Iceland Music Export presents Made in Iceland CD release and YAIC Music Conference coinciding with 10th anniversary of Iceland Airwaves Festival, October 15th-18th in Reykjavik, featuring the most eclectic up-and-coming talent of the Iceland music spectrum!
Iceland delivers a plethora of the coolest musical landmarks for the biggest, bangin’ end to the year 2008!
"It's hard to believe anything with a beat could grow in a landscape as otherworldly and physically inhospitable as that of Iceland. Mother Nature, in all her harshest majesty, is the headline act here. She is not easily upstaged. Nevertheless, in a small rehearsal space on a snowy, windblown side street in central Reykjavik, a local band called the Sugarcubes is busy proving that rock & roll is not only alive and well here but mutating into shapes as odd and wondrous as the geologist's paradise outside." David Fricke, Rolling Stone, July 1988.
The above is how David Fricke summed up the experience of his first visit to Iceland in Rolling Stone magazine, exactly 20 years ago. The Sugarcubes were the initial band to plant the seeds for an ever-changing environment of growth and creativity in the Icelandic music scene; cultivating and inspiring the brightest of artists since their debut.
The Icelandic music scene has flourished ever since and has repeatedly hit the headlines of Rolling Stone and other world-class media. The success and profile of Icelandic music has continued to amplify with the likes of Björk, Sigur Rós and a growing number of fresh-faced Icelandic artists touring the world and contributing to the international scene. Music enthusiasts, encircling all parts of the globe, flock to events such as the Iceland Airwaves Festival to discover the latest exports in the sonic melting pot that is the Icelandic music scene.
The creative forces that characterize the Icelandic music are ceaselessly vibrant, yet ever-evolving. The Made in Iceland project showcases 15 of the key Icelandic artists who have captivated audiences in their native homeland and also audiences all of over the world. Iceland Music Export is not only an all-inclusive plethora of information on Icelandic Music, but it is a marketing and business office as well. We are grateful and proud to present some of the brightest new talent and greatest ambassadors of Icelandic music. For more information visit www.icelandmusic.is
The tall Icelandic man that plays under the alias Bang Gang is just as diverse as the northern country itself. Bardi Johannsson’s cohesion between his soft acoustic melodies and his daring electronica explorations directly reflect the contrasting landscapes of his native land; where lustrous geysers and incautious volcanoes live enharmonic with one another. Bang Gang’s 2000 début, "You", was met with great fanfare and critical revelry, while the follow-up, 2003’s "Something Wrong", cemented his artistic and commercial success. Bang Gang’s third full-length, "Ghosts from the Past", is currently being released in various markets worldwide and is, according to early reviews, already a strong contender for album of the year.
The diverse yet precise arrangements on the record certainly wet the mouths of industry professionals and common music fans alike; and his talent most certainly does not go unappreciated in his beautiful homeland, as he closed the Arts Festival of Reykjavik that occurred in June, with the help of the Icelandic symphony orchestra and singer Keren Ann. His new album hit the French Itunes top 10 upon release.
Ólafur Arnalds may only be 21 years old, but that doesn’t make him any less of a revolutionary than his fellow Icelandic musicians. His chilling piano sounds, supplemented by panning white noise effects, expedite the ability to send his audiences on a journey into their nostalgic subconscious; immersing them in a ghostly symphonic cloud. His debut "Eulogy for Evolution" takes the listener on a journey, representing different periods in life, from birth to death. The follow-up EP "Variations of Static" keeps the classical foundations of his debut album while incorporating crackling electronics and the dead voice of a machine; like vague memories of tradition lost within the digital age we all live in.
Fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós asked Ólafur to open some of their European shows in mid August, before he will embark on a full UK tour in October and return to Iceland in November to record his second full-length album. Olafur has currently started his US campaign and his debut album entered the CMJ Top 200 radio charts at #111. Over 100 US and Canada radio stations are already playing songs from “Eulogy for Evolution”.
“Iceland’s Best New Export”- Clash Magazine
"Marching bands of Manchattan" @ 't Smiskes venue @ Asse, Belgium (2007)
Seabear’s enchanting melodies and soft-spoken aesthetic has brought the band great levels of success since its inception as a solo project for founder Sindri Már Sigfússon. Just one listen of any track off of their first debut album, The Ghost that Carried Us Away (2008 Morr Music), will have you hooked on their sentimentally nostalgic, and almost vaudeville-like acoustic masterpieces for months to come. The seven-piece Icelandic act has created international buzz everywhere with their candied guitar licks and soaring violins; as the Tripwire even calls them, “some of the best folk-pop you'll ever hear.” The Ghost that Carried Us Away is Seabear’s brilliant follow-up to their 2004 EP, "Singing Arc", which was recorded solely by Sindri in his basement and is available for full download on their website.
Still touring on the strength of Ghosts, Seabear is already rehearsing material for their follow up full-length, while Sindri Már keeps the creative juices flowing by scoring documentaries and his new solo project, Sin Fang Bous (LP forthcoming via Morr Music in early 2009).
Already widely accepted as a legendary Icelandic sensation, Borko’s musical creations are traditional and innovative, yet primitive at the same time. His mixture of electronic loops and primordial bongo beats is dashingly refreshing in an era of repetitive, generic musical identities. Borko, who is signed to German label Morr Music, has also written and performed music for theatre and modern dance. He brings together melancholy and rhythm-machines in a unique way, playing on his passion for the repetitive and altogether explosive enthusiasm. It is a scintillating blend.
His second full-length album, "Celebrating Life", has already received international critical acclaim and is being sold in record stores all over the world. Borko will be embarking on a full European tour with Icelandic folk-pop band, Seabear, this October.
Think Dragonforce meets Iron Maiden meets old-school Avenged Sevenfold, and you might be halfway there to describing the masterful straight-up rock ‘n roll quintet, Sign. The band plays direct, unpretentious rock songs, under laid with driving and emotive riffs and the distinctive powerful voice of Zolberg. Produced by the band itself, Sign’s full-length “The Hope” sees them take their ambitions to the next level. Songs such as "Moveless" and "Immobilized By Fear" show Sign can not only write a killer hook and riffs which shred like the best, but they are fully cable of writing catchy fist in -the -air choruses that will have you begging for more.
Sign was invited to open the main stage at Download Festival this year, joining fellow rock zealots such as Metallica and Machine Head. The band has also paid homage to Iron Maiden’s best known song, “Run to the Hills.” The cover was released on a Kerrang! Cover mount, Maiden Heaven, and sold over 100,000 copies; resulting in a gold award for Sign and the other participating artists at the recent Kerrang! Awards. “a hungry…power quarter with a powder-keg of damn good original pop-rock hooks to play with and a stunning frontman” – Kerrang
Not only do the foursome collectively known as Steed Lord create 80’s influenced synth-pop at it’s best; they also seem to conjure up their own refreshing brand of club music themselves. M.E.G.A., Kali, Demo and AC Bananas grind out their own genre with finesse. Sporting shamelessly filthy beats, mad melodies, crunk synths and killer hooks, the band’s patented brand of club bangers coupled with their clear creative vision (they recently designed prints for H&M retail which sold out last fall in over 52 countries) make up a unique experience.
Even without a full album out in stores yet, the band has already played shows all around Europe and the US, and has been remixed by legends like DJ Mehdi, Crookers, Mano & DJ Klever. The band has been asked to tour with Brit MC sensation, M.I.A, and have played alongside bands such as Chromeo and Does It Offend You, Yeah? And with more live shows, the long-awaited debut album and even a clothing line on the way, you can bet your ass that Steed Lord are unstoppable.
The fun-loving hedonists in Reykjavik! are without a doubt one of Iceland’s most eclectic and powerful additions to music. This collective six member act of philosophy majors, shopmongers and social workers stands out in a rock scene dominated by testosterone and various hipsterati. Singer Bóas provides a friendly atmosphere, drummer Kristján supplies a steady, rocking beat, bassist Valdi gets with the dementia and the twin-guitar assault of cousins Haukur and Gummi smears icing on an already overloaded cacophonous cake.
The band’s 2006 debut album, "Glacial Landscapes, Religion, Oppression and Alcohol" was nominated for the Icelandic Music Awards as ‘Rock album of 2006’ and was actually selected ‘Album of 2006’ in two separate critic-polls. Their latest EP, “Dirty weekend with Reykjavik!” is Blood Brothers meets The Clash, and has gained them international success. Riding on the success of both musical efforts, Reykjavik! has played shows and festivals all over the world, including SXSW, MiDEM, Eurosonic, and Spot.
Reykjavík! is currently working on a follow-up LP with renowned noise master, Ben Frost, while continuing to dazzle audiences with their live performances and top every critic’s poll in sight.
“Reykjavík! were an immense fireball, a sickeningly brilliant reconstruction of modern rock so majestic and pure that it was difficult to watch and even harder to describe.’ - Sindri Eldon, Reykjavík Grapevine
Icelandic folk singer Ólöf Arnalds has been a prominent figure within her native music scene spending the past few years as an active member of múm. However it was her solo debut, "Vid og Vid" that garnered "Best Album of 2007" accolades from her country's top newspaper Morgunbladid - beating out Björk and múm among others, while also earning "Best Alternative Album" at the Icelandic Music Awards. In June 2008 Ólöf played with Björk and Sigur Rós at Iceland's Náttúra concert. In July she opened for Björk in Athens, Greece. In October, Ólöf will become the first Icelandic musician to play a prestigious showcase slot at WOMEX, the world music expo. Her haunting guitar accompaniment and folksy, yet almost opera reminiscent voice, are sure to please the ears and calm even the rowdiest of souls. She is currently working on songs for her second album.
Iceland's FM Belfast started out as a duo at Christmas 2005 when Árni R. Hlödversson and Loa H. Hjalmtysdottir made a song as a present for their friends. Upon realization that their beautifully synthetic vocal arrangements and their catchy-as-all-hell beats prevented their mates from leaving the dance floor, they completed the line-up with Arni Vilhjalmsson and Örvar Th. Smarason and officially commenced as a band in early 2006. That October, they played their first full concert at the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik.
This year, the group hit the road playing festivals all over Europe and the U.S, garnering universal praise. The Austin Chronicle listed them as one of the bands to watch at SxSW and the Denver Post named them one of the top 10 new finds at SxSW. Spin Magazine caught on and made them Artist Of The Day on the first day of Spring. The band has just completed their debut album, how to make friends, to be released this fall.
Benny Crespo’s Gang
The less than modest Reykjavik band, Benny Crespo’s Gang, is without a doubt one of the most interesting bands based out of Iceland; as their dynamic mixture of over the top hard rock and eerie synth powered lullabies is truly unique and haunting. Their self-titled 2007 debut has boggled the minds of Icelanders and foreigners alike with its stunning hardcore trip-hop brilliance, and has received critical acclaim all over the world. Their legendary live shows have consistently made new fans out of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, and their much-hyped performances at the Iceland Airwaves and Aldrei fór ég suður festivals have earned them fans from all over the world.
The band, which has been compared to alt-legends such as Blonde Redhead and At the Drive In, is currently plotting further steps towards world domination and plan to tour the world extensively.
"As far as I'm concerned, the race for the Icelandic Album of the Year was over the day Benny Crespo's Gang ended a three-year recording process and released their self-titled debut."- Grapevine (Reykjavík's English Language Magazine) - Sveinn Birkir Björnsson
Hjaltalín are Iceland's newest about-to-be export. With eight members, it's difficult to determine whether they should be called a small orchestra, a mutated, overgrown rock band or something else entirely. Nominated for five Icelandic Music Awards last March, they went on to win the ‘Best Songwriter’ and ‘Brightest Hope’ categories. In their homeland, they have played with artists such as Akron/Family, Annuals, and Bloc Party; and their uniqueness has solidified a dedicated fanbase not just in Iceland but all over the world.
Hjaltalín is as promising as any of the other beautiful and eclectic artists the geyser-filled island land has presented to the world. Their debut album "Sleepdrunk Seasons", released to great acclaim in Iceland last December, was produced by Benni Hemm Hemm and Gunni Tynes of múm. The album is due for imminent Scandinavian-wide release and will hit the UK and the rest of Europe on October 6th.
Emiliana Torrini is anything but the typical power-chord playing female singer/songwriter. Her inventive style of songwriting shines through in her latest EP release, "Me and Armini", as each song differs so much from the previous, it is amazing to think it is the same young girl with the same voice that is sometimes haunting and sometimes cheerful and bubbly. Following on from her critically acclaimed sets "Love In The Time Of Science" and "Fisherman's Woman", long time producer / collaborator Dan Carey’s work can be seen on the tracklisting. The resulting album is a hugely ambitious and aspirational pop record with Emilíana’s soaring voice centre stage, bolstered by a rich gamut of musical styles.
The pedigree paring of Emiliana's song writing and Carey's sonic alchemy previously combined to world-beating effect when they co-wrote / produced "Slow" for Kylie Minogue, and individually when Emilíana sang "Gollum’s Song" on the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack. Suffice to say their latest offspring already looks destined to top 2008 year-end lists.
Three years ago, Mugison traded his laptop in for a bass player and a drummer of flesh and blood, cranked the amp and went on a mission. His third album, "Mugiboogie" is driven by the lust for life, love, and sex - a classic rock n´roll album in that sense but yet he manages to surprise and entertain in each song. He spent the good part of 3 years howling in his garage until the songs felt right, felt real and beyond all, felt good. Call him a schizophrenic, call him possessed, a monkey with attention-deficit disorder but make no mistakes - he's on a mission. He promised to give it all he got, to turn his inside out and this is what that sounds like. That thrill ride called “Mugiboogie” has been let loose in Iceland and will debut in the U.S. very soon. Are you ready?
"Icelandic singer-songwriter Mugison already has a reputation abroad for bleak magic, on record and in solo appearances with acoustic guitar and laptop. But in his headlining set at the Art Museum, he came out swinging like a country-blues Led Zeppelin, armed with a muscular backing band of electric bass, pedal steel guitar and cannon-fire drums." - David Fricke - Rolling Stone
Best known for his work as a collaborator and producer Valgeir has for the past decade provided a breeding ground for numerous local and international artists in his Greenhouse Recording Studios in Reykjavik. He stepped forward in 2006 with the launch of boutique label Bedroom Community, in collaboration with composers Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, and released his long due solo album "Ekvílibríum" in September 2007 to great critical acclaim. Valgeir has since toured the world twice over, promoting the record, and is now in the process of writing its follow up. An avid composer, Valgeir has also been confirmed to score the much-anticipated Icelandic film Dreamland.
“Valgeir Sigurðsson is the most welcoming and thoughtful of hosts and, as he leads his companions through various narratives, he orchestrates one of the most exhilarating and perfect records you’ll hear this year.” - The Milk Factory
Sigur Rós, with their immeasurable and unbelievable creativity, have been pushing the boundaries of the already broad Icelandic music spectrum ever since they formed back in 1994. Immense musical masterpieces created by the men in this band, including songs in their own thought-up language, have been accepted and obsessed over by the masses and critics alike. The band quickly became a cult favorite in Iceland with the release of their atmospheric début, "Von", before winning over the whole of the country with follow-up "Ágætis Byrjun" in 1998.
"Ágætis Byrjun" was an instant critical and commercial success in Iceland, and through word of mouth, glowing reviews and perfectly executed shows the band amassed fans all over the world, setting the tone for what was to come. A unique and inventive band in the best sense, Sigur Rós are both Icelandic music’s finest ambassadors and its greatest offspring.