Iceland Airwaves 2022 - Day 2

After a delicious breakfast of ham and cheese on some amazing rolls from Brauð & Co it was time to hit the mean streets of Reykjavik to do my part in contributing to the local economy by buying as much music as possible. I spent a good 90 minutes flipping through Icelandic titles at Lucky Records, coming away with a substantial stack to be put aside so I can true-up with them at the end of the festival. From there I popped over to Reykjavik Record Shop, where my man Reynir was holding an Icelandic pressing of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy for me, and I also grabbed some electronic weirdness by Pang, the vinyl version of Egill S’ Tonk of the Lawn, and a late 70s rocker by H.L.H. Flokkurinn that I bought exclusively for the motorcycle greaser cover.

My last stop of the afternoon was Pan Thorarensen’s label/store/venue Space Odyssey. Pan is best known for his electronic work as Stereo Hypnosis and as part of Beatmakin Troopa. With Space Odyssey he gives his fellow travellers in the realm of electro-weirdness a place to perform, and also records their live in-stores for super limited edition cassette releases. I picked up the first six in the series last year and since then he’s added another 20 or so titles. I grabbed another seven on this visit, as well as three new 7” lathe cut records and three Stereo Hypnosis CDs. Any time I can support the small label and independent artist, I’m in!

Our first show of the night was the dub reggae set of Omnipus over at Lucky Records. I have a copy of their new record in my stack of stuff to buy over there and I’m looking forward to giving it a listen when we get back home. Per one of the band members they only pressed 200 copies of this, so get it while you can.

Next up was the mighty Revenge of Calculon, the luchadors of electro-sleeze-funk, and I came prepared with my luchador mask and my custom lucha libre track jacket courtesy of Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane (see below, with me to the left giving Ingvar a fist bump while the band plays).

I also made my filmmaking debut, as lead luchador Rob asked me to shoot random footage of the show using his fisheye lens GoPro for use in a future music video. I’m confident there will be a Grammy in my future for this! As for the show, it was off the hook as one would expect.

After enjoying a well-earned pizza we headed out into the night, catching russian.girls over at Hurra. The last time we saw a russian.girls performance it was a solo gig at the Mengi art space, restrained and experimental. This time around it was a three-piece with more beats than you can shake a drum machine at. A top-notch show in front of a packed crowd.

The next two artists we saw shall, well, remain nameless. At a festival like Airwaves you often find yourself going into shows blind, and more often than not you see something cool. This time… not so much. So I’m not going to talk crap about performances I didn’t enjoy, because these folks clearly have talent (the were selected to play) and just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

We had a few bands we wanted to see late in the evening, but unfortunately both of us have been hobbled by colds and we simply ran out of steam around 11PM and called it an early night, returning to our apartment to eat the last of the pizza and hang out for a bit. We gotta be rested up for the festival’s final day tomorrow!

Beatmakin Troopa - “Surprise Visit” (2006)

I don’t write about CDs often on Life in the Vinyl Lane because, you know, it’s called Life in the Vinyl Lane and all.  But much as a lot of stuff that only came out on vinyl, so too is it true that a lot of stuff only came out on CD.  And I’m no format snob (♠), and I’ve got plenty of CDs.  Plus when Gestur over at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records sends me something, chances are it’s going to be good.

I’ve written before about encountering Beatmakin Troopa during our first Iceland Airwaves back in ought-nine, so I won’t bore you with rehashing the story here, since it’s probably only interesting to me and Holly.  Though the one odd thing about that night, down in the basement of a club, was that another of the performers went by the questionable name DJ Rabbi Bananas, a nom-d’electronica made even the more uncomfortable by the fake beard and baseball hat with the Star of David he wore.  It was an unusual night, to say the least.

Surprise Visit came out back in 2006, the rare limited-edition CD, hand-numbered in a run of 100 copies.  In true Troopa fashion his influences run deep, though ultimately these electronic tracks have jazz at their core.  Horns and snares, unusual timing… it sort of reminds me of President Bongo’s Serengeti, only nine years earlier, an electronic version of a jazz club field recording, smoky and dark and smelling of old leather but with just a slight hint of electric ozone and flickering neon.

To me Troopa is an acquired taste, one I’ve been fortunate enough to start to acquire over the last year or so.  I only wish I’d gotten there sooner.

(♠)  Though I kind of draw the line at cassettes.  No 8-tracks in my house.  Yet…

Beatmakin Troopa - “Peaceful Thinking” 12″ (2005)

I first encountered Beatmakin Troopa at our very first Iceland Airwaves back in 2009.  Holly was interested in seeing him, and since I basically didn’t know any of the artists I was game.  The show was in the basement of a club, in an odd room that had cubby holes in the walls filled with pillows and mats that you could sit in, and we promptly claimed one of these for ourselves.  The show was a flat out trip, something I’d never seen before - just a dude with a laptop and a box with a bunch of knobs on it.  There were beats.  There were bird sounds.  I wasn’t sure what to make of all of it.

2005s Peaceful Thinking is a bit more traditional in that it’s some quasi-ambient electronica.  Not in a Brian Eno way, more in a lite jazz way.  It’s got a bit of that Beatmakin Troopa weirdness to it, with some odd cuts and transitions and sometimes bizarre sonic elements that appear momentarily before disappearing forever and making you wonder if you’d actually heard them in the first place.  Like the crazy record scratching on “City Rhythm”… did that just happen?  It sounded so, for lack of a better term, “stock” (♠), yet it was so surprising as to be fresh - in fact becoming anti-stock.  Sometimes it’s how you use something that matters.

What I have is not the full version of Peaceful Thinking, but instead the five-song 12″.  There’s some decent material here, though, making me kind of want to hear the whole thing.  I’m particularly impressed with the B side of “Birthday Boy” and “Most Active”, which are a touch less experimental and a bit more familiar.  If I didn’t know better I’d say the rapping on “Most Active” was someone I know from the Icelandic scene… but it couldn’t be, could it?  Well, thanks to the power of the internet a quick email confirmed that the rapper on this track is none other than Jóhannes Birgir Pálmason of Epic Rain!  As an added bonus, this song (as well as “Birthday Boy”) is only available as a 12″ B side and is not part of the Peaceful Thinking LP.

This is a fun 12″ with five songs that each bring a unique flavor to the electronic sound.  While I admittedly wasn’t ready for Beatmakin Troopa when I first heard him in 2009, as I’ve become more experienced and comfortable with the genre I find myself open to a wider range of sonic experimentation, so in many ways I’m glad it took a while before a copy of Peaceful Thinking found its way to my turntable.

(♠)  If you’ve never seen the Metallica documentary Some Kind Of Monster and heard Lars go off on stuff sounding “stock”, you owe it to yourself to check it out.