First, I should say congrats to Solstice for putting on an awesome festival on their first go. Seriously. Artist areas – top notch. Organization – top notch. Facilities, top notch. Everything was squared and accounted for. They have done it. My sincerest kudos to them.
I arrived in time to catch the foremost up-and-comers of Iceland’s underground music scene, Captain Fufanu, or as they now stylize themselves, Fufanu. These boys have become men. I saw them in 2011 at Airwaves and their equipment didn’t work. This time they were amped. Their look and sound almost guarantees their inevitable success, a sort of amalgam of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground. Recently this group underwent a beautiful change – from a comfy deep House to a “My week beats your year” post-punk. They come off as evil… In my eyes, their music is like a shot of morphine into the brain. So much style. So much panache. It’s clear that their show must go on. They make free-nowave-jazz-fusion-metal. they know what form is. THEY are the Jerry Lee Lewis “motherhumpers”, the heirs apparent of profitable Icelandic export. One thing boys – please consider hiring another vocalist to accompany you. I think that sometimes the sound falls flat because there isn’t enough vocal dynamic range. Don’t get me wrong, Gulli kills it – but maybe a girl in the mix might be cool. Later that night at Venue Hel, I saw Hogni dance to the Maceo Plex remix of his own song.
First thing I saw when I got here yesterday was Futuregrapher. What can’t be said about this man? He’s stylistically diverse; He’s a lynch pin of Weirdcore RVK. I got in around 12:30. he played Acid house while I drink drank, his subtle beats were divorced from 909 drum machine cruelties, and Acid really makes a great comeback through his work.
Then came ‘Barely legal’, a fine DJ from London, probably about 18 yeas of age. She killed it with garage and Burial-esque Dubstep on the decks. It wasn’t Brostep garbage. I saw a volunteer do a jig while picking up garbage to her music. Next Vrong. He looked like Eazy E. He played a chilled out relaxed hip hop instrumental set.
After his set, out came a game changer in Icelandic culture…Lord Pusswhip took the stage. This hip hop/trap producer has covered every side of the live performance/artist/song triangle. He has got it, and I see him going places. The easiest way to describe his sound is hip hop psychedelia, and it isn’t tacky. He’s a young buck with a great appearance. Wearing a red windbreaker, tinted orange sunglasses and a backwards hat, this fucker threw homemade foam 9MM’s and currency depicting Egil’s Apfelsin, 9/11 and AK-47’s into the crowd. The WOOFERS BOOMED HARD against the tarps, and everything shook. He exhibited genuine charisma, genuine coolness, genuine talent as a producer. He soon brought out a swinging girl to do some Yolandi-like dancing, and the image was complete. I guarantee you – give this kid five years and he’ll be internationally renowned as the finest Icelandic situationist/producer/MC of them all. We love you Pusswhip. Keep killing it.
Afterwards, I saw Gluteus Maximus, featuring Daníel Ágúst from Gus Gus (Also billed as ‘Open Source’ for the festival, Högni from Hjaltalín (and HE) and their new singer, a true belter named Ásdís. . I can’t put my finger on why they are so good. It’s a DJ duo; President Bongo and DJ Margeir. President Bongo dresses like an English bobby on quaaludes, wearing an equally perplexing stern face – it was a totally photographer-friendly get-up – a taller blue hat with a heart on his back. DJ Margeir was dressed in his typical black clad affair. President Bongo traded vocals with each singer with his cool Yello -esque vocal modulation. So clever, I thought: sexy beats in a deep house styling. Tracks like “Jaw” are just stunning. They remind me of artists like Aquarius Heaven, just work that is totally devoid of generic house cliches. Great stuff.
Then I witnessed the maelstrom known as ‘Brain Police’. They were a great stoner metal band at a electronic music festival. Genius move on the part of the promoters. I got my Kyuss on listening to these unpretentious dudes. They rocked out HARD. I really loved hearing some sludgy riffs, and they really were successful in distancing themselves from Kyuss enough to be good in their own right. Lastly came my personal heroes. Massive. F’n. Attack. Those guys recorded that stellar album Mezzanine almost twenty years ago and it’s still worth hearing. Tracks like “Teardrop” and “Angel” were to be expected, but their newest work, like the stuff off of Paradise Circus and Heligoland, is also worth consideration. I really liked their set up – especially the screens behind them with Icelandic phrases and sayings projected against them while they played. The legitimately wanted to win us over as a crowd. I loved hearing Horace Andy. A man of authenticity with a great voice. I wish they played “Man Next Door”. Ever since their collaboration with Peeping Tom I’ve been a total fan of theirs. So great to see them here. The crowd was warm to them; kind, even. The soundsystem was amazing.
I walked in during DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip’s song, GLAMÚR Í GEIMNUM! She’s so freaking weird and funny and nice. She makes you smile while watching her perform – she’s got every aspect of her performance down to the T – from the sounds she howls at the beginning and end of every track, to her own lighting configuration, to her own personalized signage and epic light show, which she manipulates herself. After each track I was astonished by the response by the crowd – she makes genuinely outsider music, but it works, and I was happy to see it working out for her.
Bistro Boy was next to Wow. Where to begin with how awesome he was. He’s an ace producer. He made use of tasteful sax samples that he himself played on a sampler. His music is ethereal, but not pretentiously so – the 808 bass beat he utilized still holds up with today’s available sonic palette at your disposal. He’s clearly a producer’s producer. Artful and tasteful, like an engineer of sound, devoid of onstage pretense. He rolls in to each beat like he’s a Benz S Class – just function, form, beauty, and a style that speaks for itself. Dressed modestly, this producer doesn’t need flash – though flash, like a killer light show can be nitrous oxide for a producer if utilized, but it can also be a crutch to conceal a deficiency. As it turned out, he could sing too. I felt that he was undeservedly under-attended.
It’s always frustrating to me to see great talent overlooked. He made brilliant use of VST functions like a panning arp, utilized nicely and subtly. even his light show reminded me of a Silver Benzo – just chrome like. He sounded like New Order in their heyday at times. His self awareness makes his work work. Bistro Boy is just who he is, without the sexy smirks or regality; he is simply emotive and honest.After his set i went to Asgard and heard Q-TIP over the system! NICE! A Tribe Called Quest rocks. I heard authentic scratches! Real scratching! Awesome. I never thought I’d be applauding someone for DJ’ing the traditional, classic way.
Then came the man, Gisli Palmi. Gisli has the beats, the body and the attitude to get me going, enough so that I told him after the show that I thought he was the best rapper in Iceland, but I think he’d have to fight Lord Pusswhip for that title. Those two need to have a freestyle battle. Gisli launched into Swagalegt at the very beginning. Boom. His tracks really resonate with me at a personal level, because they are imbued with a certain kind of Kanye egoism which gets me through my day with a head held high. This legit mafioso got everyone’ moving. It seemed like all he needed was bass, and to hell with melody. He won me over. More Trap music, please.
I wanted more champagne, more swag. I wanted an A$AP Ferg collaborator. I wanted Schoolboy Q. There’s something fun about songs like “Man of the Year”, these tracks made up my Yeezus-esque moment at Secret Solstice – tracks that give you that taint of narcissism which is so, so good. He and his DJ worked the crowd the way it should be done. Was I having a good time? F’k yes. It was just pure fun. it was american aspirational music at it’s best – that Kanye, Biggy, Eminem, Jay -Z material. It was pure,and authentic , and wasn’t stupid. It was a man from the streets telling us about the streets. It was the best fucking urban hip hop I’ve heard all year. I loved it. I did the cooking dance, I threw down, I put my fists in the air. REAL rap. I mean, listen to it. It turns up.
This event really proved what people can achieve even without huge amounts of experience behind them. In sum, I’d say Secret Solstice was a Success. Here’s to Solstice 2.0.