Walking home from a friend’s apartment, overwhelmed by the all-too familiar bluster of wind from which we get our site’s namesake, I was in a state of despondency that was only occasionally arrested by the jolt and gush of air against my person. It was a dreadful feeling that came as a result of a painful experience that I’d rather not mention, but, suffice it to say, one which left me with a tremendous feeling of personal disconnect with someone I deeply care about, particularly as the evening came to its conclusion. In fact, its ending could have been a take on the cover of Hjaltalín’s Terminal, albeit one without an implicit sensuality and instead, more so of an explicit remorse and a regret from the depicted woman looking window, staring out into the distance. When I arrived home, I paused for a moment at my doorway, whilst I fumbled about for my keys and thought to myself, “Christ, I need to listen to Terminal and Enter 4. It fits how I feel right now perfectly.”
And so, enter six. The six that I refer to are of course the six members of Hjaltalín, who, after what I experienced, became the lifters which raised me out of the depths of that short-lived misery. I had seen their show hours earlier, and to my relief, it was just as I had hoped it to have been – a portrayal of honesty, emotion and talent second to none in the Icelandic music scene.
I arrived late from a previous engagement, hearing the tremendously talented Soffía Björg Band at Mengi, catching the ending of my favorite Hjaltalín track and incidentally the opening number of Terminal, Suitcase Man. Even from across the street of the venue, the familiar pitter-patter march of the snare was clearly audible. I rushed over as soon as I could. On one occasion, I professed to one of the band members an affinity for this song. It is splendorous, to say the least.
Following this song was the indomitable Forever Someone Else, beginning the tour back into the world of Enter 4. This track is progressive, lush and sorrowful at the same time. It marks the venturing into Hjaltalín’s electronic experimentation. The beat meshed with the ambient texture is reminiscent of chill out music and does the track justice. The violin parts are nicely implemented. With lyrics like “Hit Me”, one can’t deny their seriousness intent to provide us with more challenging subject matter in their new releases.
I stumbled about Hurrá, trying to find a proper place to stand. With my considerable height, it seemed that the foot of the stairwell next to the DJ booth seems to almost always be the optimal choice. I repositioned myself, dictaphone in hand, for Letter To […]. One might wonder why Lucifer/He Felt Like A Woman, Crack In A Stone and this track all begin with a lone introductory beat, but I see it is as a signifier that a Hjaltalín track is about to begin; it is a mark of distinction, one that indicates to the listener that you are sampling a flavorful, vintage spirit; one markedly unique from the plethora of nonspecific box wines. The track sucks you in deeper into the torture and anguish that percolates throughout the record.
And then came I Feel You. Högni, as flippant, trite and platitudinous as it may sound, we Feel you, man. From the tracks Fripp-esque riff, to it’s acerbic video and simple statement, it’s my contention that the video reignites Iceland’s national conversation about mental illness, as well the crippling effect that loneliness and intense individualism has on its community, as it it were a statement of sympathy to the problems put forth in the film, Englar alheimsins. There need to be more tracks like this released in Iceland in general, and the band played the song masterfully through the excellent Hurrá sound system.
From what I recall of the following track, Anyways, a new song, Sigríður et al expressed a profound joy with having new material to work with. As in keeping with all of their new material, it evoked an emotiveness which is simply miles away from their early sanguine tracks, and in keeping with the form which I believe is their recipe for success.
Myself is one of Hjaltalín´s most demanding and challenging songs. Anyone who has heard it will be gripped by Högni’s sensuality, and it’s avant-garde, Moog-laced aspirations. Who can deny the intensity that this song offers listens in a live setting? We were captivated, amorous, tugging at Artists, by the collar, embracing them, beyond warmth and formality in a scene authored and reenacted as if it were a real life performance of Perfume. We were the citizens of Grasse, craving our Grenouille. There was an unspeakable, unfathomable connection; a deep penetration. What an embracing performance.
Crack In A Stone. Please listen to this recording of this track that’s available here. I apologize for any audio peaks. This track is the hallmark of Enter 4, it forwards the bands pop aspirations, while retaining the emotionality of the records’ overall theme. It was masterfully executed, as you can hear. It has an excellent chorus line; not one that intends to command crowds into a chanting frenzy, but one that touches you personally, one that you can whisper to yourself. still feeling the connection just as strongly. I specifically remember this track for it’s beautiful classical orchestration, and how well it was performed, thanks largely to a sympathetic audience that knew how to appreciate this work. It was especially nice to hear some audience members literally offer thanks to the band after the performance, a sentiment which the band dutifully reciprocated.
We will live for ages was performed next. Unfortunately, due to my faulty memory, all I can recall is that this track segued with grace into We, however stock a comment that may seem to be. My apologies, but hopefully We will carry me through.
We is, arguably, and I mean this in total sincerity, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot…a lot of songs over the years. This track, along with perhaps Feels Like Sugar, is in my opinion, Sigríður’s signature work in the band. She simply levitates over the track. It thrusts you so high into the heavens. For all that the track could have been, namely a vainglorious, gymnastic exploration of Sigríður’s considerable vocal talents and a quick wave to Högni, it is instead a restrained, beautiful, haunting piece of work that utterly stunned the audience. It is simply. That. Fucking. Good. The combination of almost documentarian- of-wistfulness lyrics and harmonies of the two singers, combined with the POUNDING piano keys, the march of snare, its torrent of crashing cymbals and climactic, withering guitar pulsating makes this easily one of the bands, or any bands for that matter, best songs. Thank goodness that this track was composed. Seriously.
The audience clamored for more, as expected, and in time, the call was heeded. Högni returned, guitar in hand, and after some needed pacification of the justifiably exhausted crowd (let’s be honest with ourselves, this show was like a fucking religious experience, a Revival of the soul, if I’ve ever seen one), he performed Let It Die. This track was the necessary pacifier of the crowd, it was reflective, it was immersive, it was Högni, vulnerable, yet confident; accommodating, yet slightly restrained restrained. Here is why.
The guitar creeped in like a classically-influenced n ode to punk rock. A simple passage, rumbling the snare drum, which gave us that count. That amazing count, one, two, three, four on the sticks. Feels Like Sugar. Please listen.
For a song that this band must know inside and out, one that made them who they are in the eyes of fans, marketing campaigns and financiers alike, it still stands out, only now, the wear and emotive capacity of Enter 4 has influenced the performance, namely on Sigríður’s vocals. It sounds as if she couldn’t be what we expected of her to be on this track. She has to be what she is. She has to speak to the lyrics post Enter 4 – hence the restructuring of the chorus. This song needs to be fresh, and was made fresh. It has been reengineered to fit with the new Hjaltalín compositions. I cannot blame them for not treating it the same way that they did back when they recorded Terminal. I give them that, because it would be disingenuinous to put on a happy face and pretend like the events that surrounded the band after the release of that album never happened. Perhaps I am reading into the performance far too much, but how can one not read into every single little thing that this band does? For all of the naysayers, look no further than to Högni’s absolutely explosive, impassioned howl at the end of the track to find your vindication.
At the end of performance, I left utterly blindsided by this bands talent. I wish them the absolute best, because they truly, truly are artists and deserve each and every piece of exposure they have received. Hjaltalín, you are my favorite Icelandic rock band. In the words of Matt Pinfield, please, please don’t stop making records. You help, and heal, and are yourselves all the while. We all love you.
Forever someone else
Letter to […]
I feel you
Anyways (New Song)
Crack in A Stone
We will live for ages (New Song)
Let It Die
Feels like sugar