þriðjudagur, maí 29, 2007

Seabear song "I sing I swim" - Movie The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry's movie The science of sleep" uses Icelandic music by Seabear: "I sing I swim"

Icelandic bands @ SPOT Festival Århus 2007

SPOT Festival
June 1-2 2007
Århus, Denmark
Supported by IMX (Icelandic Music Export, www.icelandicmusic.is), three Icelandic artists will play at this year’s Spot Festival in Denmark.
Around 100 upcoming Danish and Nordic bands and artists with international ambitions will play concerts in central Århus. There will be conferences and seminars on current issues in the music business, and around 800 Danish and international representatives from the music business including record companies, publishers, bookers, concert organizers and media.
A notoriously diverse event, Spot features a range of sounds, from rock, pop, metal and folk to world music, jazz, hip hop and singer songwriters.
Representing Iceland will be Helgi Jónsson, Reykjavik! and Pétur Ben.
Helgi Hrafn Jónsson
Composer, singer, creator
Fri 1/6 Musikhuset lille sal, 18:00 "Nordic Co-writing"
Sat 2/6 Musikhuset lille sal, 21:15
Born in 1979, Helgi Jonsson creates an abundance of melodies, harmonies and sounds that would otherwise suffice for two or more careers in the music business. His debut album, “Gloandi” (2005, Material Records), united these melodies and sounds in a wide and thrilling variety of songs that range from the enigmatic soundstrucures of ‘1993’ to guitar-ridden rock songs like ‘Make Me Fall’. From angelic falsetto passages to gut-wrenching screams, Jonsson’s vocal ability amazes, touches and captivates.
“Reykjavik! have earned that exclamation point…” David Fricke, Rolling Stone
Fri 1/6 Ridehuset, 18.00
Kl. 18:00 Ridehuset
Reykjavík! got mangled in the scalding lava of Mt. Hekla 2000 years ago and thus learned how to express all of nature's beautiful emotions and landscapes perfectly through song. Known for their scintillating live performances, the band’s debut album, “Glacial Landscapes, Religion, Oppression and Alcohol!” (12 Tonar) has been receiving glowing reviews from all quarters.
Pétur Ben
Award winning and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter:
Fri 01/06 Musikhuset lille sal, 21:45
Pétur Ben has managed to build up an enviable reputation with his imaginative songs and infectious melancholy melodies. At times playing solo, at times with a band, his performances are always powerful and passionate. As well as releasing his superlative debut album, “Wine For My Weakness,” Ben has also arranged for Nick Cave, Mugison, Slowblow amongst others, and composed the musical scores for two productions at the Reykjavík City Theatre this past year.

For more information on the Spot Festival: www.spotfestival.dk
Iceland Music Export (IMX) www.icelandicmusic.is

Helgi Jonsson performing "Hali Hali"

Helgi Jonsson "Hali Hali" Live


"Glóandi" was his first album (2005).

Í svörtum fötum "Paradis"

Band Í svörtum fötum video for song "Paradis"

Song of the 10. Week were Funi with "Morgunbaen"

Funi with song "Morgunbaen" were the song of the 10. Week.

mánudagur, maí 28, 2007

Icelandic Tenor Gardar Thor Cortes

TV spot for Icelandic tenor Gardar Thor Cortes

"Nella Fantasia"

"Luna" with
Heather Small and Miss Iceland 2005 Unnur Birna Vilhjalmsdottir

Sun Flare

Sun Flare

"Cold Hearts": Icelandic music shorts

Cold Hearts
Icelandic music shorts (93 min) 2006.

Cold Hearts is therefore an excellent introduction to what we might call music/film scene, a perfect package that connects the best of visuals and music under the Iceland denominator, everything from reaching in experimental film space to animation, feature and documentary miniatures, from the recognizable new wave veterans Sigur Rós and the band Múm, whose video clip directed fantastic, though British, duo Semiconductor, to exceptional music/visual masters Arni & Kinski, whose best known project is the band Gus Gus.

Global Capital / Magnus Helgason (Apparat Organ Quartet) / 5'20'' / 2005

Green Grass of Tunnel / Semiconductor (Múm) / 4'12'' / 2002

Stop in the Name of Love / Ragnar Bragason (Bang Gang) / 3'34'' / 2003

Who’s Bardi / Ragnar Bragason and Bardi Jóhannsson / 29'01'' / 2003

Toilet / Unnur Andrea Einarsdóttir / 4'50'' / 2005

Believe / Stefan Arni, Siggi Kjartansson (Gus Gus) / 4'17'' / 2001

Husid a Antmannstignum / Berglind Ágústsdóttir / 4'12'' / 2003

Jean / Bjargey Ólafsdóttir / 2' / 1997

Hey Ya! / Elvar Gunnarsson (My Summer as a Salvation Soldier) / 3'02''/ 2004

Landslag / Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson / 4' / 2004

Mosimosi / Lars Skjelbreia / 4' / 2004

Untitled / Berglind Ágústsdóttir / 4'30'' / 2005

Over Me Under Me / Elvar Gunnarsson (Maus) / 3'20'' / 2004

Digital Jesus / Hlynur Magnússon / 5'23'' / 2005

Welcome to: Going West / Malin Stahl / 2’34’’ / 2004

Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa / Stefan Arni, Siggi Kjartansson (Sigur Rós) / 7'02'' / 2001

Romantic Undead / Kira Kira / 1' / 2005


All too often, especially in music circles, Iceland is known almost exclusively as the land of Björk and Sigur Ros. But those who have explored Icelandic cinema and art know that it has emerged as one of the world’s most unique creative breeding grounds, and this program is living proof.
Featuring macabre stop-motion animation, the secret life of moss, mouse suits, exploding dictaphones, women who live on clouds, Outkast ballads, and some very creative uses for whipped cream, this compilation represents the whimsical Icelandic imagination. 17 artist films and music videos cover expansive aesthetic ground. Working in locales as diverse as art school in Los Angeles to the craggy vistas of Skagafjördur in northern Iceland, these young artists explore their native and adopted worlds in inventive ways. Intrinsically dark and aloof, yet also refreshingly honest, Cold Hearts offers a glimpse into the curious cultural landscape of Iceland now. From the fantastical, sometimes disturbing artist films of Unnar Andrea Einarsdottir to the otherworldly output created by bands such as Mum and Apparat Organ Quartet, the Icelandic aesthetic proves to be as strange and beautiful as it is overlooked.


Cold hearts Revisited (80 min.)(2007)

With their follow-up to 2006''s Cold Hearts , a video exploration of the cinematic and musical output of young Iceland, the Package Deals curatorial team presents a fresh batch of the best in new short films and music videos from the vibrant Icelandic creative community with Cold Hearts Revisited. From irreverent faux pop songs and edible instruments to escapist fantasies and unorthodox quests, the program of twelve rarely-seen films (many of which have never screened before in the U.S.) encapsulates all that is enchanting and inventive about this small island nation.
Featuring Isold Uggadóttir''s short Family Reunion (fresh from Sundance!) and films by Sigur Ros, Bang Gang, GusGus, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Apparat Organ Quartet, Trabant, Unnur Andrea Einarsdóttir, Erla Haraldsdóttir, Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson, Reynir Lyngdal, Seabear, and Leaves.

Isold Uggadóttir, Family Reunion (Gódir Gestir) (2006, 21:00, Super-16mm) NY Premiere

Apparat Organ Quartet (Dir: Magnus Helgason), Romantika (2004, 3:45, 16mm)

Reynir Lyngdal, The Magician (2005, 13:00, 16mm) US Premiere

Sigur Ros, Saeglopur (2006, 7:08, video)

Bang Gang (Dir: Arni Thor Jonsson), Find What You Get (2005, 3:45, video)

Unnur Andrea Einarsdóttir, Melaninecholia 1 (2006, 4:00, video). Music by Kira Kira. US Premiere

Egill Sæbjörnsson, You Are My Loving Insane (2001, 2:52, video)

Erla Haraldsdóttir, Sad with Satie, (2005, 7:20, video)

Trabant (Dir: Reynir Lyngdal), The One (2006, 3:32, 16mm) US Premiere

GusGus (Dir: Linda Lotion), Moss (2007, 3:08, animation) US Premiere

Seabear (Dir: Lars Skjelbreia), Hands Remember (2007, 4:04, video) World Premiere

Leaves (Dirs. Katie Freeland and Jey Mal), The Spell (2005, 3:31, animation)

Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson, Portraits and Testimonies (various) (2006, 3:00, animation)

Icelandic Reggae: Hjálmar



"Inside your head" by Eberg

"Inside your head" by Eberg used for American Television "O.C.".

Eberg sites:

sunnudagur, maí 27, 2007

Daniel Agust "If you leave me now" Video

"If you leave me now" Video of song by Daniel Agust.


Jakobínarína "Jesus" Video teaser

Jakobínarína put a teaser video for their single "Jesus" on MySpace. Release was the 21st of May.
See more @ www.myspace.com/jakobinarina
Director is Jón Sæmundur.

Skítamórall "Eg opna augun"

Skítamórall "Eg opna augun" (I open my eyes)

More on Skítamórall: www.skitamorall.is

Kung Fu "Sólin Skín" Video

Kung Fu "Sólin Skín" (The sun shines)

Check MySpace page of the band (Hljomsveitin) Kung Fu: www.myspace.com/hljomsveitinkungfu

Benni Hemm Hemm Live @ Luminaire (London)

Benni Hemm Hemm Live @ Luminare (London)


"Beginning end"

See the big crew of Benni Hemm Hemm @ www.myspace.com/bennihemmhemm

Lay Low Live @ Brighton's Great Escape Festival 2007

Lay Low Live @ Great Escape Festival (Brighton, May 2007) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29R9IisORxg


"Red death" by Bardi Johannsson & Taki Bibelas

Directors Taki Bibelas & Bardi Johannsson made "Red death". This is Bardi's first short film and movie was made for the Pompidou Museum in Paris.
Part 1

Part 2

A fake documentary about Bardi Johannsson with the title
"Who is Bardi?" is available on this blogspot and on YouTube (3 parts).

föstudagur, maí 25, 2007

"Possibly Maybe" - An alternative video for an alternative version

Björk's Possibly maybe Alternative video for an alternative version

Bang Gang meets Sigur Ros

Video "Glosoli" of Sigur Ros put on the song "Follow me" of Bang Gang by Arni & Kanski


Häxan by Bardi Johannsson: The making of the soundtrack

The making of "Häxan" movie soundtrack by Bardi Johannsson.


Huldufolk 102 Movie (2006)

Huldufolk 102
Beneath the quiet veneer of Iceland lies an invisible nation of Hidden People (Huldufolk). This fascinating phenomenon, rarely discussed with outsiders, not only pervades Icelandic culture, but also impacts its infrastructure (e.g., road construction and buildings). This enlightening journey, through Iceland's celestial and mysterious environment, suspends one's state of reality-forcing you to question your own perceptual limitations and the mysteries of the natural world. Delving further into the stories of the hidden people, it is impossible not to consider the impact of the geographic position and isolation of this mysterious, celestial island of Iceland. Winter's darkness allows the dazzling and supernatural Northern Lights to pervade the country with its amorphous shapes; casting brilliant colors of yellow, pink, and green downward to the land below. Black lava rocks, green mossy rocks, geysers, volcanoes, and glaciers all play their role in this mystical landscape, where the wind, snow and light show the power of nature. These spectacular displays reveal the paradoxes that man must contend with-the simplicity of things that we see on a daily basis versus the complexity of things we are unable to see within the world.
Director: Nisha Inalsingh

Tommi White & Blake Video

Tommi White & Blake "Like a frame"

Video shot in Iceland by the Band Storybox

"The thought we had" by Storybox

Bermuda "If you" Video

Bermuda "If you"

fimmtudagur, maí 24, 2007

Eurovision Song Contest 1986-2007

Eurovision Song Contest - Icelandic entries
1986 ICY with the song Gleðibankinn - 16th place
1987 Hægt Og Hljótt by Halla Margrét Árnadóttir - 16th place
1988 the song Sókrates by Stefán Hilmarsson - 20th place
1989, the song Það sem enginn sér by Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson - 22nd place in Switzerland
1990 the song Eitt lag enn performed by Stjórnin - Sigríður Beinteinsdóttir and Grétar Örvarsson - 4th place
1991 the song Nína performed by Eyjólfur Kristjánsson og Stefán Hilmarsson - 15th place in Italy
1992 the song Nei eða Já performed by and Sigríður Beinteinsdóttir and Sigrún Eva Ármannsdóttir, finished in 7th place in Sweden
1993 Þá veistu svarið by Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir - 13th place
1994 the song Nætur performed by Sigríður Beinteinsdóttir - 12th place in Ireland
1995 the song Núna performed by Björgvin Halldórsson, finished in 15th place 1996, the song Sjúbídú performed by Anna Mjöll Ólafsdóttir, finished in 13th place in Norway
1997 the song Minn hinsti dans performed by Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson finished in 20th place in Ireland
1999 the song All out of luck performed by Selma Björnsdóttir, finished in 2nd place in Israel
2000 the song Tell me performed by Einar Ágúst Víðisson andTelma Ágústsdóttir, finished in 12th place in Sweden
2001 the song Angel performed by Two Tricky, finished in 22nd-23rd place in Denmark
2003 the song Open your heart performed by Birgitta, finished in 8th-9th place in Latvia
2004 Heaven performed by Jónsi, finished in 19th place in Turkey.
2005 If I Had Your Love performed by Selma in Ukraine didn't go to the finals
2006 the song Congratulations Iceland performed by Silvia Night did not go to the finals
2007 the song Valentine lost by Eirikur Hauksson did not go to the finals in Finland

YouTube Movies year-by-year

















þriðjudagur, maí 22, 2007

Mr. Silla and Mongoose Live @ Iceland Airwaves 2006

Mr. Silla and Mongoose Podcast
Iceland Airwaves 2006

More information:
Mr. Silla http://www.myspace.com/mrsilla
Mongoose http://www.myspace;com/mongoose
Mr. Silla & Mongoose http://www.myspace.com/mrsillamongoose

Sigur Ros live @ American Television

Sigur Ros: Vaka (untitled 1)

Reykjavik Nights in London 17th of June

Reykjavik Nights in London
Sunday 17th June 2007
Luminaire, London

Two Little Dogs PR and Icelandic Music Exports introduces Reykjavik Nights in London, celebrating the success of Icelandic music in the UK club scene, on June 17th at the Luminaire in London.

Trabant are headlining on the first night with support acts from Æla and UK music-maker Tim Ten Yen.

“Each song teeters beautifully between Queen and The Killers - there ain’t no shame in this neo-glam electropop game” (NME)
“Check them out before they hit a rock stadium near you” (i-D)
“Expect them to be taking the crown for UK’s best party band sometime soon” (Disorder)
“The first time I heard 'Nasty boy' was in the back of the car outside a restaurant in Fatima,Portugal, during Euro 2004. ever since then I’ve been in hot pursuit. Finally last year I saw them in Reykjavik in a beer factory with 2k drunk elves and fairies. I left flushed, covered in glitter and lipstick. It was momentous. I want everybody to see this band before they die."” (Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim)

“Æla literally means “puke”. Æla plays Icelandic punk rock. Audience in concerts have advised the band members to get health insurance due to their wild stage act, especially their front man who repeatedly jumps to a chair he always brings along. If he spills your beer, don't take it personally. Æla sound is influenced by Iceland old punk bands, like Purrkur Pilnikk and Þeyr but also more modern bands like Shellac and Modest Mouse. Æla is now finishing recording their debut album and was released in 2006. Æla were on Dr. Gunni's top five for Iceland Airwaves 2004 Æla's off-kilter blink-and miss-it songs go off like a firecracker. Their set at Airwaves gave people a chance to see Iceland's peculiar brand of punk rock up close and personal.” (Drowned in Sound)

The Life Aquatic & Sigur Ros

Movie "The Life Aquatic" scene on music of Sigur Ros (Starálfur).

Umb - Animation video

An all animated music video for the band Sigur Ros, done as a final project which concluded 4 years of broadcast design and animation studies at the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, Jerusalem.

Travelling birds

Travelling birds
Sigur Ros played by Kronos Quartet

Song of the 9. Week were Bogomil Font & Flis with "Eat your car"

Bogomil Font & Flis with "Eat your car" were song of the 9. Week

Æla live @ NASA Reykjavik

Æla performing live @ NASA (Reykjavik)


Man vs. Whale

Video about killing whales & dolphins.
Music by Sigur Ros

mánudagur, maí 21, 2007

Seabear Video "Hands remember"

Video for the song "Hands remember" of Seabear (2007)

"I go humble" Björk Live @ Shepherd's Bush

Björk performs "I go humble" Live @ Shepherd's Bush (London)

Tappi Tíkarrass "Dúkkulísur" Video

Tappi Tíkarrass "Dúkkulísur" from the movie Rokk i Reykjavik (1982) by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (former Oscar nominee).
Band members were:
Björk Guðmundsdóttir & Eyþór Arnalds: singers
Jakob Smári Magnússon
Eyjólfur Jóhansson
Guðmundur Þór Gunnarsson

Icelandic folk music: Langspil (instrument)

Icelandic langspil (instrument)
The Icelandic fretted dulcimer, mainly based on the Norwegian langeleik but also inspired by the Swedish hummel.
The fact that two such distinctive and closely related instruments exist in Norway and on Iceland makes it tempting to speculate they date back to the medieval times when Iceland was a part of Norway. This assumption is not correct though since it's a well documented that the instrument doesn't appear on Iceland until long after time period.

Icelandic folk music: Funi

Funi (an old Icelandic word meaning Fire) are Bara Grimsdottir and Chris Foster, consummate performers of the traditional songs the northern European countries of Iceland and England. They accompany their songs using Guitar, Kantele, and the two indigenous traditional Icelandic instruments the Langspil and the Icelandic Fidla.
The mediaeval histories and languages of their two native countries are linked by the fantastic exploits of the Vikings, who colonised a large part of Britain, settled Iceland in the late 9th century and went on to explore the east coast of Canada and the USA as well as travelling and trading all over Europe and as far as the Balkans and the Middle East.
The duo Funi
Bára Grímsdóttir, traditional singer and kantele player and Chris Foster, singer and guitarist, perform Icelandic and English traditional songs and folk songs in their own arrangements.
Bára Grímsdóttir is a singer and composer who has been performing the traditional songs of Iceland for many years. She grew up surrounded by folk songs, hearing her parents and grand parents singing at the family farm Grímstunga in Vatnsdalur in the north of Iceland. When the family moved to the capital, Reykjavík, her parents became members of the Kvæðamannafélagið Iðunn, the society dedicated to preserving the old singing and poetry traditions of Iceland, and Bára was taken along to their meetings and outings.
Bára has a special interest in the old rimur and kvæðalög styles of song, but she is also knowledgeable about and performs songs in a range of other traditional forms, both secular and religious. She has performed widely with Sigurður Rúnar Jónsson and Njáll Sigurðsson and as a member of the group Embla in Europe and North America.
Chris Foster grew up in Somerset, in the Southwest of England, where he first heard and started singing traditional songs. Over the past 30 years he has performed all over Britain, Europe and North America establishing a reputation as a fine and distinctive performer of English traditional songs. Tales of romance, magic, murder, liquor, love, adultery and cross-dressing, each song is a story.
Chris is an accomplished guitarist who has the knack of producing inventive and sensitive guitar accompaniments that illuminate the songs he sings without overwhelming them. In recent years he has been increasingly in demand as an accompanist on other people’s recordings.
It was while Bára was singing at the Baring-Gould Folk Festival in Devon, England in October 2000 that she met Chris and they started to explore the possibilities of combining his open tuned style of guitar playing with the modal melodies of Bára’s Icelandic songs. The resulting combination is a spell binding mix.
Over the past 4 years Bára and Chris have performed at festivals and concerts and on radio in England, Scotland, Ireland and the USA as well as in Iceland. In June 2004 they released the acclaimed CD Funi.
Funi concert for the Folk Society of Greater Washington, USA:
Singly, each singer is a great presenter of the music of a native island, but as a duo with great skill and musicality, they transform the music of their islands into universals.

Marius Roeting, New Folk Sounds magazine, Holland:
Funi puts the Icelandic folk music culture on the map of world music.

Chris Ridley, Cornwal Folk Directory, England:
Chris and Bara interpret the narrative traditional songs of England and Iceland with sublime artistry. Bara’s crystal clear voice and Chris’ exemplary instrumental work are a stunning combination. The music of Funi has the power to occupy the consciousness of an audience long after the last note from voice or guitar has been performed.

In 2007 Funi did a Tour in Belgium and The Netherlands:
11 Feb. 't Ey, Belsele (B) www.tey.be
12 Feb. Meneer Frits, Eindhoven (NL)
14 Feb. Icelandic Ambassador's Residence, Brussel (B)
15 Feb. Folkclub Noordwijkerhout (NL)
16 Feb. O.B.S. De Krullevaar, Zwolle (NL)
16 Feb. Papenstraattheater, Zwolle (NL)
18 Feb. Arsenaaltheater, Vlissingen (NL)

More on Funi @ www.myspace.com/funireykjavik

sunnudagur, maí 20, 2007

Svefn-g-englar (long version) by Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros "Svefn-g-englar"


Björk’s Volta in US top ten

Björk’s new album Volta was in the ninth place on the US charts this week; the highest ranking of an Icelander. With Volta Björk broke her own record; in 2004 her album Medúlla reached the 14th place on the US charts.
Volta is currently in the seventh place on the UK charts, which is not Björk’s highest ranking to date; in 1995 her album Post reached the second place on the list, Morgunbladid reports.
Volta is currently the best-selling album in Norway, Denmark and Iceland and has enjoyed good sales in France and Japan and in all corners of the world on the internet through the iTunes music store.
Björk is on a tour in the US until May 26 to promote her new album. At the end of June Björk will begin her European tour.
The singer began her world tour in Iceland at Easter.
More @ http://www.bjork.com

Um urnat - A Book by Björk (1984)

Um Urnat
In 1984, Björk Gudmundsdottir self-published a small book, a fairy tale, written in her own handwriting, and illustrated with original drawings and watercolors. Only 100 were made. Since Björk is getting more and more attention from collectors, these little masterpieces would get rare, and thus - they would eventually fetch an astronomical price. Only the richest Björk fans would be able to gain them.
Um Urnat books are too rare to be sold, but when they are, Dr. Gunni usually auctions them off.

To see something of this book go http://home4.inet.tele.dk/olrik/bjork/umurnat/index.htm

Story of the book

Under twenty nature-stones there was Keldur. After a long search Nrarida insisted that he came up, he would put his trousers on and he would stop root up - he would be discovered. Keldur didn't stir. Also later so the other stepped to-him. Bended over, the beast and set-it on Ladiahr. She beshaded her eyes with her brows and Naffi hissed. Then it jumped on her. She escaped, the hair and left Keldur. Keldur didn't stir. When he rose Alfir presented himself. After a long coma and coughing he stood steady. He recollected dimly but didn't want to know. ..but started running, more worried than Ladiahrs-less. Waldir did know the flowers. He knew the leaves and the mane and the palfrey. And he knew the time. Oh yes-yes, the time that includes palfrey-trips and leaves. Just and only. (and sleep.) But Waldir didn't know Keldur and has probably never known him and would never have seen him if Keldur hadn't passed by, in the direction of the opening, suspecting nothing. Because of a non-suspecting and natural pressure did Keldur come up. Nrarida tip-toed to his back. "Keldur!" - didn't answer... "Keldur, we know you." Keldur had never felt so happy. But because and as a tribute to the old days he sometimes cried.

laugardagur, maí 19, 2007

Sperm of the Studmenn in Guardian Unlimited (2005)

Sperm of the Studmenn
Thomas H Green
Guardian Unlimited

'It can only go downhill from here'... Studmenn

It's not everybody who has the financial clout to wander down to the foyer and book the Royal Albert Hall on a whim. Yet this is exactly what Jon Asgeir Johannesson, Icelandic entrepreneur and owner of the toy shop Hamley's, did when the idea of putting on his favourite band, Studmenn, came to him during a performance by Pavarotti. As Jakob Magnusson, Studmenn's founding member, puts it: "He thought that instead of having an obese Italian singing songs by dead composers, he'd have red-blooded Icelanders singing their own tunes."
The seven-piece band are not daunted by the prospect of having their first UK date at such an auspicious venue, although Magnusson admits: "It can only go downhill from here." Studmenn are, after all, the most successful act ever in their native land, with 15 chart-topping albums and numerous number one singles over a 35-year career. They were the second western act ever to play China (after Wham!).
The Albert Hall gig this Thursday has been well advertised on TV in Reykjavik, and 2,000 fans are flying over to attend. "We like to play the capitals of the world," says Magnusson, "and export our audiences by the hundreds and thousands." Judging from their compilation album, Six Geysirs and a Bird, Studmenn's music borrows elements of everything from African funk to Bavarian oompah bands, topped off with a rock sheen and a tongue-in-cheek jauntiness. The band's career has also taken in TV shows, branded merchandise including card games, theatre and an appearance in Iceland's most successful movie, 1982's On Top. Their latest project, just announced, is the Studmenn Sperm Bank.
"You can buy a little from our bass player, Tomas," Magnusson deadpans. "He has big hands, a great sense of humour and is homosexual. Or there's Thor, the guitarist - slightly near-sighted with a poetic streak. Egill, the lead singer, is a seething mass of testosterone with a hairy chest, singing capabilities and a bald pate. His is £350. For a bonus price you can have a cocktail that will give you the chance to give birth to a near-sighted homosexual with a bald head. That's not bad - look at Elton John - he's done pretty well for himself."
Such surreal silliness is typical of Studmenn. The band are also likely to dress as fish for their British debut.


Books on Icelandic Music: Sykurmolarnir by Árni Matthíasson

Author: Árni Matthíasson
Language: Icelandic
Format: Book (Illustrated), 176 pages
Publication Date: January 1992
Publisher: Orn og Orlygur
ISBN-10: 9979550384
ISBN-13: 9789979550389

Árni Matthíasson is a music journalist for the Icelandic daily newspaper Morgunbladid.

Purrkur Pillnikk, Tappi Tíkarrass & KUKL Video

Purrkur Pillnikk, Tappi Tíkarrass & KUKL: 3 famous Icelandic bands live on stage in the 80s.
These bands are the origin of The Sugarcubes.

Vonbrigði Live @ Grandrokk (2005)

Vonbrigði live @ Grandrokk performing "Xmerr" (Reykjavik, 2005)

Mugison "Little trip to heaven" Video

Mugison sings Tom Waits: Little trip to heaven

Scientific papers on Icelandic Music

Journal: Young 1993 Vol. 1, No. 2, pp 48-63
Icelandic rock music as a synthesis of international trends and national cultural inheritance
by Gestur Gudmundsson, PhD

Books on Icelandic Music: Rokksaga Islands: Fra Sigga Johnnie Til Sykurmolanna

Rokksaga Islands:

Fra Sigga Johnnie Til Sykurmolanna

Author: Gestur Gudmundsson
Language: Icelandic
Format: Book (Illustrated), 288 pages
Publisher: Forlagid
Publication Date: January 1990
ISBN-10: 9979530154
ISBN-13: 9789979530152
The history of Icelandic Rock music:
From Sigga Johnnie until The Sugarcubes
Book in Icelandic on the history of Icelandic (rock) music. It tells the story of music in Iceland from 1955 until 1990.
The author, Gestur Guðmundsson, received his Ph.D. in sociology from The University of Copenhagen. He is Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Sociology, The Danish University of Education. His books include Let’s Rock This Town and Rokksaga Islands (The History of Icelandic Rock) and two books on the Nordic model.

Books on Icelandic Music: Poppbókin: í Fyrsta Sæti by Jens Guðmundsson

Poppbókin: í Fyrsta Sæti
by Jens Guðmundsson (1983)
A book in Icelandic with nice drawnings and photographs of Icelandic groups and artists, e.g. Bubbi Morthens, Egill Olafsson, Siggi Pönkari, Ragnhildur Gisladottir, Megas, Asmundur Jonsson.
This book contains 9 chapters:
1. Beatles and Punkrock
2. Lyrics
3. AE: Icelandic music from A to Z
4. List of albums
5. Best Icelandic pop and rock albums
7. Bubbi Morthens - Egill Olafsson - Arni Daniel - Magnus Eriksson - Siggi Pönkari - Ragnhildur Gisladottir - Asmundur Jonsson
8. What is ? FIH - STEF - SATT - FHS
9. Icelandic record labels

föstudagur, maí 18, 2007

Jóhann Jóhannsson "Odi Et Amo"

Englaborn is Jóhann Jóhannsson's first solo album. It is derived from music he wrote for an Icelandic play of the same name. The music is written for string quartet, piano, organ, glockenspiel and percussion.


Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis on Snæfellsnes (Music by Sigur Ros)


Aria is a song by Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson. The song is on Ásgerður Júníusdóttir record "Í Rökkri". Ghostigital has done a version of his song.
The video is by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnusson.
Mezzosopran Asgerdur Juniusdottir sings the Magnus Blöndal Johannsson complete vocal melody catalog, 17 tracks, accompanied by Arni Heimir Ingolfsson (piano).
Also featured are extra five remixes/reconstrutions by Ghostigital, Thora Marteinsdottir, Aki Asgeirsson, Thuridur Marteinsdottir and David Brynjar Franzson.
Asgerdur sang with Ghostigital on their latest album In Cod We Trust in a few songs.


fimmtudagur, maí 17, 2007

Smekkleysa: Creativity = Bad Taste ? - An essay by Phoebe Jenkins

Smekkleysa: Creativity = Bad taste?
Essay by Phoebe Jenkins
Reykjavík 2004

The chief enemy of creativity is good taste.

It is hard to pin down Smekkleysa, and it is a hard task defining what they were when they formed in 1986. They defined themselves in their manifesto as a company that would concentrate on publishing or performing works, in whatever genre or media, “records, novels, poems, art, clothing, family entertainment, or revolution and any kind of cleaning activity” (quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 2). Their aim was to achieve ‘world domination or death’. They called themselves Bad Taste and stated that they would work “concertedly against anything that can be categorized as good taste or financial restraint” (quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 2). One thing is clear, Smekkleysa was a re-grouping of a circle of friends in the autumn of 1986; previous members of the Medusa group, Kukl, and Purrkur Pillnikk (see fig. 1-3 in appendix, pp. 20-21). All these artists had been part of the Reykjavik underground and avant garde. They had never become popular and were considered by the mainstream as difficult and inaccessible. Their links with artists such as Dagur Sigurdarsson would also have been uncomfortable for the conventional Icelander. Sjón describes the mood preceding the genesis of Smekkleysa as dark, heavy and serious: “Everybody was looking for a way out of this, to explore the happy crazy side of the avant garde ideas that we had” (Sjón, 2004). The name ‘Bad Taste’ cuts to the core of what Smekkleysa was attempting to achieve in Reykjavik in 1986. They were off beat, unpopular and outside the mainstream. With their name they were in some ways saying, “hey, there is nothing that says that this is not good taste too” (Einar Örn, 2004). It was an ironic protest against what was considered good taste and placed them in contrast to what this was and stood for. Additionally, it was an attempt to usurp the terms ‘bad taste’ and ‘good taste’ and show that the rigidity of these terms inhibited creative expression.
In this essay I want to outline what good taste was in Reykjavik in 1986 and to argue what ideologies it stood for. Against this I will show how Smekkleysa contrasted these ideas through their methodologies, graphics and business sense. They maintained the surrealist and punk elements that had influenced them in the years preceding Smekkleysa in all aspects of the company. Thus, Smekkleysa has given the Icelandic art community an alternative to the mainstream methods of art production. The mainstream method is one that is often concerned with profit making and thus more controlling over the artists creativity. As Bibbi, ‘the child of Bad Taste’ says, Smekkleysa made an environment for artists in which artists could be themselves and disregard the pressures of the companies producing their work (Bibbi, 2004). I am concerned with analysing Smekkleysa’s early graphics. I want to show the way in which they created an environment for the next generations of artists in Iceland to ‘be themselves’ and to create art on their own terms.
I interviewed Sjón, Fridrik Erlingsson, Einar Örn and Bibbi ‘Curver’ as well as looking at many different primary sources from the era. I also paid frequent visits to Ólafur Engilbertsson who generously showed me original material prior to and during the early Smekkleysa years.

Good Taste vs. Bad Taste
The man in the suit was firmly back in power, and low-key, well-executed design invited us once again to feel comfortable with (or at least uncritical of) this idea.
Maud Lavin

Suits were all the rage in Reykjavik in 1986 when Smekkleysa began. In the centre of town suit shops lined the streets; Tískuhúsid ÍNA, Kjallarinn, Torgid, Herraríkid, P&Ó, Adam, Ping Pong and Victoria, just to name a few. On every other page in the main fashion magazines people of all ages adorned themselves in suits of all shapes and sizes, colours and styles (see fig. 4-6 in appendix, pp. 22). The 80’s hit Iceland with a vengeance and the suit, spiced up and in tune with 80’s glam, was a recurring motif navigating Reykjavik’s streets. Escorting the suits were geometric hairstyles kept in place with stiff hairspray. They were an array of sharp peroxide lines carefully angled and tweened. Then there were the shoulder pads sculpting the body and giving the illusion of a straight, upwardly mobile and confident posture. This was what was hip and cool; this was good taste and style (see fig. 7 in appendix, pp. 23). But what did it represent? What messages were 80’s mainstream style giving out?
It could be argued that the glammed-up suit revealed that the public had accepted that “[t]he man in the suit was firmly back in power” (Lavin, 2001: 91), and corporations, capitalism and individual gain were acceptable and desirable assets to society. Dick Hebdige describes the suit as “the conventional insignia of the business world” with connotations of “efficiency, ambition, compliance with authority” (1987 [1979]: 104). Admittedly the suit Hebdige is talking about had been transformed by 80’s fashion. It had been spiced up to give it a more fun and exciting image. I would, however, not consider 80’s style as a form of subversion. This kind of appropriation and re-coding is often used by subcultures such as the mods’ transformation of the suit into “ ‘empty’ fetishes, objects to be desired, fondled and valued in their own right” (Hebdige, 1987 [1979]: 105). In 1986 in Reykjavik the glammed-up suit was not threatening a revolution against capitalism or a rejection of dominant modes of power. To the contrary, it was embracing it by making it cool and ‘tasteful’. It was part of 80’s mainstream culture that accepted the suit with glee and flirted with what it represented. Good taste in 80’s Reykjavik endorsed glamour and luxury, key components of an upwardly mobile and profitable consumer society (see fig. 8 in appendix, pp. 25).
The soundtrack that accompanied 80’s “daring and good taste” (Hár og fegurd, 1986: 13) in Iceland at the time was a hotch-potch of the Icelandic equivalents of Duran Duran and Wham. When asked what these bands were called, Sjón said, “just pure sugary tacky pop music. Horrible bands, you don’t want to know their names. It’s Icelandic pop music” (Sjón, 2004). Sjón explained that there was also a monopoly on music in Iceland. There were only two radio stations at the time (Rúv and Rás 2). If you wanted to get your music heard you had to go through them. “The radio did not play Kukl or Tappi Tíkarrass” (Sjón, 2004). As stated in an article in Mannlíf in June 1986, Kukl had been considered as “inaccessible and repulsive” and consequently not the kind of stuff that was decent to broadcast (Mannlíf, 1986: 113). Sjón also commented on the sudden explosion of music and popular culture: “All of a sudden people started producing music for the radio. It was not the sort of music we wanted” (Sjón, 2004). Popular demand was the new authority on what played on the radio. It was about what would sell and feed a consumer market. This was an example of a new freedom where style and taste were decided by the general public or more appropriately, the consumer rather than an educated elite. Good taste, therefore, was what was popular.
Another thing important to note about music production at this time is that it was considered an industry. The connotations surrounding this word take the artistic aspects away from it and place in the foreground the idea of music as a product, something that is manufactured due to large-scale business activity.
In terms of graphic design, good taste found its roots in modernism. The most prestigious graphic designers in Britain at the time, such as Peter Saville, Neville Brody and Malcolm Garret were heavily influenced by Herbert Spencer’s book Pioneers of Modern Typography. The book outlined work of modernists’ leading lights such as El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, Piet Zwart, Alexander Rodchenko, Jan Tschichold to name just a few. Peter Saville says about the book in an interview with Christopher Wilson:
So sometime during my second year when I saw a book called Pioneers of Modern Typography on Malcolm’s desk, I thought ‘Wow. It’s all here.’ My academic education began at that point[…]It just looked like the graphic formula for the times. It was self-evident that this was how graphics should be now.
(quoted in King, 2003: 26)
Many designs by these graphic designers in the 80’s can be traced back to specific works by these modernists. This led to the graphics having a professional, very ‘designed’ and ‘well-executed’ feel (see fig. 9-12 in appendix, pp. 24-26). At times it could seem as though the design rather than what was behind it had become more significant and often led to complaints about over-design (Poynor, 2003: 75). During the 80’s there was also a huge emphasis on being cool. Peter Saville admits, “I wanted to be cool. How I had the good fortune to grow up gave me only one ambition in life, and that was to be groovy” (quoted in King, 2003: 28). Hebdige (1988) sees the cool design of The Face, by Neville Brody as appealing to the “urban consumer” (pp. 162). Perhaps, finally, it is interesting to note that the techniques laid out by these early modernists were also being used to create corporate identities such as logos and letterheads, and ever since modernist style has been the most effective corporate language.
So it seems good taste represented the following during the 80’s; an acceptance of capitalism and consumer society; the rise of popular culture to a position of power not enjoyed before where the majority decided what was produced; a predominantly rational or self-conscious environment with polished graphic design heavily influenced by the style of modernist graphic designers, leading to what can be considered ‘over-design’ or ‘over-packaging’; an emphasis on glamour, luxury, style and cool.
Although, as Einar Örn (2004) emphasizes, “we were not knocking those with hairspray,” the current state of affairs was in their opinion sacrificing creativity. By giving themselves the ironic name ‘Bad Taste’, the Smekkleysa group were trying to redefine these clichéd terms and create a new space for creativity in Reykjavik. Furthermore, they were a contrast to conventional attitudes and ways of doing things. Gudmundur Steingrimsson describes Smekkleysa as the desirable antithesis to 80’s Icelandic popular culture and what I have argued as ‘good taste’ when reminiscing about his teenage life in 1986.
When I was 14 or so, and Bad Taste had just been formed, by punks in knit sweaters…and I was sentenced to playing ping-pong at some community centre in the suburb of Gardabær every night listening to Wham or Duran Duran…and was also one of those teenagers who used real hairspray, and lots of it, to hold their hair in some weird shape suited to go with silk jackets with shoulder pads, the arms of which we’d roll up when dancing disco on some corny dance floor at a community centre…I remember thinking…I want to be like them.
(quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 31)

Smekkleysa in their ‘knit sweaters’ attempted to knock good taste and what it stood for off its pedastal in 1986 and show Iceland that there were alternative ways of doing business. Their methods were a mixture of the prankster, the absurd, the surreal, DIY and a disregard of financial restraint.

Smekkleysa vs. The World
World domination or death

Smekkleysa motto

In the catalogue for the Smekkleysa exhibition that took place in summer 2003, Jóhamar writes
Capitalism! It's enough to make anyone grey-haired before their time. We live on a planet that's a giant bureaucracy. Being sold like a can of soup isn't a really enticing thought.
(quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 4)

Playing by the conventional business game did not seem to be Smekkleysa’s style. In the summer of 1986 Smekkleysa officially began with the birth of Björk’s son, Sindri, on the 8th June. The manifesto appeared in September and opens with “world domination or death” (quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 2). Fridrik Erlingsson (2004) explains this motto as describing their attitude of going all the way and having nothing to lose. It seemed that this attitude certainly guided their business sense, one of great risk taking and not succumbing to the persuasions of others. Although Sigtryggur Baldursson in an interview in 1993 claimed that the main reason for the formation of the Sugarcubes was purely that they wanted to make money (Icelandic TV-special, The Sugarcubes, 1993), they certainly had an unusual way of going about it. Their methods required a lot of faith, as it seemed that everything they did would lead to them losing money rather than making any. The production of the Sugarcubes’ first single, Einn Mol’á Mann, is just one example of many of their profit making methods (see fig. 13-14 in appendix, pp. 27). When 500 copies of the single came back from production in Hafnarfjördur, they soon discovered that only half of them worked. It was at Bragi’s home that they played over every single record, one after the other, to discover which ones were faulty. Only 250 of them were sellable. They then had to glue the record covers by hand and on top of that colour the eyes of the sugar cube man on the cover red because this had been over-looked when sending them to the printers (Matthíasson, 1992: 26-27). They sold the singles from the back of Fridrik’s car on Austurstræti. Unfortunately it didn’t sell well and it was not until both Melody Maker and NME put them on their front covers that the Sugarcubes’ popularity increased. The DIY methods that found their roots in punk certainly came into play when producing their first single. They also showed a confidence in themselves that they could just go out and produce a record without going into business relations with anyone else. As Ólafur Engilbertsson (2004) said, there was a surrealist anti-rational sentiment within Smekkleysa of just going out and doing it, rather than thinking too much about things.
On the back of the cover for Einn mol’á mann stands the logo for Dansukker, a registered trademark for sugar and a ubiquitous household product in Iceland (see fig. 14 in appendix, pp. 27). This caused the response from the Reykjavík underground “jæja, thá eru thau búin ad selja sig líka” (Gestur Gudmundsson, 90: 245). With this they were suggesting they had been sponsored by the sugar company. However it was just one big joke. They were playfully undermining the idea of sponsorship. They were suggesting that sponsors have so much power that they even determine the name of the band, ‘The Sugarcubes’. They took it one step further by using a picture of a sugar cube to identify the band. The graphic design for their first single was playful, farfetched and ambiguous. People could take it seriously and think that the Sugarcubes had in fact “sold out”, however the underlying message is the complete opposite. The graphic device détournement, initiated by the Situationists in Paris, was heavily used in punk graphics. Jamie Reid was the king of détournement in 70’s punk Britain and designed the infamous covers for the Six Pistols singles, including ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Anarchy in the UK’. He took the image of Queen Elizabeth II and defaced it with a safety-pin, which thereafter became one of numerous punk motifs. In this way, Reid used détournement to scream anti-establishment sentiment and anger against what the Sex Pistols saw as an authoritative and elitist Britain. With his design, Fridrik Erlingsson used détournement in a more lighthearted way. There was not the same anger or intensity, but nonetheless the Sugarcubes were sticking two fingers up at sponsorship by poking fun.
How they raised the money to produce the single in the first place, further emphasises the extreme irony involved by using the logo for Danish sugar on the cover. The money had been raised by the sales of one postcard (see fig. 15 in appendix, pp. 28). It was a kitsch, tasteless postcard, using the idolatry aesthetics of the Stalinist era, celebrating the Gorbachov/Reagan peace meeting in Reykjavik in October 1986. Fridrik Erlingsson painted it in an evening and 2000 postcards were printed and sold in various shops around Reykjavik. As well as poking fun at the souvenir frenzy due to the peace meeting, they decided to jump onto the bandwagon and use the opportunity to make some money too. The tone of the postcard was “ad rembast vid ad gera eitthvad vel sem tekst ekki alveg” (Fridrik, 2004) to make fun of the souvenir frenzy. The point of departure was ‘if this is good taste I prefer bad taste.’ The postcard sold so well that Smekkleysa raised enough money to create Einn mol’á mann. DIY financing worked like a treat and showed big business that the ‘little men’ did not need them.
Another example of their unconventional attitude to business, which at first glance seems like business suicide was when the Sugarcubes refused to sign a contract for 300 000 pounds with Warner in London. They received condescending press about their rejection of the contract in Morgunbladid in 1987:
Besta dæmisagan um breytta tíma var lesin upp í sjónvarpinu thess efnis ad Sykurmolarnir, nyjasta vinsældahljómsveitin, hefdu ekki séd ástædu til ad taka samningstilbodi frá útlöndum upp á fjörutíu milljónir. Eda voru thad kannski fimmtíu milljónir? Hvad eru fimmtíu milljónir á milli vina fyrir ungt fólk á framabraut? Í gamla daga hefdi einhvern svimad vid slíkar upphædir…
(quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: back cover)

Although the band was ready to sign the contract up until the last minute, Warner deceptively changed the clauses in the contract that meant that Einar would have to be expelled from the Sugarcubes immediately. When this came to light, the band stood up as one and left the building (Matthíasson, 1992: 48). Band loyalties won over promises of fame and fortune from a big corporate company. To walk out on such a huge opportunity could seem to have been a rebellious, arrogant and immature response for the tastes of the Morgunbladid reporter, but Sjón attributes this to the sentiment within the Smekkleysa group as a resistance towards professionalism. He said:
If we had become respectable artists, we would have done this on the terms of those before instead of giving ourselves time from beginning of Smekkleysa to end of Sugar Cubes. We gave ourselves space and time and we lay down the rules and made it possible to continue working as we do, hopefully forever.
(Sjón, 2004)

The interesting lesson that was learnt by the Sugarcubes venture was that success does not necessarily lie in the hands of those with big bucks. Also the lack of popularity does not equal imminent failure. This is something that stayed with Smekkleysa and influenced business decisions thereafter. The aim had always been to help give artists a chance, including themselves, who were not giving in to popular taste. Sjón mentioned Sigur Rós as an example of this in his interview.
Sigur Ros sold only 300 copies of their first album. We came from selling 300 copies or 3 copies and so they were allowed to make a re-mix album of that album and they were given enough money to make Agaetis birjun, the album that made them world famous.
(Sjón, 2004)

From the beginning, Smekkleysa had intended to “work concertedly against anything that can be categorised as good taste or financial restraint” (Manifesto, quoted in Engilbertsson, 2003: 2). By not consistently making a profit and allowing for failures seems to have been the key to Smekkleysa’s success.
Smekkleysa also challenged good taste with their methodology. It was fast paced and spontaneous, lending rawness to their graphic style. There was a free for all when it came to designing. It was about whoever had the time to do it. There was never any particular style. For example, if Einar Örn was delegated the job of making the poster he would blow up type using a photocopier, put an image of a kettle or something completely unrelated on it and throw it at the printers. However, if Sjón was designing the poster he would make surrealist drawings, using ink to make them more messy and organic (Sjón, 2004). Sjón comments that the poster design for the Bad Taste nights was done out of necessity. “We never had any money and we didn’t want to spend our money on posters. There were more important things to do than spend our money on posters. You had to drink something. So you did the posters as cheap as possible. So we never went this way of polishing or designing you know. This is also a reaction to the glamour of the 80’s” (Sjón, 2004). In contrast Peter Saville took a long time to design his pieces. He comments, “Time stood still around my drawing board. I remember an outrageous situation when a proof came back for a True Faith poster. I taped it to the wall. There was something wrong with it – a piece of type that was too high. And I sent it back to be done again” (quoted in King, 2003: 32). Saville created well thought out and pondered work. His designs were more in tune with current trends where cool, polish and glamour had become key words.
Studmenn in the late 80’s went this way of polishing and designing. They were theatrical. In ’82 they made a comedy musical called Med Allt Á Hreinu where they created a story to surround their hits. They were the kings of performance, clad in outfits and uniforms (see fig. 16 in appendix, pp. 28). It is also interesting to point out that they were educated musicians who experimented with different styles. In contrast Smekkleysa were more ‘from the moment’, creating an atmosphere. Their attitude was rooted in the punk philosophy that it does not matter what you can do rather what you do. Einar Örn, in an interview in Mannlíf, comments on how when he is up on stage he is not acting at all, “thetta er ég á svidinu, mínar tilfinningar” (quoted in Pálsson, 1986: 118). Although those in the Smekkleysa group were educated in various fields (media studies, graphic design, literature), there were few who were actual professionals in their field. They were self -taught and there was the attitude that you could do everything yourself. Einar Örn (2004) reflected, “you did what was handed down to you and you just had to do it. That’s why things happened quickly. People never said ‘I can’t do it, I don’t know how to do it.’ You just found out. People started making their network of how to do things.” Sjón describes that the initial founding of Smekkleysa had been a choice not to enter the sphere of professionalism. He says Smekkleysa happened at the time when we should have grown up. Our friends and people our age were going into society and getting day jobs. This is a group that decided to continue. These were the people who decided to take the chance . We didn’t see this as just a part of our youth. In a collective statement we said ‘we’re going to stay silly, difficult, dangerous.’
(Sjón, 2004)

Smekkleysa was more in tune with surrealism and punk combined, a combination of a DIY methodology and trusting the subconscious and irrationality. It did not matter what you did or how you did it, but if you worked together in the moment something would happen (Fridrik Erlingsson, 2004). It wasn’t a question of what you had learnt or how you had learnt. It was more about what you did.
In the film Med Allt Á Hreinu, Studmenn say with a pinch of irony, “Vid verdum ad vera svolítid wild en samt med styrtimennskuna í fyrirrúmi” (Med Allt Á Hreinu, 1982). The 80’s aesthetic was posed, styled, self-conscious and theatrical (see fig. 17 in appendix, pp. 30). Smekkleysa was a contrast to this which Studmenn humorously pointed out in August 86 when they played a concert on Arnarholl. The Sugarcubes were supposed to be their support band. Studmenn had just returned from China where they had silk suits tailored for them in all sorts of colours, orange, yellow, blue. They were bright silk suits, the height of fashion at the time, with shoulder pads and all the 80’s trappings. However, instead of the Sugarcubes warming up for them they had to pretend to be them. So the Sugarcubes appeared on stage in the silk suits and began to play a cover to one of Studmenn’s famous songs. They held up this pretence until Studmenn appeared on stage clad in police suits and announced that “a very serious crime has been committed and this is not Studmenn at all”, and the Sugarcubes were thrown off stage (Fridrik Erlingsson, 2004). It is an over-simplification to paint Studmenn as opposite to the Sugarcubes and Smekkleysa. This would not be a true interpretation of the cultural landscape in Reykjavik. Studmenn were not anti-underground, although they experimented with the uniform trends at the time. Smekkleysa were just not going in that direction (Sjón, 2004). It can be said however that Studmenn were part of the posed, designed and styled 80’s aesthetic whereas Smekkleysa with their methodology and style were not. “Smekkleysa looked more like second hand Oxfam” (Einar Örn, 2004).
Arguably, Smekkleysa was more spontaneous than the styled and posed 80’s. They were from a background of punk and surrealism and prior to 86 they had been responding to the current rationality in a serious way with the Medusa group and bands such as Kukl. Einar Örn (2004) commented, “we were suffering.” It was under these circumstances that they decided to re-group and add the prankster element. Instead of taking it all too seriously the aim now was to have fun with it. The surrealist and irrational element combined with the new prankster element blossomed with the bad taste nights. Smekkleysa would advertise the Bad Taste nights using conventional means; posters, press releases, radio announcements. However they would be with a difference. An entire fiction would be created around the events whereby the only secure information was the date and location. One such campaign advertised a happening called ‘Goodbye to the Rock Cow’. It was in memory of a bull called Islero which had been killed by the famous bullfigher, Manolete. The bull had died exactly one hundred years ago on the date of the happening. The press release announced that they would be throwing cows in parachutes over Reykjavik. On the evening itself they filled a glass coffin with empty pernod bottles and animal bones that Fridrik and Thór had collected from the butchers (Fridrik Erlingsson, 2004; Einar Örn, 2004) (see fig. 18-19 in appendix, pp. 29-30). People would show up but they couldn’t rely on the posters for what was happening, if the right band would be playing or the right people would be performing. The basis was the rock concert and some time or other a band would appear and perform (Sjón, 2004). There would also be poetry readings but “when we say poetry readings we don’t mean people standing there in their nice suits. We would be doing all sorts of crazy things as well, brandishing swords, banging plates of corroded iron“ (Sjón, 2004). The way the group went around creating and advertising the Bad Taste nights would be using the established ways of doing things, but they inserted a whole lot of nonsense into it. They were parodying and ridiculing the establishment by having fun with it. Like Fridrik Erlingsson (2004) says “vid bulludum gegn bullinu.” Unlike the Dadaists who created a hoax in order to make the guests turn up, Smekkleysa’s claims were too far-fetched to be believable. The aim was not to lure people under false pretences but to attract those who were like themselves to the events (Fridrik Erlingsson, 2004). It wasn’t a trick to get more people to the happenings, “We were happy to get 50 people to come to our concerts” (Einar Örn, 2004). In that sense the information on the posters, press-releases and announcements were accurate and the design was not really unrelated to what would actually happen at the events. In light of one principle of graphic design being to clearly convey a message, the methods above definitely represented the confusion and unexpectedness of the nights themselves.
Although Sjón (2004) claims that Smekkleysa was anti-design, much of the graphic design reflected the sentiments of the group. One final example is the current Smekkleysa logo. The logo, an image of a pig sitting under a trumpet, is a parody of the logo of the mega record company, His Master’s Voice (see fig. 20-21 in appendix, pp. 30). Firstly, by transforming the logo into an absurd parody, they are undermining the authority on music of such an established company. Secondly, the logo has transformed into an accurate representation of Smekkleysa. It may seem that the use of a trumpet and a pig is just a bit of Smekkleysa fun to add absurdity to the parody. However, the trumpet could represent the noise and impact that Smekkleysa has created allowing for the underground art scene to find a presence in mainstream Iceland. Also the use of a pig could be interpreted as the indefinableness of Smekkleysa who constantly re-create themselves and do not adhere to any particular style, whether in their graphics, music or publications. Those who work for Smekkleysa do not have to be part of any category. There is an inherent belief in the individual and individual creativity. The punk dictum of ‘anything goes’ is still very much in place. The fact that Smekkleysa is a non-profit company and always puts all the profit into making the next record or publication allows for more risky creations to be produced. For example when Smekkleysa distributed Björk’s album Homogenic in 1997 all the proceedings went into producing a series of eight cds of young Icelandic experimental bands. As well as giving many young bands a huge opportunity to be heard they also gave eight young graphic designers the opportunity to design the covers (Bibbi, 2004). It is this attitude of not always wanting to generate profit, and investing in projects that may seem like a complete waste of money that gives Smekkleysa the character of a crazy captain leading his protesting crew into forbidden territory (Bibbi, 2004).
(the) science which has patented knowledge and reduced the universe down to facts and figures must be rejected.

In Autumn 1986 Reykjavík City was celebrating its 200 year anniversary. Rás 2 decided to hold a competition and encouraged bands to send in a song. The Sugarcubes decided to take part. They rehearsed and came up with a song based on a poem by Thór Eldon, which they recorded using an old-fashioned tape recorder. Rás 2 however rejected the song and decided not to play it on their radio station. The reason was that they felt it was too tasteless. As Fridrik Erlingsson (2004) puts it: “Flottu guttarnir uppi á Rás 2 med blásna hárid, their bara ‘ugggh’, thetta er svo smekklaust.”
By calling themselves ‘Bad Taste’ the Smekkleysa group were not intending to set themselves up as the binary opposition of ‘good taste.’ Echoing Picasso, they wanted to show that good taste was an enemy of creativity. As Fridrik Erlingsson (2004) notes, the Rás 2 critics could just as well have called them “too creative” as “too tasteless.” Good taste had become a form of censorship and a set of rules that had to be conformed to. It restricted creativity with its unwritten terms and conditions which had to be followed in order to enter the desirable sphere of good taste.
Smekkleysa created a new sphere that allowed experimentation to blossom. On the one hand, by setting an example, they influenced a whole generation of artists by sending out the message that one should not abandon ones intuition, that there is no need to sell out. On the other, they made it possible for many of these artists to publish, by lending assistance or even producing their work, rather than censoring it because it did not fit the required criteria. The only criteria for Smekkleysa to publish seems to be that one should remain oneself. Mattiasson makes this point clear in the sleeve of Alltaf Sama Svínid:
Smekkleysa gaf ekki adeins út tónlist sem adrir vildu ekki sinna, heldur skipti fordæmid gríd darlegu máli; ungir tónlistarmenn sáu ad ekki vard öll tónlist ad vera steypt í sama mót, hjá Smekkleysu fengu menn ad vera their sjálfur, ad gera sín mistök á eigin forsendum og líka ad vinna sína listrænu sigra.
(Alltaf Sama Svínid, 2002)

The dream of many teenagers of Bibbi’s generation was to have something produced by Smekkleysa. This encouraged them to remain experimental and fresh and today the Smekkleysa legacy is alive in many bands such as Sigur Rós, Curver, Trabant, Apparat, Múm, Gus Gus and others. The priority does not seem to be ‘ad meika thad’ which Med Allt Á Hreinu parodied 20 years ago when this meant to play in the Tivoli in Copenhagen. The irony is of course that once good taste and everything that it demanded was abandoned, The Sugarcubes went on to become the most famous Icelandic pop band ever. Furthermore, Björk, who never sacrificed her own style that she developed in the early days of Tappi Tíkarass, has become the most successful Icelandic artist on a world scale. Instead of being seen as weird or inaccessible she has now become a symbol for the Icelandic identity as represented abroad.
It seems then that a crazy captain who apparently makes stupid decisions against all the wishes of his crew, making excursions into forbidden territory, will not necessarily end up sinking his ship and the entire crew with it. Iceland has become internationally renowned for its innovative music scene and Smekkleysa has become the second biggest record company in Iceland after Skífan. In addition, smaller record companies such as Thule and New Icon have now followed Smekkleysa’s example and are producing experimental music not pressured by mainstream molds.


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