þriðjudagur, júlí 31, 2007

BHH is Big in Iceland

Bart Cameron, also writer for the Reykjavik based Grapevine Magazine, wrote an article for the American market about BHH, Benni Hemm Hemm, also called the Icelandic Brian Wilson or even the Icelandic Kajak (the Dutch band).
Big in Iceland
Benni Hemm Hemm Can't Screw Up Enough
Bart Cameron

Every summer in Iceland, about 1,000 countrymen and a few foreigners pile into the Idno, Reykjavik's oldest theater, to participate in an anti-music-festival music festival called Innipúkinn. The name translates to "Indoor Devil," a pejorative aimed at the mischievous, idle Icelandic kids who, when the summer months and their 24-hour days of sunlight come, can't shake off the darkness of the long North Atlantic winter.
A few years back at Innipúkinn 2004, a bleary-eyed librarian stepped onstage with a six-piece brass band. The festival was his idea, and he had some folk-pop songs to deliver. "I can love you in a wheelchair, baby," he sang to a packed, stunned house. He delivered a range of other sardonic mantras backed by a cheery, up-tempo horn section and raucous drummer. The set closed out with a healthy downpour of balloons.
With that auspicious beginning, Benedikt H. Hermannsson—better known as Benni Hemm Hemm—became the newest darling of Icelandic music.
The momentum's only increased. In 2005, his self-produced first album won the Icelandic Grammy for album of the year. Shortly later, Rolling Stone wrote of a live performance that Benni Hemm Hemm "evoked the sunshine prospect of Brian Wilson conducting a troupe of Salvation Army horns at a 1967 Smile session." Soon Hermannsson found himself in a modest bidding war for international distribution.
The result of three years of constant hype in the Icelandic scene? A few months ago, he gave up his day job in the library.
"Everybody's far too cool to say they're impressed," Hermannsson says of his hometown fans. "They might ask, 'Who do you know to get to do that?' But they play it cool."
Cool, but not too cool—Benni Hemm Hemm is one of the most popular bands in Iceland. When you sell 30,000 records in a country of 300,000, you're reaching a hell of a lot of your people. You must be at the top of the pops. Or not.
"Best-selling doesn't do you that much good in Iceland," Hermannsson says. "There was a singer in a really popular but horrible local band and he got chosen to compete in an American reality television show called Rockstar: Supernova. Well, before he flew to America, when he was the third biggest band in Iceland, he was working all day in a glass factory."
Hermannsson's first, self-titled album was written half in English half in Icelandic, usually a sign that a band is preparing to leave the island. His second album, Kajak, produced with the help of acclaimed German label Morr Music, is entirely in Icelandic, with arrangements based strongly in Icelandic pop of the 1930s and '40s. If he once channeled Brian Wilson, Kajak, with complex countermelodies and a dedication to the minor keys, creates its own genre: full-orchestra baritone folk.
"I was working on this album, and I wanted to write in English, but I just was more comfortable in my native tongue," he says almost as an apology, acknowledging how the choice could hurt album sales.
Defying expectations has long been Hermannsson's MO. Before playing the antifestival he created, his only musical venture had been to drum with the comically vulgar, Iceland-mocking hiphop act Mothafuckers in the House. After he won the Icelandic Grammy, he invited the most controversial playwright in the country, Hugleikur Dagsson, to rap explicit lyrics over a mellow, fully orchestrated pop song.
Throughout his brief career, Hermannsson hasn't made a single decision that makes commercial sense. The antifestival he started became a nationwide success and he promptly dropped out. His band gained a reputation as the best live show in Iceland, so he hired more members. He got great reviews abroad, then released an album in a language spoken by 300,000 people. Now, in the height of European festival season, a touring circuit most Icelandic bands covet, he is hitting the American highways with an 11-piece band.
Only two other Icelandic acts in the last few decades have acted with so little consideration for publicity and commercial interest: Sigur Rós and Björk.

Song of the 20. Week: "Fjöll Í Austri Fagurblá" by Steindor Andersen & Sigur Ros

Finally, each song comes to an end. Also the good song by Lada Sport, a band getting popular in their homeland these days. After 3 weeks time for a new song "Fjöll Í Austri Fagurblá": a product of the brilliant collaboration of Sigur Ros with the rimur singer Steindor Andersen.
This track can be found on Steindor Andersen's 2001 self-titled EP.
More information on Steindor can also be found in the book "Waking up in Iceland" by Paul Sullivan, a must read for everybody who loves Icelandic music.
Or more of this collaboration can be found online @

Website of Smekkleysa Label refreshed

The website of the Bad Taste aka Smekkleysa hf Label is online again.

mánudagur, júlí 30, 2007

Sigur Ros New Stuff to come

Sigur Ros Readies Tour Documentary
Entitled Heima (Home) the upcoming Sigur Ros documentary will feature the band during all moments of their world tour for 2005's Takk. Icelandic newspaper, Morgunbladid, has an exclusive trailer for the film: http://www.mbl.is/

Source NME: A compilation album, titled 'Hvarf-Heim', will also be released.
Split into two sections, the first, 'Hvarf', features three unreleased tracks from the band's works, and a fourth, 'Von', which is a radically reworked track from the band's first album. Drummer Orri Pall Dýrason said: "We are having a clear out, really! One of the songs even dates back to 1994! We picked the ones we really like. It's not like a normal album. There are a lot of good songs on there, but they didn't fit when it came to putting the albums together."
The tracklisting is:
'I Gaer'
'Heim' is made up of six acoustic versions of songs taken from Sigur Ros' four studio albums to date.
The tracklisting is:
'Agaetis Byrjun'
Source: http://musicslut.blogspot.com/

Jakobínarína Live Videos (Glasgow, July 2007)

Videos Jakobínarína Live @ Glasgow (July 2007)
"This is an advertisement"


"His lyrics are disastrous"

sunnudagur, júlí 29, 2007

Who's the next Björk? New stars arising? World domination or death?

A critical article about the music business and scene in Iceland in the latest number of Grapevine, the best free magazine of Iceland in English.
Are We Ever Going to Find the Next Björk?
Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir

Published in Grapevine Magazine Issue 10, July 2007

In the late eighties, The Sugarcubes became closer to what can be called international stardom than any Icelandic band before them. The band wasn’t famous in the same way as U2 or Michael Jackson, but they gained respect from the major players in the industry as well as music enthusiasts.
For years Icelandic bands had tried and failed. The extremely popular sixties-band Hljómar called themselves Thor’s Hammer in their failed search of international fame. The late-seventies saw the much talked about disco installation, Change, but they never found the success they were looking for. Many others tried but most didn’t even get close. The ones who did, notably the fusion band Mezzoforte, didn’t get close enough.
After the breakthrough of Björk in the early nineties, Icelandic musicians realised that being from Iceland did not necessarily mean that it was harder to gain recognition. The mid- and late-nineties saw an innovative landscape of talented young men and women reaching out for the stars that had eluded them for so long. With Sigur Rós, the music scene of Iceland broke even further into the sphere of underground music and finally it was safe to say that Iceland was on the map. Others had some success; Múm and Bang Gang found their place in international markets and the same can be said of the popular techno band Gus Gus.
Looking to further the country’s reputation abroad in the new millennium, the music festival Iceland Airwaves became an important meeting point for everyone interested in the music the country has to offer. But what has happened since the early ‘00s? Is Icelandic music getting ahead the same way as it did before? Is the drive the same now as it was only a few years ago?
Iceland Airwaves: Serving Their Purpose
When taking part in a music festival like Iceland Airwaves, as someone who’s a part of the music industry, you realise that there are international journalists waiting for the next Björk to happen. Magazine writers, record executives and television crews are scouting the venues in their search for the next big thing. The city sizzles with people running between different locations, listening to music and interviewing anyone who they feel might be it. Many of the international artists that play at the festival have been successful. Some have played here as relatively unknown bands in October but by spring have become international stars. A good example is the band Hot Chip, but they enjoyed considerable popularity in Iceland before the rest of the world acknowledged them. Whether it’s because of Iceland Airwaves is not clear, but I feel confident that bands like Hot Chip would never have been picked to play here if there wasn’t a certain something to them.
The Icelandic bands are, however, not making particularly big waves now. Many of them are very skilled musicians, others have the look and the attitude, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Yes, I know, some of them get gigs in other countries, but let’s face it – they aren’t becoming the next Björk or anything close to her widespread popularity.
One of the bands that has gotten serious attention is Jakobínarína. They play fun rock and roll, not too complicated and never boring. They are certainly no innovators in music but they’re not trying to be. Many others have generated a buzz but their music never seems to reach the ears of the crowd that might embrace them properly. Mínus is a good example of this. A fantastic band with a strong presence but they never found the right market for their music – at least not the market that would buy their albums in the serious amounts I believe they are capable of selling.
The Professionals: In It for the Long Haul
Some bands have found a small market and chosen to stick to it. They are not looking to conquer the world in the same way a newcomer would. But if it happens – it’d be a great bonus. Nevertheless, they are not serious contenders to Björk’s throne – at least not for now. But all of them have something that has granted them longevity.
Gus Gus have been around for more than ten years. They’ve found their scene and therefore know where they can find their fans. They’ve toured religiously and have a strong fan base throughout Europe, even if they started out as a pop band – not a dance act. Gus Gus is a band that understands its limitations and doesn’t try to be anything other than a disco oriented techno band. That way they can survive as long as they care to cater to their fans as well as they do. Musically they are good, their sound is impeccable and most certainly their own despite a shift in style.
Bang Gang is another example of a band that knows its audience. Playing easy going chamber pop without letting current flavours interrupt the sound is working for the band. The same can be said about Singapore Sling and other bands that have embraced a strong but particular sound. They are not out for world domination; they’d rather play for their crowd without having to be something they are not.
Múm is one of the bands that has found the most success abroad, but they have changed a lot since their critically acclaimed Finally We Are No One (2002). Their sound has evolved with new members and their long awaited fourth studio album will be released this fall. What the new line-up has to offer is an unanswered question.
Where is the Original Sound?
While watching a newcomer on stage or listening to new music at home, I can’t help wondering where and when I get to hear a new original sound. An original sound was what Björk and Sigur Rós brought to the scene a few years back. The main reason for their notoriety is their originality. Björk’s success resulted in a period of blooming creative freedom and for a short while a window opened for bands that had just that. We saw artists like Emiliana Torrini, Sigur Rós, Gus Gus and Múm flourish because originality became popular.
The music business of today has become so money driven that only a few executives are connected to what should be an artistic exploration of sound. Many prefer to sell their certain 5000 copies and call it a day. Originality is not celebrated in the same way it was ten years ago. This is evident when looking at decent but unoriginal bands like Nylon, who are being groomed for international success, without any luck as of yet.
Thankfully, I’m convinced the cultural climate will change again, as it always does. One day some artist or a band will struggle against all odds and then burst on to the scene sounding like no one else before them. And we will give them the standing ovation they deserve – that is, if we’re keen enough to realise they’ve arrived.
Source: www.grapevine.is

Outkast "Hey ya' Cover by Þórir (aka My summer as a salvation soldier)

Þórir (My summer as a salvation soldier) doing a cover of the Outkast song "Hey Ya". A video shot in one take. Director was Elvar Gunnarsson.

Music Eruption in Iceland

Today I found an interesting article on the booming Icelandic music scene. It also gives an illustation of my (musical) life, as it is spending a lot of money on trips to Iceland.
The Icelandic government and also the tourist board were ignoring the fact that a lot of (young) people were visiting the island because of the success of The Sugarcubes in the eighties, Björk in the neighties til now, followed by youngsters Sigur Ros a little bit later. Indeed these people were not spending LOTS of money (NOT staying in Hotel Borg or Hotel Saga but on the camping sites), but these days they have (finally) more money to spend on trips and music!
I am one of them, Icelandic music fanatic since 1987...

Iceland's Music Scene: Ready to Erupt Worldwide
Steinunn Jakobsdóttir
Published in Grapevine Magazine Issue 10, July 2007

The Icelandic music industry may be small, but the local scene is vibrant. Icelandic artists have repeatedly proven that worldwide success is possible, the Sugarcubes, Björk, Sigur Rós, GusGus, Quarashi and múm are good examples. The scene, has grown steadily since the eighties, and an increasing number of bands play at international festivals and tour extensively around the world. Local music events are gaining worldwide attention. The environment is more favourable now than ever before and efforts have been made in recent years to strengthen the music trade. The Reykjavík Loftbrú travel fund, sponsored by the City of Reykjavík and Icelandair, and the establishment of the Icelandic State Music Fund in 2005 can be named as relatively new projects aimed at supporting the scene, locally as well as internationally. The Trade Counsel of Iceland has also increased its cooperation, most recently by establishing the Icelandic Music Export Agency. But, is there something still missing? If the goal is to create a thriving industry that can be profitable for the artists and the country’s economy, should we perhaps look inwards, instead of outwards? The Grapevine contacted several insiders to see what conditions need to be met to boost the industry and make Iceland a serious music exporter, and found out that while steps have been taken to help artists reach larger audience, less has been done to foster the grassroots.
Icelandic Music Export
“I think that there are plenty of opportunities in exporting Icelandic music. The Sugarcubes, Björk, Sigur Rós and Emilíana Torrini have all proved that in the past. We also have many fine producers that are quite successful and today there are about 20 to 30 bands and musicians that are succeeding in some way or another and are moving on to bigger territories. Here I can for example mention Trabant, Jakobínarína, Lay Low, Garðar Cortes, Sign, Amiina and Reykjavík!. The scene seems to be pretty strong and its fan base is steadily growing, which can be seen by how many individuals want to work with us and help promote Icelandic music,” says Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir, the managing director of the Icelandic Music Export.

Established in November 2006, The Icelandic Music Export (IMX) is a newly founded partly governmentally funded body initiated by Samtónn (a joint copyright organisation for authors, performers and producers), the Trade Counsel of Iceland, privately sponsored by Landsbankinn Bank. Its goal is to be a service centre for musicians and industry members by providing investors and media personalities with access and information on the music scene. The office supports musicians with connections and resources and collaborates with event organisers, attends and hosts conferences and organises artist participation at international showcase festivals – all with the aim of promoting Icelandic music, festivals and music labels abroad.

Hildibrandsdóttir has copious experience working within the industry. She started as a manager for Bellatrix in 1998 and later became a PR representative for the Iceland Airwaves festival in Europe, set up and managed the UK branch of record label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) as well as managing various music related projects in Reykjavík and London.

“When I started in the business, The Sugarcubes and Björk had been so popular that I was certain that the hype would soon decline, but the interest is massive and has only been increasing. […] Compared to ten years ago, there are more investors supporting musicians today, the private companies have increased its funding and artists today are provided with more information and contacts. The Reykjavík Loftbrú project has been successful and the State Music Fund has in many ways worked out well, but certain aspects could be scoped for development. No one said it would be easy. It all comes down to getting the right support at the right time, use the opportunities and strengthening the network.”

Here comes Iceland!
As a former Sugarcubes member, co-founder of record label Smekkleysa and one-half of the experimental electro band Ghostigital, Einar Örn Benediktsson has been a leading figure in the local music scene for much longer than most of his peers. When asked about the export of Icelandic music he replies:

“I have never been in the business of exporting Icelandic music. I have made music and I have performed in other countries. It has always been a basic element in Icelandic music that you need to go abroad to play to reach new audiences. I have nothing to say about the Icelandic Music Export in particular, but it is probably good to have an office that distributes information.”

He goes on to say that the environment today is completely different than when the Sugarcubes were branching out:

“A lot of pioneering work has been done to make it easier to play in foreign countries. It no longer requires the difficulties that it used to entail. Also, transportation is easier, people are not afraid to try to break new ground. It is a different culture; Icelandic musicians know they are on par with what is going on in other countries.”

Although newly established, the Icelandic Music Export has arranged trips and presentations at large showcase festivals and music markets in two continents, such as MIDEM in Cannes, Great Escape in Britain, SXSW in Austin, Texas, SPOT in Denmark, Eurosonic in Holland and ByLarm in Norway where Reykjavík!, Lay Low, Pétur Ben, Amiina, Jakobínarína and Benni Hemm Hemm have been among the performers. The next project is organising a country stand and an extensive promotion at the PopKomm industry fair taking place in Berlin in September, where Lay Low is already scheduled to play.

The purpose of these fairs is to present new talent with the hope of being discovered by promoters, distributors or booking agencies. Icelandic acts are well received, Hildibrandsdóttir tells me, but turning that into something fruitful requires patience and takes years of hard work.

“Of course it won’t happen with one showcase. But what I can say is that the bands are being noticed and we see a good turnout at the concerts most of the time. Afterwards, it’s a question of continuity, and that’s what this office is trying to do, to support the bands to move on and make one thing lead to another.”

Kári Sturluson, manager for Lay Low, Ampop and Mínus, has attended several of these trade festivals, in particular with Lay Low. He agrees that these showcases can be a good start for those reaching out for new opportunities. After Lay Low released her debut, Please Don’t Hate Me, last October, she played at the Iceland Airwaves festival. That led to an invite to MIDEM and from there to ByLarm and Great Escape, after which she played in the U.S. and was offered to tour Britain at the end of the year, fully sponsored by the Contemporary Music Network (CMN) in the UK.

“Opportunities like these come along because the artist has played on a regular basis. It isn’t enough to perform just once in a while. What is fortunate [with Lay Low] is that things have been going well in Iceland, not only in radio programs and record sales but also in ticket sales. The profits of sold concert tickets the artists use to invest in themselves and pay the expenses of touring abroad and keep the ball rolling. Usually there are no actual salaries to talk about though,” he explains.

Investing in Music
Few musicians can earn their living simply by creating music. Going abroad can be tough if you don’t have someone to back you up to begin with. Reykjavík Loftbrú and the State Music Fund aim to make that process easier. Established in 2005, the Music Fund has a yearly budget of 50 million ISK to support several projects. Jónatan Garðarsson, the Fund’s chairman, says that the counsel evaluates each project thoroughly before deciding who should get funding and how big the amount should be. He also explains that there are two application deadlines per year and the largest grant so far, 5 million ISK, was used to establish the Icelandic Music Export.

Sturluson, who has years of experience in the business both as a concert producer and manager, is still not satisfied with the environment musicians have to settle for today.

“In my opinion, the Reykjavík Loftbrú is a fine project. Musicians can apply for tickets on a monthly basis and the process is both fast and efficient. The same can’t be said about the State Music Fund though. There are only two deadlines each year and the maximum amount you can get is usually only about a million ISK. The Fund doesn’t make it much easier to pursue opportunities, which can sometimes happen almost unexpectedly. Personally, if we are thinking about exporting music, the State Music Fund is in my view totally useless. The 50 million ISK budget is ridiculous and small amounts are being offered to artists only so the government can pretend to be supporting the music scene. The budget also includes all parts of the scene, regardless of music style or the type of the projects. A small part of the budget is used in real music export and promotion of musicians abroad. What I would like to see is a new model similar to the Icelandic Film Centre, which provides decent financial support to finance film projects and promote Icelandic films internationally. The Film Centre, [which has around 400 million ISK budget to fund various projects] is an independent government sponsored body while the Music Fund is a small committee. The difference between the support given to the film industry and the music industry is simply outrageous.”

He adds: “I also see it as a certain anachronism that the fund is a part of the Ministry of Education and not a part of the Ministry of Industry. Music is simply an industry and should be respected as such. It is an investment and nothing less and has proved to be a profitable export. That can clearly be seen by the success of our national pride, Björk. Supporting music as culture but not as an industry isn’t inspirational for the artists. There needs to be a good institutional support if we are to go full force in exporting music and create a growing industry.”

Sturluson goes on to say how profitable it is for the economy to have a thriving music scene in the country:

“The scene has such great snowball effects. It’s quite embarrassing how obvious it is and easy to calculate how profitable it would be to invest greatly in the music industry. That investment will multiply itself and have great effects on other trades, most obviously, the tourism industry.”

Hyperactive Tourist Attraction
Many musicians and industry moguls share Sturlusons’s view and point out that when local acts set out to play internationally, exposure in global media hasn’t been lacking. The attention isn’t only an encouragement for the music scene but has proven to be a boost for the tourism industry.

It’s no overstatement that Icelandic musicians are drawing more positive attention to the country than most other industries nowadays and few deny that its cultural importance is significant. That can be seen by the turnout for recent festivals such as Aldrei fór ég suður (an annual music festival in small Westfjords town Ísafjörður) where IMX took ten international journalists to experience the two-day extravaganza, who returned to their homes with positive reviews, interviews and articles. Even greater publicity surrounds the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival, which always sees good coverage in international media. The growing number of tourists attending the festival as well as promoters and industry representatives, who arrive with the sole purpose of discovering new talent, is just one example. In 2006, 1700 of the party-thirsty audience were foreign attendees. This year’s festival is bound to be bigger than ever.

Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir, director of Culture and Tourism at Visit Reykjavík, says that it is hard to measure the effects of the music scene on the tourist industry in the country but adds that they know they are immense.

“In 2005, we participated in a Nordic survey where we examined the economic benefits and impacts certain events have on the economy. We chose to study the Airwaves festival, which is an event that attracts plenty of visitors who are active, go to museums, on excursions and visit the swimming pools, shops and restaurants for example. The result of the survey was that the festival alone injects about 300 million into the city’s economy,” Konráðsdóttir says, adding how important these concertgoers are for the tourism industry, especially as the festival is held off-season in one weekend in October.

The Constant Lack of Facilities
“The connection between Icelandic culture getting attention abroad and the increase in tourism is enormous,” says Viddi, bass player for the electronic-punkdance group Trabant, which recently returned home after touring Britain extensively. “Our tour will probably end up in 50 to 100 media reviews and interviews. And that’s just one band. Add Mínus, GusGus, múm, Björk, Sigur Rós and all the other ones on the road and you will have great publicity,” he adds.

When asked how he sees the musical environment today, he points to the fact that before talking about any government intervention in music export, there needs to be a strong domestic infrastructure and favourable working conditions for the artists to develop their sound.

“Today, musicians are creating their own music without being supported by a big body, but of course it would be good to have some sort of a system that would be encouraging, but that would have to be thoroughly thought through. What I would most like to see change is the possibility of getting good practice facilities. I’m getting tired of seeing only temporary solutions but no long term plans. It shouldn’t be a question about supporting that part of the process” he says, and points out that many bands that have been touring immensely in recent years have to settle for a lack of housing today.

“I would like to see the prices go down so bands will actually have a reasonable option to rent a practice space instead of having to pay the ridiculous amount Kaupþing Bank and Glitnir Bank have decided on. Today, I see Reykjavík moving in a totally different direction, heading towards becoming a business city instead of a cultural city. In 10 years, I can’t see many teenage bands renting a small practice space for 80,000 ISK. I will not be seeing any growth in the scene. […] If we are talking about building a music industry, we should start by creating a good environment for that industry to evolve.”

Benediktsson shares a similar view on the government intervention:
“I am not sure that people should necessarily be supported to make music. But the trend in tourism has been that culture sells vacation trips. Icelandair has noticed this, that is why it established Loftbrú. These parties know that there is a correlation between the music industry and the tourism industry. If there are people with fresh ideas, creating fresh music, there are many out there who are willing to support that. The image-industry and the money-industry go hand in hand. There are so many people who come to Iceland today because they heard the Sugarcubes as teenagers all those years ago. Today, these people have money and they want to travel.

He adds: “It is most important to take care of the infrastructure, and focus on what we are doing here. You can’t really just decide to export music like any other commodity. All you can really do is make information available. The main thing is that the music is good. Where there is good music being made, where there is a creative scene, I think people will always take notice.”

New Marketing Opportunities
When asked how she sees the future of the music industry, Hildibrandsdóttir is positive that things will turn out in favour of the scene.

“I think that the opportunities are plenty but they are also very sparse. The number of musicians making record deals is growing and the record companies have strengthened their position. Smekkleysa now has a worldwide distribution and 12 Tónar has expanded to Europe. Individual musicians have also succeeded in assigning contracts” she says.

“The opportunities also consist in understanding the breakthrough in technology we have witnessed, for example, distribution on the web and through mobile phones and how the digital world will change opportunities in an exciting way. As the situation is today, if you have the technical understanding and knowledge, you can reach out to an incredible number of listeners without having millions to back you up,” Hildibrandsdóttir adds.

The Iceland Music Export has several plans to tackle this new technology. “We are organising a conference where we will look into the possibility of Iceland becoming a test-market for a new business model in digital distribution. One of our biggest projects this year is also to establish a good web page for musicians and those working in the music sector” she explains, but the site already features Podcasts, downloads, music videos, information on musicians, producers and studios and a list of music events and festivals.

“All in all, I have expectations for the future,” Hildibrandsdóttir says. “But we shouldn’t forget that the industry is small in Iceland and we have less money than the neighbouring countries. […] There doesn’t necessarily have to be so much financial support to move the grassroots to a professional level, just the right support at the right time.”

Amiina plays "Ammælis"

Amiina performing live "Ammælis" (2006)

Their Album "Kurr" is out on the Ever Records Label
More Amiina: www.amiina.com

Gardar Thór Cortes - The Icelandic Pavarotti

Gardar Cortes
Gardar Thór Cortes is a unique talent from a unique land. His name may appear Spanish but he's from Iceland, where his debut album was the fastest selling release ever. When the album was released in the UK in April it shot straight to number one in the classical charts and has stayed there ever since, keeping the likes of Pavarotti off the top spot.
Great tenors can bloom in strange places but Gardar was born to sing. His sister Nanna a soprano is a professional opera singer and younger brother Aron is currently studying to be a baritone. His English mother Krystyna, a concert pianist, was a piano student at the Royal Academy of Music when she married Gardar Cortes senior and moved to the north Atlantic. Cortes's father was a world class Tenor in his prime with Domingo actually stepping in for him once when he was too ill to perform.
His debut concert in Reykjavik, where he was joined by Katherine Jenkins, was another triumph. For the UK release of the album he has recorded five new songs "Where The Lost Ones Go", a duet with Katherine, "Hunting High and Low by Aha", Luna, "Nessun Dorma" and the bravura "Granada" that ends on a high C..
The rest of 2007 looks set to be really exciting for the tenor, he has tours lined up with Dame Kiri as well as Lesley Garrett and will be appearing at open air concerts all over the UK this Summer. One day the tenor from Reykjavik will fulfil his ambition to sing Otello at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. But right now he is an undiscovered gem whose debut album is a compelling mixture of ice and fire.
Source: IMX Icelandic Music Export

More to find here:

laugardagur, júlí 28, 2007

I survived Ireland

Thank God I'm back from Ireland, so totally tired of hearing all day long Irish music. So I promise You no Irish music on this weblog the next 30 years.
Viva Icelandic Music forever !!!

laugardagur, júlí 14, 2007

On holiday

I am doing a Grand Tour Trip in Ireland @ the moment.
Indeed IReland and not ICeland. I'll go to ICELAND in October for the Airwaves Festival.
Back with more interesting Icelandic music stuff the 29th of July.
Take care.

Iceland Airwaves Festival 17th-21st of October 2007

October 17th-21st, 2007
Approximately170 bands, solo-artists and DJs are set to perform at this year’s edition of
Iceland Airwaves.
Headline acts confirmed so far include: !!! (US), Annuals (US), Best Fwends (US), Bloc Party (UK), Bonde do Role (BR), Boys In A Band (FO), Chromeo (CA) and of Monreal (US), while Buck 65 (CA) and Jenny Wilson (SE) appear as international solo artists.
As ever, local talent will make up around two thirds of the program. Icelandic stars scheduled to play are: AMPOP, Benni Hemm Hemm, Benny Crespo’s Gang, Dikta, Esja, FM Belfast, GusGus, Mammu, mum, Reykjavik!, Seabear, Motion Boys, Hjaltalin, Gavin Portland, Sign, Sprengjuhollin, Steed Lord, Ultra Mega Technoband Stefan, Eberg, Kira Kira, Lay Low, Mugison, Olof Arnalds, Petur Ben and My Summer as a Salvation Soldier.
Mr. Destiny has organised Iceland Airwaves in cooperation with Icelandair annually since 1999, when the event started out as a talent show for foreign record company executives. Since then the event has grown and blossomed and is now an integral part of cultural life in Reykjavík.
The fruits of the festival's labour have been ripening and many Icelandic artists such as Quarashi, Minus, Sigur Ros, Apparat Organ Quartet, Trabant, The Leaves and more have gone onto international fame.
Making a point of always showcasing a healthy mixture of local and international talent, the festival often features bands on the brink of it-dom well before they gain international notoriety (cases in point: The Rapture, TV on the Radio, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). Iceland Airwaves’ location – in the numerous and infamous bars and clubs of downtown 101 area – adds a final touch of charm to the world’s northernmost music festival.
Airwaves has also become an essential part of the fall schedule for A&R agents and media worldwide. The festival attracts approximately 2.000 people from abroad annually (over half of those from the music industry) to sample the freshest sounds - foreign and domestic. Some are in search of fresh talent, others for inspiration; yet others seek adventure on the artic circle.
During the whole festival - from afternoon into the night - parties, instore shows, DJ & band gigs will be taking place in selected record shops, bars and galleries all over downtown Reykjavik. All is part of Iceland Airwaves 'off venue' program. Here you can catch some of the festival biggest acts, often playing surprise instore/bar gigs, and exciting local acts, who in some cases didn't make it do the official festival bill.
Reykjavík’s proximity to a plethora of geysers, waterfalls and other natural phenomena unlike anything found elsewhere in the world, helps earn the festival further merit, although its main attraction has always been the music.

The Best Icelandic Albums of the 20th Century

Petur put the
List of the Best Icelandic Albums of the 20th Century
List was published in the book by Gunnar Larus Hjalmarsson aka Dr Gunni, called
Eru Ekki Allir I Studi?.
A book about Icelandic rock music and culture in the 20th century. The idea was that it would include a list of the best Icelandic albums as well, but obviously, it’s tricky to create a truly authoritative list with no outside input. So Dr Gunni asked 200 (semi)-professional Icelanders to make Top 10 lists. When he had the results, he put the Top 100 Albums in alphabetical order on the web, and allowed the public to pick their ten favorites. Nearly 4,000 people did.
This list was made in 2001 as voted by music writers, critics, radio dj's and the general public.
See more on this Book (in Icelandic) on my blog post posted the 15th of April.

1 Sigur Rós Ágætis Byrjun (1999)

2 Björk Debut (1993)

3 Megas & Spilverk Þjóðanna Á bleikum náttkjólum (1977)

4 Stuðmenn Sumar á Sýrlandi (1975)

5 Trúbrot ....Lifun (1971)

6 Bubbi Morthens Ísbjarnablús (1980)

7 Utangarðsmenn Geislavirkir (1980)

8 Stuðmenn Með allt á hreinu (1982)

9 Bubbi Morthens Kona (1985)

10 The Sugarcubes Life's Too Good (1988)

11 Spilverk Þjóðanna Sturla (1977)
12 Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur Hinn Íslenski Þursaflokkur (1978)
13 Björk Gling-Gló (& Tríó Guðmundur Ingólfssonar) (1990)
14 Ham Lengi lifi (1994)
15 Björk Homogenic (1997)
16 Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson Hana nú (1977)
17 Megas Megas (1972)
18 Various Artists - Rokk í Reykjavík (1982) [Compilation]
19 Fræbbblarnir Viltu nammi væna? (1980)
20 Björk Post (1995)
21 Hljómar Hljómar (1967)
22 Stuðmenn Tívolí (1976)
23 EGO Breyttir tímar (1982)
24 Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur Þursabit (1979)
25 Þheyr Mjötviður Mær (1981)
26 Botnleðja Fólk er Fífl (1996)
27 Ensími Kafbátamúsík (1998)
28 Mannakorn Í gegnum tíðina (1977)
29 Hrekkjusvín Lög unga fólksins (1977)
30 Björgvin Halldórsson og Gunnar Þórðarson Einu sinni var (1976)
31 S.H. Draumur Goð (1987)
32 Megas Fram & aftur blindgötuna (1976)
33 Nýdönsk Himnasending (1992)
34 Todmobile Todmobile (1990)
35 Múm Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK (2000)
36 Megas Loftmynd (1987)
37 GusGus Polydistortion (1997)
38 Megas Millilending (1975)
39 Jet Black Joe Jet Black Joe (1992)
40 Purrkur Pillnikk Ekki En (1981)
41 EGO Í mynd (1982)
42 Sigur Rós Von (1997)
43 Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur Gæti eins verið (1982)
44 Olga Guðrún Árnadóttir Eniga Meniga (1975)
45 Maus Lof mér að falla að þínu eyra (1997)
46 Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur Á Hljómleikum (1980)
47 Sálin Hans Jóns Míns 12 Ágúst '99 (Live) (1999)
48 Mínus Jesus Christ Bobby (2000)
49 Sálin Hans Jóns Míns Þessi Þungu Högg (1992)
50 200.000 Naglbítar ögguvísur Fyrir Skuggaprins (2000)
51 Megas Í góðri trú (1986)
52 Mannakorn Mannakorn (1975)
53 Botnleðja Magnyl (1998)
54 Sálin Hans Jóns Míns Annar Máni (2000)
55 Jet Black Joe You Ain't Here (1994)
56 Brunaliðið Úr Öskunni í Eldinn (1978)
57Botnleðja Drullumall (1995)
58 Spilverk Þjóðanna Ísland (1978)
59 KK Lucky One (1991)
60 Land og synir Herbergi 313 (1999)
61 Bubbi Morthens Plágan (1981)
62 Óðmenn Óðmenn (1970)
63 Quarashi Xeneizes (1999)
64 Haukur Morthens Hátíð í bæ (1964)
65 Unun Æ (1994)
66 Trúbrot Trúbrot (1969)
67 Bubbi Morthens Sögur af landi (1990)
68 Nýdönsk Deluxe (1991)
69 Bubbi Morthens Von (1992)
70 Mezzoforte No Limits (1986)
71 KUKL The Eye (1984)
72 Bubbi Morthens Fingraför (1983)
73 Pelican Uppteknir (1974)
74 Purrkur Pillnikk Googooplex (1982)
75 Kamarorghestar Bísar í banastuði (1981)
76 Grýlurnar Mávastellið (1983)
77 The Sugarcubes Stick Around for Joy (1992)
78 Maus Í þessi sekúndubrot sem ég flýt (1999)
79 Slowblow Quicksilver Tuna (1994)
80 Nattura Magic Key (1972)
81 Das Kapital Lili Marlene (1984)
82 Tappi Tíkarrass Miranda (1983)
83 Megas Nú er ég klæddur og kominn á ról (1978)
84 Bang Gang You (1998)
85 Mánar Mánar (1971)
86 Megas Þrír blóðdropar (1992)
87 Grafík Leyndarmál (1987)
88 Bara Flokkurinn Gas (1983)
89 Spilverk Þjóðanna Götuskór (1976)
90 Drýsill Welcome to the Show (1985)
91 Megas Höfuðlausnir (1988)
92 Reptile Fame and Fossils (1990)
93 Magnús Þór Sigmundsson Álfar (1979)
94 Maus Ghostsongs (1995)
95 Jóhann G. Jóhannsson Langspil (1974)
96 Íkarus Rás 5-20 (1984)
97 Sextett Ólafs Gauks Lög Oddgeirs Kristjánssonar (1968)
98 Egill Ólafsson Tifa tifa (1991)
99 Anna Halldórsdóttir Undravefurinn (1998)
100 Frakkarnir 1984 (1983)

Bedroom Community Trailer # 2

Second Trailer of the Bedroom Community of Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Ekvílibríum - Preview trailer #2

Disney interested in Iceland all girls band Nylon

The Walt Disney Company has requested a meeting with the Icelandic girl band Nylon and Believer Publishing House to discuss a potential TV program and an album, as confirmed by their agent Einar Bárdarson.
Apparently Disney is interested in producing a show about an Icelandic girl band traveling to America. The show would be followed up by an album, Fréttabladid reports.
Disney has strong foothold in the American entertainment market and its TV programs for teenagers are among the most popular in the US. Disney has worked with celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in the past.
Their official website is: www.nylon.is
MySpace: www.myspace.com/nyloniceland Source:
Iceland Review Online www.icelandreview.com

föstudagur, júlí 13, 2007

Jarvis Cocker loves Iceland

Jarvis Cocker, the former singer of Pulp, is just like Damon Albarn , a lover of Iceland.
Listen to Jarvis Cocker who reads the Icelandic folk tale of 'Bukolla and the boy':

miðvikudagur, júlí 11, 2007

Interview with Amiina in Iceland Review (2007)

A layer of clotted soy milk floats to the top of Hildur’s porcelain teacup. She hastily takes the first swig and swirls the clumps away. Crowded on the table are home baked cakes and biscuits. The four girls draw miniscule portions off the table to nibble in a continuous circle of mismatched saucers.

They are smallish girls with ruddy cheeks and wide, sparkling eyes. Despite themselves, Amiina is cute. Their predilection for knitting and twinkling instruments certainly doesn’t tarnish such an image either.

But through the looking glass their glockenspiels belie the gravitas of their music, melodious and cryptic as the Jabberwocky himself. Their sound, much like their coffee klatch, is intimate and rife with mellifluous dialogue, be it the chatter of summer plans with boyfriends or the call and answer of singing saws and Korean bells.

Though lyrics are few and far between, that’s not to say Amiina's new album Kurr doesn’t strike a chord with its listeners. On the contrary, it resonates in the most unexpected of ways.

Jonas Moody.

Amiina is Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir, Hildur Ársaelsdóttir, Sólrún Sumarlidadóttir, and María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir.

Moody: This is all very cozy here around the table. It’s almost looks like the picture on the album cover, only eating tea and crumpets instead of knitting an enormous scarf.
María Sigfúsdóttir: We focus on the table. When we play live there is the table with all these small instruments. It’s almost like we’re cooking or making something.
Sólrún Sumarlidadóttir: It’s always like that. There’s always a table between us, sometimes with instruments and sometimes with food.
Hildur Ársaelsdóttir: Knitting is like our creation of music.

SS: We knit the whole thing ourselves. It took a few days to get there so we took turns.
HÁ: And did you notice the needles? They’re mallets.
SS: But it’s about us coming together and making something in a certain world that we’ve constructed around us.

M: So the latest world you’ve created is called Kurr (Coo) like the sound a pigeon makes. Where did that come from?
MS: We were satisfied with the sound of the word and its meaning and look.
HÁ: It’s nice that the word is a sound.
SS: That’s what we thrive on, sounds and textures. It’s right to have a word for the record that is a verbal interpretation of a sound.

M: Onomatopoeia?
(puzzled looks)
M: It means a word that sounds like what it is.
SS: Oh okay! How do you spell it?

M: Jeez. It’s hard. It’s Greek. I’ll send it to you in an e-mail.
HÁ: Because we don’t have lyrics, it’s hard for us to pin our music down with words.
SS: We have so much trouble with titles.

M: Some titles are real words, some are names, and some are nonsense. Like "Sogg," right?
(All look at each other knowingly)
MS: Actually there were some letters left on our whiteboard after everything had been erased and we looked at them for months and they spelled “sogg”.

M: Where did "Kolapot" (coal poking) come from? That’s just bizarre.
MS: Hildur and I had to register the song so walked through town on the way to the office and made up a story of someone who…
HÁ: …lived in a cottage, or…

MS: I can’t remember; it was really far-fetched. Originally it was called “Kolakot” (coal cottage), the name of the cottage where they lived.
SS: And then we just switched the k for the p because it sounded better.

M: That’s quite an elaborate process. It that how it works when you make your music too?
SS: We don’t write individually. It’s all of us putting ingredients into the pot and seeing what comes out.

M: But it’s not as haphazard as blindly tossing in whatever is at hand, right? You four are all classically trained musicians.
SS: A lot of kids have some form of music education, because so many people go to music school here. It actually creates openness to a more varied type of instrumentation.
MS: It’s just grab something you like and figure out something nice with it. Not necessarily within the framework of how it’s meant to be played.

M: I hear a lot of idiophones—all those musical oddities that are struck, shaken, stroked, and scraped—like singing bowls, thumb pianos, musical saws, and a celesta. What’s the draw?
MS: They’re easy to play—very accessible. It allows us to let go and do. You have something that you can just hit and there’s a sound. If have to learn a new instrument your musical ideas just stop.
SS: It’s easy to be spontaneous on these instruments.

MS: Also, they have a very clear sound, which is the opposite of strings, which have a more earthy and complicated sound. Out other instruments are metal, crystal clear. We had to have some kind of opposite to the strings.

M: Any other strange beasts in the mix?
SS: One electric guitar with glitter on it.
MS: Come on, girls! What else?
HÁ: Oh! The famous “glassophone.”
SS: It’s four wine glasses hooked up to mics.
MS: Then there are zithers, accordions, harpsichords, and a harmonium.

M: Some people have placed you as the standard bearers of the “krútt” (cute) movement alongside Sigur Rós and Múm. Is this what you signed up for?
MS: It’s been a big misunderstanding. Two or three years ago every Friday the paper would come up with names for different people and places. I was flying home to Iceland and I opened the paper to find a picture of myself as “the leader of the ‘Úlpa Gang’” (“úlpa” meaning anorak), who are “left-wing, read poetry, and have political opinions but don’t really know anything about the issues.” But I hadn’t even been in Iceland. It was just bullshit.

That was exactly the same period that “krútt” came out. Someone picked up on it and people were making jokes. Then there was the Krútt Festival in Snaefellsnes in 2005.
SS: At the time it wasn’t used in a negative or diminutive way.
MS: The festival was just a joke. They had a lecture on krútt and exhibitions and Múm played and (Stórsveit) Nix Noltes. But afterwards krútt was taken seriously. They were talking about it on Kastljós (a nightly news magazine show) trying to define the word krútt, and it got totally out of hand. The meaning of the word krútt is something little and not to be taken seriously, and that’s bad. A lot of the people who have been labeled “krútt” are doing good things and that shouldn’t be diminished.
SS: I get the feeling that the word is used to put people down who are beginning to do well. I don’t understand this need to squash people.

M: Regardless of what you call it, there is a tendency to characterize music coming out of Iceland. I asked you about it when I interviewed you three years ago and you told me, “It’s like when someone tells you that you look like your sister, but because you've grown up with her, all you can see are the differences.” Three years later with some experience under your belt, what can you say?
MS: In Iceland we haven’t had the culture of pop music business for 60 years. We still have trouble understanding what a single is, and an A-side and a B-side. We don’t have all these formulas of how to make a band and how a career is supposed to happen in such a way, and your songs are supposed to be three minutes long because that’s radio-friendly.

When you start out in Iceland, you are so unaware of those “rules,” and that may be why there are certain freedoms here. When people start out here they make a record, and some people like it and it’s released. Talking to young people starting out in Britain, they are so aware, even before they form a band, what it’s supposed to be. They pick a genre. Then according to that genre they have to have this and this and this.

Here people are just fiddling around, making music, and releasing it. The mindset of being a band here is different.

M: Part of your edification as a band outside of Iceland must have come from your long-standing collaboration with Sigur Rós. After playing on three albums with them and years of touring, do you ever feel like this relationship overshadows your own music—instead of being Amiina, being identified as the girls who play with Sigur Rós?
SS: But that’s what we were for a long time.
HÁ: It’s true!
SS: It’s nothing we want to escape from.
MS: It helped us when we were starting out as a band.
SS: The experience on the road and what touring is about and the music industry.
MS: It’s natural that people link us to Sigur Rós, but we are slowly trying to establish our name as Amiina. But it takes time. It’s only a year since we stopped touring with Sigur Rós.

M: Would you tour with them again?
SS: It’s a possibility, but now we want to concentrate on our own project and find our place.

M: So after touring with four boys, what is it like to be a band of four girls?
MS: We have always been quite girlish when we’re together. We’ve never been too…cool (at this word, tiny María strikes a muscle pose and knits her brow).
HÁ: It’s nice. We can stop by the health food store when we’re on tour.

M: So besides miles of health food stores, what does the future hold?
SS: We’ll just continue until we don’t want to do it anymore.
MS: You can’t plan your life when you’re in a band.
SS: But we’re all women and there’s the question of families.
HÁ: But that’s going to be synchronized. We’re going to make the mini-Amiina. Amiiniina!

Iceland Review Online: http://www.icelandreview.com/

Icelandic Music Export (IMX)

The website of Icelandic Music Export gives more information, so check it out for yourself @ www.icelandicmusic.is.

Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdottir
Anna Hildur has recently been appointed the MD of the Icelandic Music Export Office. She now spends a week every month in her office in Iceland but remains based in the UK.
Anna Hildur has lived and worked in the UK over the last 16 years. She completed her MA in Radio from Goldsmith’s college and worked freelance for BBC, NHK (Japanese National TV) as well as various print publications. She kept a post as the correspondent for National Broadcasting Corporation in Iceland for 6 years before working in the music industry. Music management was an unexpected u-turn which develped from her job as an assistant producer of 5 part documentary series on Iceland for NHK. She had chosen female rock band Bellatrix to participate in a programme on culture and later became their world wide manager landing them initially a deal with Global Warming and then Fierce Panda through their set up with Korda Marshall at Infectious Records. Anna Hildur later set up the UK branch of Smekkleysa SM Ltd. and managed the company setting up world wide distribution for physical and digital products. Along side that she has been the PR and marketing manager for Iceland Airwaves in Europe working for Mr. Destiny and Icelandair.

New website of the band Skátar

Skátar (Boy Scouts) are constructing a new website: http://www.skatar.net/
MySpace: www.myspace.com/skatar

On the picture with Elli (left) of Jeff Who? and Ghostigital

mánudagur, júlí 09, 2007

Sigur Ros Video by NiHiLi for Hafsól

Sigur Ros Video by a fan for "Hafsól"
A video made by NiHiLi

Sigur Ros @ the Movies: The Invasion

Song "Untitled #8 (Pop Song)" of Sigur Ros used in the movie The Invasion with Nicole Kidman

The Invasion tells the story of a mysterious epidemic that alters the behavior of human beings. When a Washington D.C. psychiatrist (Nicole Kidman) discovers the epidemic’s origins are extraterrestrial, she must fight to protect her son, who may hold the key to stopping the escalating invasion.
This movie is a remake of the movie "Bodie Snatchers" (1993).

föstudagur, júlí 06, 2007

The Musical impact of 3 Icelandic movies

Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir
Issue 9, June 29, 2007

In the early 90’s, a couple of young directors made very popular movies that were intertwined with the Icelandic music scene at the time. The birth of pop-culture movies was a much needed one. Before the 90’s, Icelandic cinema was ridden with thrillers and comedies, some of them very accomplished and true to the barren nature of Icelandic art. Others where full of clichés and had no real impact on young movie makers of the era. Social stipulations called for new forms of expression. Remember, it was the time of Oliver Stone’s music driven epics, and singers like Madonna who challenged people with picturesque music videos and electronic music, that was winning over Europe. Audiences were heavily influenced with the combination of music and pictures, birth of new music movements, and were ready to take on the pop-cultural crossovers that lay ahead.

Icelanders are extremely influenced by American culture and Hollywood cinema is no exception, but in the early 90s there was no Tarantino to lead the way. Young Icelandic directors had nothing to loose – no standard had been set for movies that combined music and cinema in the fashion most western audiences are used to now. But the independent movie industry was growing and Icelanders were a part of the new atmosphere that was being created.
Veggfóður: Erótísk ástarsaga (1992)
Veggfóður: Erótísk ástarsaga (Wallpaper: An Erotic Love Story) came out in 1992 and became extremely popular, even though the movie was not particularly good and the director placed the strongest actors in supporting roles. The story is about a country girl, an aspiring musician who comes to the city looking for opportunities. She starts working in a bar and meets a few men who impact her life dramatically. The lead actress, Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir, was a part of the band Pís of keik (Peace of Cake) and the band is featured prominently in the movie. They are the band she’s looking to join and their music is used in several scenes.
Pís of keik was an electronic band, inspired by the growing house music scene of the era. The music can hardly be called innovative but it has its moments – musically they are decent but it’s the disturbingly bad Madonna imitations of their lead singer that kills any hope of the personality she might have had. The funny thing is the fact that Ingibjörg does have a voice but she probably didn’t have a clue how to use it or exercise it properly.

The movie features three giants of Icelandic music of the nineties: Sálin hans Jóns míns, Todmobile and Síðan skein sól. Each provide one song and are a strong reminder of the leading influences in domestic pop at the time. Of course there were other bands making waves, nevertheless these three were the biggest acts – and to some they still are.
Sódóma Reykjavík (1992)
Only two months after the premiere of Veggfóður, Sódóma Reykjavík came out. The movie was called Remote Control in English and has become a classic in Iceland. The plot is simple; it revolves around a young mechanic, Axel, and his quest for his mother’s remote control. The movie is funny because Axel is a social looser who is stuck with his hard partying sister outside of his element. Some of the greatest moments in Icelandic cinema are in this film, but what’s also interesting is the fact that some of the greatest moments of Icelandic music are also there.

The metal band Ham are prominent. Sigurjón Kjartansson, the leader of the band, plays a big role in the movie as well as performing with his band. Ham was an exceptionally popular group and when the movie came out they were one of the biggest underground bands in the country. Their song, Partýbær, from the movie is one of the most recognizable songs in Icelandic rock – one that any self-respecting music enthusiast knows.

The collaboration between Björk and KK band is also notable. Together they cover the tune “Ó borg, mín borg,” which is an ode to Reykjavík. The leader of KK-band is called KK and has been a prominent figure in the blues scene in the country for years. Björk needs no introduction; she also collaborates with Þórhallur Skúlason on an electro-track named Takk. Þórhallur has been an important force in the Icelandic electric scene and ran the label Thule for a while.

Sódóma Reykjavík’s musical input was far more important than in other pictures before, due to the closeness between the director, Óskar Jónasson, and the rapidly growing underground scene. Almost every artist on the soundtrack is still working, has gained notoriety, and some have become legends. When comparing Sódóma with Veggfóður, from a musical standpoint,
one finds that the similarities aren’t many. Veggfóður is more pop-driven, it’s used as a vehicle to promote a mediocre band while Sódóma’s music is only there to support a film that echoes the mood of its music.
Blossi/810551 (1997)
Júlíus Kemp, the director of Veggfóður, premiered his movie Blossi/810551 in late summer of 1997 (Blossi means a spark or a blitz). The movie is probably one of the worst movies ever made in Iceland. The charm of Veggfóður is gone and the plot, about a guy and a girl escaping a lunatic by going on a road trip, feels embarrassing and unoriginal at best. What’s striking when watching the movie, considering the music, is the fact that it’s somewhat outdated. Cuts from a three-year old Primal Scream album, and Josh Wink’s ’95 hit “Higher State of Consciousness,” feel strange to listen to compared to Quarashi’s “Switchstance” which was comparatively new in years. The Prodigy are featured quite prominently, but the truth is that in 1997 most of their old fan-base was gone and the band could hardly be called pioneering anymore. Also the evil trend of songstresses taking on old disco hits is forced upon the listener with terrible results.

What’s interesting to see when the credit list rolls is the fact that many Icelandic artists contributed to the movie. Bang Gang, Botnleðja, Maus, Quarashi, Súrefni and many others participated in what can only be called a movie about nothing. Blossi presents variety of domestic music but not very prominently, with the exception of Quarashi. When it comes to representing foreign artists, it misses the point so badly one wonders how terrible can a music supervisor get before he or she is fired?

From ’92 to ‘97

The musical landscape grew dramatically between the releases of Veggfóður and Sódóma in ’92, and Blossi in ’97. In the early 90’s, Icelanders were still getting to know electronic music. House-music and Raves were a new thing, but the lack of confidence prevented any serious ventures in that area. In ’97, however, Björk was a world famous artist with two hit albums and we had all the confidence in the world to help us grow faster. The presence of electronic music was now stable and anyone who wanted to play it had audience. If Blossi had been a good movie it would’ve presented this atmosphere in music at end of the century – especially since it’s so influenced by Quentin Tarantino. Veggfóður is kind of childish and doesn’t tackle its music seriously enough to realize that the main band of the movie is inadequate. Sódóma Reykjavík is, on the other hand, golden. Everything about that movie is solid and the best part is, as stated before, the fact that it holds some of the most profound moments of Icelandic culture.
Source: www.grapevine.is

fimmtudagur, júlí 05, 2007

Björk @ Glastonbury Festival (2007)

Björk @ Glastonbury Festival 2007
"Earth Intruders"

"Declare independence"

"Army of me"



"Pagan poetry"

"All is full of love"



"Venus as a boy"



"I miss you"

Bang Gang goes Japan

Bang Gang
by Dan Grunebaum

There’s more to Iceland than Björk or even Sigur Ros, says Bardi Johannsson on his first visit to Japan.

“You can pronounce Bang Gang like you want. Whatever makes you happy,” offers Bardi Johannsson casually. I’m in a vast conference room at Universal Records, interviewing Johannsson about his unit Bang Gang’s forthcoming first release in Japan. Johannsson is here for a concert at the Aichi Expo, and his local record label ICELANDia has organized a day of publicity in Tokyo with the help of distributor Universal.

Created as a “surf band for the Arctic Ocean” by Johannsson and a friend in high school, Bang Gang became a one-man rock-tronica production unit when Johannsson, later asked to contribute some tracks to a compilation, couldn’t come up with a better name.

Bang Gang first came to attention in 1998 when one of those singles, “Sleep” was noticed by Warner’s East-West imprint in France. A further single, “So Alone?,” became an MTV hit in Europe, leading to the release of Johannsson’s debut album.

Like many Icelandic artists, Johannsson has had to set his sights on a worldwide market from the start. “It’s impossible to make a living in Iceland unless you make shitty records that sell a lot domestically. That’s why we have separate pop and indie scenes, because the pop crowd just thinks about selling records, they don’t think about how they feel when they’re making the music. But there are only 350,000 people, so why try to make some shitty music just to sell 8-12,000 records in Iceland?”

Needless to say, Johannsson puts himself firmly in the indie camp, which he describes as small but cooperative. “The indie people are the ones selling either 50 records in Iceland or a lot abroad, like Sigur Ros.”

But Johannsson’s indie leanings don’t mean his music is inaccessible. On the contrary, his new album Something Wrong is full of simple, striking melodies and hypnotic electronic beats, made doubly approachable by the presence of a number of come-hither female sirens.

For the first time, the album also saw Johannsson stepping up to the mike himself. “I was singing on the demos, and everyone said I should just sing it myself. But some of the songs I thought would sound better with a female voice, so either I had to cut off my balls—but that would create a problem because when I have to sing with a lower voice, I’d have to sew them back on; I would need testicles that I could plug in like a microphone—or just have a female singer. I decided that would be easier.”

Johannsson’s longtime contributor, the enticing singer-actress Esther Talia Casey, remains a force on the new album. She sings on two tracks, including the forebodingly seductive title song, in which she coos, “Can you feel what is wrong? Can you do what you want?,” and answers, accompanied by sexual sighings and evilly acidic guitars, “I can feel what is wrong. I can do what you want.”

Pressed on the meaning of his lyrics, Johannsson is reticent. “I don’t want to explain them. It’s for me to write and you to understand. I have my way of understanding and I’ve never wanted to talk about it—and it’s not fair to some people.”

Since he’s not fo rthcoming, it’s impossible to know exactly what Johannsson is getting at. But it’s clear that he hasn’t shied away from controversy in his career as a musician and video producer. “I produced and co-wrote the first Icelandic erotic show,” he boasts. “It was hard to get people to be in the show because everyone knows everyone.” The program, he says, became the highest rated on its TV channel.

The moodiness of Something Wrong is also a product of Iceland’s dark climate and Johannsson’s nocturnal lifestyle. “It fucks up your head a bit. But I go to sleep at six in the morning anyways. Sometimes I don’t even notice the difference between the seasons because I stay inside too much.

Iceland’s violent history is also in the background. “The Icelandic sagas are very rock’n’roll—very brutal and nice,” he says without a trace of irony. “This is what we are raised with—and drinking some stuff and vomiting in someone ’s face and pulling out his eye.”

But don’t expect Johannsson to call on Icelandic tradition in his songs anytime soon. “If you have a fetish, you might like it. But for me it’s like bad rap. I like the guy who does it with Sigur Ros, but you can like the guy and not like what he’s doing.”

Something Wrong is available on Alljos Entertainment’s ICELANDia Records, which is releasing a number of albums by Icelandic artists previously unavailable in Japan.