I first encountered (and fell in love with) Kælan Mikla during their Gamla Bíó show at Iceland Airwaves 2015. The darkness of the music combined with the power and rage of the vocals blew me away and I’ve done my best to keep track of the band ever since. They were the honorable mention for my “Best New-To-Me Band” of Airwaves ’15, and their debut LP Kælan Mikla made it into my Top 5 best new releases of 2016. I knew there was some pre-Kælan Mikla material available digitally, though I hadn’t done much to track any of it down because I’m sort of addicted to physical media, which is dumb but true. Fortunately for me the band decided to issue their shelved first recording Mánadans as a limited edition (of 200) cassette. I pre-ordered mine yesterday via their Bandcamp, and it came with a digital download to hold me over until the tape ships later this month.
The album opens with “Lítil Dýr”, which is frankly Kælan Mikla being their most Kælan Mikla-ish – all my favorite elements of their music packed into one song. The opening is slow and heavy and moody, a calm almost detached flow of bass and drums and synths that then explodes with the righteous fury of Laufey Soffía’s vocals. Hearing her cutting loose for the very first time during their show in 2015 was a startling experience for me, and I was hooked immediately; “Lítil Dýr” perfectly captures that feeling.
“Umskiptingur” is one of the more intriguing cuts on Mánadans, musically more along the lines of a dark country or surf song than the band’s normal darkwave/post-punk feel, like something out of a David Lynch movie. “Ástarljóð” is another highlight, its relentlessly driving bass propelling you forward into the darkness…
Ég vona að þú farir til helvítis, ástin mín,
svo ég fái kannski að hitta þig aftur.
(I hope you go to hell, my love,
So maybe I’ll meet you again.)
I’m impressed with he sonic variety on Mánadans. This isn’t a darkwave band playing the same gloomy synths over and over again; Kælan Mikla bring hints of different music styles to their sound, giving their songs subtly different flavors while still remaining consistent to their overall aesthetic. It sounds like they have a new album in the works, and I for one can’t wait to hear it.
– Jeff Obermeyer