It keeps getting better.
When I attended my first Iceland Airwaves-festival in 2010 I got ecstatic about the huge amount and diversity of great music which was made in Iceland. There was much more than the Icelandic bands I adored at that moment: Sigur Rós and Apparat Organ Quartet. Over the years I’ve reserved this special week in the fall to discover and enjoy (new) Icelandic music and naturally some of the performing artists which were invited from abroad to either showcase or headline during the festival. This year was my first anniversary, my fifth year of Airwaves! Although the name and location have stayed the same over the years the venues have kept on changing. Some just disappeared, some where re-named and new ones were added to the festival. Since the completion the Harpa-concerthall has become the pulsing heart of the festival. One of the things I have noticed over the years is the increasing amount of Americans and Germans who found their way to this exquisit festival. This coincides unfortunately with a decrease in Icelandic festivalgoers. Hopefully I’m mistaken. During this years event I attended performances by 54 acts of which 44 were Icelandic. It was hard to choose but in random order I made a collection of ten I enjoyed the most.
Kiasmos: In this years documentary “Tónlist – The 405 documentary about Icelandic music” that was daily shown during the festival Ólafur Arnalds remarked he was working in the same part of the Icelandic musicscene e.g. Jóhann Jóhannsson. His current side-project with Janus Rasmussen (of e.g. Bloodgroup, Byrta, Fura) however is quite the opposite. Energetic, electronic dance which presented in a poorly lit Harpa set the crowd on fire.
Fufanu: Previously known and succesfull as a Techno-duo the duo became a trio after getting a drummer involved in the band. The techno sort of left the band and was replaced by more of a psychedelic post-rock soundscape. Impressive.
VAR: The latest project of Myrra Rós is the band VAR she started off with Júlíus Óttar. Dreamy melodies with edgy soundscapes created by synths, guitars & drums. I only discovered them on the 5th day of Airwaves but seriously one to check out!
Rökkurró: After about a 3-year (live)pause Rökkurró released their third and probably best album to date: INNRA. Electronica infused indie-pop-rock of a matured band that sounded lovely.
East of My Youth: Two young ladies from Reykjavik creating electropop.. well future-pop as they call it themselves. Their first single ‘Lemonstars’ drew my attention but their liveset, although short as they ran out of songs, was better. Upcoming talent that literally suggested to become an alternative for The Knife. They’ve got the guts, now they just need a bigger setlist.
Sometime: After seeing them last year for the first time live I listened to their album “Acid Make-Out” for quite some time. Uplifting electropop I wanted to see and hear again. Only one new song but ending their set with a bottle of champagne and Diva de la Rosa dangling from the ceiling: priceless!
BIRD: Orginally a solo project of Jón Valur Gudmundsson Bird was presented as a full band during Airwaves and sounded impressive during their first live-performance together.Another band that might just spread his wings and fly high and far.
Júníus Meyvant: Unnar Gisli Sigurmundsson used to skateboard and paint a lot. Currently? A singer-songwriter of whom we can probably expect a lot in the near future. Acoustic or with a large band, he sounded great.
Kælan Mikla: The “Lady of the Cold” is 3-headed female poetry-punk-rock that popped up into the music scene during the Reykjavik Cultural festival in 2013. Poetic punk-rock, who ever thought that could look and sound so good.
Lily the Kid: An electropop-duo evolved out of Bloodgroup, that sounded good. At least on paper. Live on stage Lilja’s singing and movements and Hallur’s soundscapes where luckily convincing as well.
– Martijn Veenman.