Icelandic Release #1,000

It’s hard to believe that Life in the Vinyl Lane will have its ninth birthday in September. Despite a few close calls that almost caused it to shut down with a total loss of all content, content that I never bothered to back up because I figured there was no chance of me sticking with blogging for more than a few months, it’s still hanging in there.

Of course, one could argue that with only two posts in 2021, and a meagre eight posts over the last eight months, that LITVL is on life support. Which is fair. Honestly, with the COVID debacle I figured I’d increase my output, but for a variety of reasons that didn’t happen. In an odd way I feel both guilty and disappointed about this. The guilt part is, frankly, pretty stupid. One shouldn’t feel bad about not pursuing a hobby when you simply don’t feel like doing it. The disappointment is more due to the fact that now I don’t have an easy reference source to remind myself what I thought of a given release. For most of the LITVL run I’d guess 98% of all the records that came into our house made an appearance on the blog. So if I pull something from the shelf that I don’t remember, I can easily look it up and get my impressions from months or years prior, which is both handy and pretty cool. And trust me, the paucity of posts this year isn’t because I haven’t been buying and listening to music - a ton of stuff was added to the shelves this year, and since we’re both working from home we’re streaming constantly throughout the day. But whereas in the past I’d have a way to differentiate all the cassettes I picked up from the new Negativ Notion label, today I can’t. Which one was the ambient one? The more industrial one? The one the dog really, really hated? I can’t remember, and I don’t have the blog to help me out.

So what got me out of semi-retirement for this post? Well, I use Discogs to inventory most of my stuff and I have the releases by Icelandic artists and on Icelandic labels kept in separate folders. Why? Because I’m weird like that. In fact there are three separate Icelandic folders - one for vinyl, one for cassettes, and one for CDs. A few weeks ago as I was adding some new items I realized that I was really, really close to having 1,000 Icelandic releases. I have to admit, this surprised me. I only recently added the CDs, and while I figured I had a hundred or so, the number was in fact just north of 300. When I added up the three folders I discovered I had 993 Icelandic releases. What??? How was this even possible? A quick look at the list of items I had on order made it clear that #1,000 was likely already bought and paid for, just not yet delivered. So which one would it be? And just as importantly to my neurotic mind, what would I do if I was at say 999 and a package arrived with three items? Which one would be #1,000???

Two packages in quick succession from Negativ Notion quickly got me to 999. There were still a few items on my list of expected deliveries, but they were all pre-orders, so no telling when they might arrive. And I certainly wouldn’t expect to pick up something locally. Or…

I was planning a visit to Seattle’s best electronica store, Selector Seattle, last weekend, so I checked their Discogs store for anything I might want to grab. On a whim I searched for “Iceland”. And… there it was. A 12″ techno record from 1998 by Vector called B. Q. Wave. The rest of the week was delivery-free, so when we walked into Selector and I gave my man Sherman the list of Discogs items I wanted, I must confess I was a little anxious to see if he still had the Vector record. And he did. I even made a point of taking a pic with us and the record to celebrate #1,000.

So how the hell did it get to this point?

I feel I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that if in 2009 I was asked to name musical artists from Iceland I would have come up with no more than:

  • The Sugarcubes
  • Björk
  • and maybe (but probably not) Sigur Rós

Yet here I sit, not quite a dozen years later, with exactly 1,000 Icelandic releases. I’m not a math major, but that has required a pace of just over 83 releases purchased per year. PHYSICAL RELEASES! Of Icelandic artists and labels. How is this even remotely possible?? (As I look back over might right shoulder and see the six Ikea Kallax cubes and one Flipbin filled with 12″ vinyl, which does not include 7″ and 10″, it seems a bit more possible…)

I feel fairly confident in saying it started with the purchase of Retrön’ Swordplay & Guitarslay at the NASA merch table the opening night of Iceland Airwaves 2009.(1) We hung out at NASA all night and they were my favorite of the six bands, a card that included Me the Slumbering Napoleon (seriously, that was their name), Morðingjarnir, Reykjavík!, Juvelen, and Kimono (we didn’t stick around for Sudden Weather Change… sorry guys). That being said, I can’t 100% recall if I bought the disc at the venue or the next day. Truth be told, that might have been the only CD I bought on that trip - at that point Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane was buying most of the music.

I know for a fact we didn’t buy a record for the first time until 2011… which means I’m averaging about 55 Icelandic records per year. Wha…? Holly was doing a travel blog at the time, and amazingly enough we have a photo of the first batch of eight records I bought from Lucky Records, back when they were at their old location. I’ve told that story many times, but the important thing to know is that we’re still friends with Ingvar and Gestur (and Bob, and Jóhannes, and Þórir…) all these years later. Looking at those first records it’s clear the emphasis was on punk, and I know the top one on the below list was the first I put aside for purchase.

  • Purrkur Pillnikk - EhgjI En:
  • Grýlurnar - Mávastellið
  • Jonee Jonee - Svonatorrek
  • Big Nós Band - Tvöfalt Siðgæði
  • Egó - Egó
  • Utangarðsmenn - Í Upphafi Skyldi Endinn Skoða
  • Okkar Á Milli Í Hita Og Þunga Dagsins Compilation
  • SATT 3 Compilation

That’s a pretty good haul, if I do say so myself. How did I learn about these records, you ask? Well, there was almost nothing about early Icelandic punk and new wave on the internet back in 2011, so I looked at eBay listings. And it turned out that all those eBay listings were, unbeknownst to me at the time, by Lucky Records. Go figure.

If we simply round up and assume I’ve been at this Icelandic thing for 12 years now, I’ve been averaging better than one new purchase every five days. Which is absurd. I know I’ve come home from Airwaves with over 50 titles in my bag before, but that means I’d still be buying another 30 or so elsewhere over the course of the year! I could probably do some rough calculations on the cost of all this music, or the weight of these shelves, but I’d rather not.

There are, of course, some titles that I include in my Icelandic category that others may disagree with. Does Dream Wife qualify? Their lead singer is from Iceland but the other three members are not. Farmacia is from Argentina, but their Suero album was put out by Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records, so I count that one too. You could certainly slice and dice it differently if you chose, but I count it if either the artist or label is from Iceland.

Will the next 12 years bring another 1,000 Icelandic items? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised, not one bit. In case you’re curious about the breakdown:

  • Vinyl - 549
  • CD - 307
  • Cassettes - 144

The labels FALK (25), Lady Boy (22), and Vánagandr (16), make up an impressive chunk of the collection. And let’s not forget another 10 from Lucky Records, 11 each from BÓNUS PLÖTUR and Paradísarborgarplötur and 12 Tónar, and 15 from Reykjavik Record. But none of them compare to the 53 titles on the mighty Smekkleysa. It’s cray.

I could probably write another few thousand words about this, but at the end of the day it’s the music that is important, not the stuff. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour a cocktail and listen to the new one from Ægir. Takk vinir!

(1) I was going to link this to the review I wrote about the album. Except… I NEVER WROTE ABOUT THIS ALBUM! How is this possible???

“Healthy Experience” Compilation Cassette (2021)

It’s hard to believe this is only my second post on Life in the Vinyl Lane so far in 2021. You’d think with COVID continuing to keep us all in various states of lockdown that I’d have done way more writing here, but clearly that’s not what happened. I’m not entirely sure why - I’ve definitely continued picking up new stuff at a brisk pace, though mostly by mail given the lack of travel and limitations on in-person shopping. But such is life. Truth be told I just haven’t really felt like it.

That is, of course, until this little gem arrived in the mail yesterday from Reykjavik. I’m not sure who is behind this brand new Healthy Boy Records label (though I have my suspicions), but as soon as I found out about the debut release I ordered one of the super limited (individually numbered edition of 50) cassettes. With artists like Kuldaboli and ThizOne and Volruptus contributing, I knew it was going to be good, and in fact it’s better than that, it’s great. There’s a sort of creepy, dark edge the the eight tracks, an unsettling undercurrent of anxiety that stops just short of fear, leaving the listener on edge and agitated.

I for one will be keeping an eye on the Healthy Boy Bandcamp page for future releases. You can stream the release there, as well as purchase digitally. It looks like the cassettes are still in stock for now, but I wouldn’t wait if I were you. These suckers won’t last.

MYRKFÆLNI #4 Compilation Cassette (2020)

My favorite zine from Iceland is back with its fourth issue, the third to include a cassette comp of some of the most interesting music coming from the island. There are a few bands here I’ve only recently discovered, like AfterpartyAngel (“Cathexis” might be my favorite track), Captain Syrup, and BSÍ, but most of the rest are new to me. Stylistically the tape covers a lot of ground, from the dream pop of AfterpartyAngel to the quasi-industrial Ægir, the haunting post-punk of Umer Consumer to the garage funk of Captain Syrup.

You can pick up the new issue of MYRKFÆLNI on Bandcamp HERE, along with back issues and some cassette releases they’re putting out as a label.

Captain Syrup - “Eyraland” Cassette (2019)

Get out your blender and put it on the counter. No, it’s OK, you don’t need to clean it first. A little leftover grime from those margaritas a few months ago is fine. Now put in some ice and some whiskey and some kind of non-carbonated fruit drink. Add some rock, a fistful of funk, and a dash of hardcore, blend and serve. Congrats. You’ve made a big pitcher of Eyraland.

I know, I know. Everyone wants Iceland to give us things like Sigur Rós and The Sugarcubes and Of Monsters and Men. But you know what, sometimes life doesn’t give you what you want. Sometimes it gives you filthy, funk garage rock. And when that happens you put it in the blender with a bunch of booze, get loaded, black out, and try to use your phone like an episode of CSI to piece your night together. Or a trip to the ER to get checked for SDIs.

This kinda-sorta new tape from Captain Syrup is the bomb. Funky and weird and fun and fresh and guaranteed to piss off the neighbors if you crank it up. When you want to have a good time just set your tape player to loop and hit play. Or if you’re not a luddite like me, just bring it up on Spotify, because you can stream it there too. Or better yet, kick the guys a few bucks and buy a digital copy straight from the band HERE and support the future of sleazy funk.

King Ani Mal - “Turbo” Cassette (2019)

What the hell is in the water (or perhaps it’s the Yuengling) in Philly these days that is producing so much great music? I bought a bunch of tapes from the Suicide Bong label and its been one surprise after another. The most recent is King Ani Mal’s Turbo, which came out right at the close of 2019. If I had to hang one genre tag on Turbo it would be hip hop, but that feels insufficient to describe King Ani Mal’s style and flow. Just listen to the bells (yes, I said bells) on “Drip Too Wet” and try to explain what’s happening here. It’s so easy to allow yourself to get drawn into King Ani Mal’s world and allow it to cover you like a thick warm blanket on a cold night. His compositions are short - none clock in at even four minutes and most are less than three, though all feel fully realized.

Turbo is available on the Suicide Bong Bandcamp page HERE, including on limited edition (of 100) cassette.