump on it if you want a physical copy.

Velvet Villain – “Velvet Villain” (2020)

Velvet Villain are a hard rocking duo from Reykjavik, Iceland featuring Jón Gauti and Jóni Sölku . That’s basically as much as I’ve been able to find about them online. But really, what more do you need?

This seven-song record came out in July in a ridiculously limited pressing of 10 copies. It’s on clear vinyl and the jacket reverse is numbered with a sticker. A monthly later Velvet Villain put out their debut album Dead By Midnight on various streaming services. It doesn’t appear that the two releases are identical, at least not in comparing song titles. Five tracks on both versions, with the vinyl having two that don’t appear on streaming (“12:59” and “Maístjarnan”), while the Spotify’s Dead By Midnight includes three tracks not on the vinyl (“Wicked Love”, “Out of Sight”, and “Here Comes the Rain”).

Stylistically Velvet Villain is somewhere in the intersection of hard rock, post-punk, and metal. There’s a layer of angst in the vocals, given even more weight by the tuned down guitar. For my money I recommend “Life In a Fishbowl” and “I Wanna Know”, the latter being the heaviest thing on the record, slow and sludgy.