by Chris Sea and introducing Massaka Brain

ROK is taking a special effort with this year’s Sónar Festival to offer a more specialized approach to Icelandic music journalism, and thus we thought, there’s no better way to get the word out than to really get a grasp as to what the musicians that we are interested in is doing, down the roots of the notes which are played themselves. Here are some of our highlights…but before we do that, let’s say Hi to our newest contributor, Massaka Brain. According to his webpage, Brian is a:

“Music producer, composer and jazz guitarist active in Icelandic, Danish, Polish music scene. Finding his style between Hip hop, jazz, electronic, classical music. ”

https://www.facebook.com/massakabrain/info?tab=page_info

As someone who made an effort last year to incorporate as many elements as possible into our coverage, I thought it would be nice in this year’s round of reportage to have someone on board with us who really can shine with his inherent musical talent. Brian is such a person. Brian is studying jazz at FÍH and Odense in Denmark, and I myself cannot think of a better person to help us assess the current state of electronica in our fertile Icelandic scene. A regular of many a jazzy evenings at KEX and Húrra, I felt that Brian would be an excellent edition to the team, and therefore I thought it would be great to have him work with us while I share duties with the Reykjavík Grapevine. So without further a do, let’s get started. What follows are our notes on various highlights of the event, as well as our special interview with Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher.

Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher

Listen to our interview with them here.

Modal harmony, open chords, creating natural reverb using sustain pedal, using plenty of common notes in the harmony, reminds film music soundscape, piano player might want to use different modes for each composition to give different colours to each composition.

Their moods were narrow,  with some characteristic melodies or motifs for every single composition in the set (perhaps more melodic texturing could develop around the samples of certain surroundings for example. restaurants or streets.) They gave a great first impression. It was its hard to keep focus, and this was because of all of the audience shifting. One is curious as to what happens next, the music takes shape after some time. It is difficult music for a concert situation.

Sin Fang:

Great concept of using two drummers, and dividing the percussion role in the band is both logical and musical. There was a great synch of visuals in certain moments, drops, interesting turns within compositions but it became predictable after hearing couple of tunes and rhythmic variations. There is a nice use of triplet subdivisions in the backing track or acoustic drums, and cool doubling sampled sounds with acoustic drums for example, tambourine. The female member of the band’s vocals are inspired by Björk, but sometimes too-less featured. Oriental, ethnic samples. There an interesting layering vocals on top of each other, inventive outros, and a very conscious use of dynamics within compositions, sometimes unpredictable buildups.

Ametsub
Creative use of his big,Kalimba kind of instrument, kind of glitchy elements, slowly built up, organic sounds, use of white noise to create some rhythm layers. Using parallel motifs within single tunes. Changing the quantization level and the groove is interesting, moving hi-hats and snares around the sequences grid also works well giving live and human touch to the performance, Changing the sustain of the kick drum is clever, as is the voice leading in some of his harmonies.
Ghostigital

Ghostigital has an adventurous approach, combining acting with hypnotic, psychedelic and expressive rhythms, based on rhythm and then harmony. There are specific breaks in unexpected moments, great responses from Einar to Curver, demanding delays, pitch shifts and beat repeats. There are definitely audible tips-of-hat to African music. The performance has a some momentum, even though a lot of the music has almost the same idea to it. They suck you in, keeping your attention all the while.
Mugison
He offers up charismatic vocals and nice harmonies which sometimes remind you of children’s songs. He’s great with lyrics, and they are crisp in the mix, with a very clear sound (the engeneer did a piece of great job), and they are discernible. He utilizes ethnic samples. He has a nice balance of compositions, good contact with the audience and keeps it real. He’s not trying to hide his mistakes which makes him more natural. He uses creative conceptual arrangements and clever tempo changes within the tunes, as well.

Chris’ favorite performers, quickly described:

Skrillex

Phenomenal live act and brilliantly programmed tracks.

Ghostigital

Unbridled, ass-shaking, danceable confidence.

Fufanu

Getting to a good place.

M-Band

A skilled craftsman who knows how to make great music.

Daniel Miller

A living legend with a crate of deep house to get you moving.

Lord Pusswhip + VRONG

Where Icelandic hip-hop should be heading.

AMFJ

Zero fucks given, in control, in his element, a force to be reckoned with

dj flugvél og geimskip

Someone not afraid to be themselves.