Saturday’s music takes a turn for the experimental, electronic, and downright hypnotic, and after the intensity of Portishead the previous day, I thought it best to try discover lesser known talent before heading over for the big names.
I tend to review Fufanu a lot, I’ve been noticing – they are an active presence in my life, it seems. I guess one of the main reasons for this is to see what new approaches they may have taken to their sound since we’ve met last. They’re good guys, and perhaps more importantly to the reader of this review, they are also a blast live.
Their performance began with a silence and then BANG! Hrafnkell’s signature hand waving began, as they started into tracks with Jesus and Mary Chain like vocals such as “Walked Away”. It’s cool to see Hrafnkell developing his charisma and gesticulations on stage. Frosti’s drum kit sounded sharp and crisp through the PA, and it was interesting to see him play standing up. Einar and Karl really added a big boost to the sound. I loved the arpeggiating notes – it’s almost like psychotic circus music at times. Hrafnkell was silhouetted for a while, and it made me wonder about the bands visual presentation and how additional dynamic elements on stage could really make their show masterful. Perhaps graphics could help, nothing excessive, just something that hints at where the band’s creative driving force is coming from on a visceral level.
I really liked their outfits – particularly when Hrafnkell went straight to the t-shirt. It’s a bit of a pedantic detail to concern you with, but I honestly just want to see this band succeed. They’ve made a brave transition to another form of music, and a lot of bands can’t usually do that, so good on them. Every piece they play is nicely spaced out. There are passages where you can really hear the future of the band, particularly an unidentified track with a trumpet solo, I believe it was the fourth number. Perhaps these songs should have more instrumental breaks. Gulli has got an amazing guitar tone, and his look really is very fitting. People need to be talking about a band after the show, that´s what a show should achieve, It was nice to see that that was the case for a great many of us. Here’s my interview with them. Forgive me if I sound a bit under the weather.
For a band that I’ve never heard of, I was really impressed. They first caught my ear with a pulsing synth line reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle or later Radiohead. Their light show has a beautiful minimalism to it, like the earliest of video art installations. Some of the visuals gave the impression that I was watching ARPANET on stage. The electronic cognoscenti should be out in full force watching their performance. I love the importance given to visual aesthetics at ATP, and they demonstrated what magic can happen when the right band fills the right hall at the right event. The cinema is packed for them. The current work of artists such as M-Band remind me of them. I can imagine this being excellent headphone music. They are a band that puts form before pretense, or so it seems. Bourdieu would have written about this band positively, regarding their high level of cultural capital with esteem. It makes it easy for them to do things like reach for a bottle of water while this haunting music is playing behind them without coming off silly. There are brief moments when they remind me of The Knife, or at least Karin Dreijer Andersson, which is amazing. Hendrix often spoke of an electric church. Without question, Sian would be in its choir hitting high notes with her imminent talent, and this music, with it’s major key passages, gives the sound a near religious fervor. The screen depicted images reminiscent of Rothko paintings if they were painted horizontally. This was truly what video art should be, and the harkening back to a 1980’s influenced video art was glorious. Is someone producing this backstage? I wondered. I also really appreciated the glowing arpeggiated notes. I later learned that all of these sounds were generated with analog technology. Find out more about Eaux through the interview I conducted with them.
I break horses
Holy shit. Thunderous drums bled through ATP’s soundsystem, and they played I break horses’ music excellently. It’s as though they represent everything that’s good about electronica in much the same way that Eaux does. Their visualizations were spirographic, tesseractical, and offered up tracks like Winter Beats with beauty. They are the purveyors of a Terry Riley-like organ beauty. Their music carries and runs, and provided an excellent soundtrack for the beautiful weather that ATP had, particularly a double rainbow sighting. You are my new favorites, I break horses.
I didn’t stick around much for Devandra Banhart, as I was transcribing, but I did enjoy it when I overheard him say “I embrace your shut the fuck ups, they are warm embraces”. Funny guy, that Devandra.
I first saw Interpol back in 2005, when I was 19 years old at Radio City Music Hall with Blonde Redhead as their opening act, when I saw them as the perfect amalgam of Joy Division and Television. I was going through a really rough patch in my life, and Turn On The Bright Lights was a saving grace. To hear them start their set with Say Hello To The Angels was fun. That song always reminds me of Las Vegas for some reason. I love the breakdown of that song. That track followed with Evil, from Antics, another excellent song, and a very strong single to follow up from the previous, brilliant TOTBL. I love how well dressed these men are, and how absolutely beautiful their guitars are. The simple purple and red lighting of their stage set up was a stark contrast to Portishead, which I appreciated. The bass pressed so hard in my chest. They said it was their first time here. Hearing NYC nearly brought a tear to my eye – it’s the iconoclastic answer to New York, New York and Empire State Of Mind. It’s a very accurate song, and one that has an absolutely beautiful ascending reverb/delay guitar washout towards the end. One particularly special moment was hearing Leif Eriksson, for obvious reasons. The line in that song,” It’s like learning a new a language, helps me catch up on my mime” I always really found quite poetic. That track has force. PDA followed, and the drummer hit the skins like there was no tomorrow. This music drenched the studio, and is perfect for large venues. Tracks like “Lights” and the “Far away, far away” chorus resonated with the audience very well. A truly metropolitan band, particularly the city footage displayed on screen. It was hotter than fuck in the pit. Hearing Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down hit us like a pipebomb; explosive. It was nice to be reminded of how enjoyable they were in high school.
Then came a band that made me ask myself, where have you been all my life? At first I heard a pleasant deviation from the full kit norm – a drum machine, and then I saw them, The Velvet Birthday Party Mary Chain. I saw their singer, Evil Bob Dylan of 1966. Perhaps its only Icelanders that can fully appreciate a band like this, but I hope not. All of my friends are here to witness this Dirty Ass Rock ‘N Roll. We all got our leather on. It was simply fucking Ace. Even I danced to these fellas, even if slamdancing to them was a near exclusively male pursuit. The steer illuminated on stage was a nice, menacing sight, as was the presence of maraca player. Siggi Shaker. Apparently, they were joined by original bass player Ester Bibi and chanteuse Anna Margrét Björnsson. Never before was I so proud to see a reunion show. Even seminal Icelandic scene-star Frímann Frímansson was impressed; and that´s really saying something. By the way, You owe me a can’s worth of beer, buddy.
With ATP coming to a close, I can’t help but feel that the event, especially in the Icelandic context, really shows itself to be unique among other international festivals, and I think the reason is simple: we are in Iceland. In Iceland, the inter-meshing of huge international acts and homegrown heroes neutralizes pretenses about “stardom”, and forces us to look at each other as equals without a series of intermediaries keeping the plebs from the performers. In Iceland, creatives and craftsmen, painters and plumbers, know each other by name. and of course the uniqueness of the Icelandic character in general ensures that music which most people would consider far too experimental or alienating has a proper home somewhere on the planet. For all of the bizarre records that Iceland has offered the world, it’s nice to see the world return the favor for our very cohesive scene, and keep us minding each other’s business. All of this is amounts to a mosaic of a living, breathing community and scene which won’t soon die. Never mind about the nature.