It’s Reykjavík! It’s Wednesday Night! It’s Iceland Airwaves! And that means it’s time to party on down to Faktorý where we’re going to be blowing those hinges off baby! Djamm í kvöld!
Well ok, the night didn´t really start off like that. When we arrived downstairs at Faktorý, DJ AnDre had started playing to around eleven people, several of whom were other artists and assorted tech guys. He played some downtempo ambient music that picked up after a while to include some dub beat elements. It was pleasant enough to listen to, if not wholly spectacular. It was music that you really wanted to listen to while chilling out on a Sunday afternoon. Not that DJ AnDre minded too much. He was silently grooving away to himself, eyes closed while the bar got heavily doused in dry ice. ‘Do all the DJ’s in Iceland wear suit jackets and cardigans?’, asks my brother. Not all of them I reply.
We were expecting Fu Kaisha to start, but instead we got Trouble. No, that’s her name, Trouble (see what I did there? Man I crack myself up at times!). Anyway, Trouble started off her set with a collage of cracking, scraping and creaking noises, which she augmented with the use of a guitar and string bow. It all came wrapped up with heavy bass drones that could crack ice flows. It all sounded really good, pure head music. However, as much as I tried to zone out and take it all in, I just found that there were too many distractions going on around me. And herein lied the fatal flaw. It’s music that really works best in a highly controlled physical and visual environment where you can completely immerse yourself in the sound. And you couldn’t really do that in this venue. The display of images and movies being shown on a small screen next to her wasn’t adding that much to the experience either. I suppose that’s the compromise you have to have when playing at Airwaves.
It was a similar problem with the next act, Jafet Melge. Looking all the part like a sinister pony tailed science teacher, he started off with the sounds of running water, which not a lot of people notice at first. After about 20 minutes of oscillating cries and loud ambient sounds you couldn’t quite place, a real detectable rhythm began to emerge. It all felt like the synth burblings you’d get from the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never. Behind him I noticed images of Iceland volcanic eruptions being played backwards and forwards. You can tell he wanted to take you on a journey, but it wasn’t happening for me alas.
On a separate note: Why the fuck do all the toilets smell of lamb fat?
After an hour and a bit of ambient head music, the place really needed a bit of metaphorical kick up the arse energy-wise. And cometh the hour, cometh the man with the beats in the form of Fu Kaisha. What at first looked like a cancellation was actually a rather smart move in changing around the night’s roster. And the difference from what happened before was immense. His old school rave rhythms and squiddling, squelchy 303-style synth sounds sparked life into everyone in the bar, including us. For most of the set, you managed to forget yourself and get on down with the dancing. Which is what I did, like an idiot. Fu Kaisha, I salute your efforts and your arse kicking music.
Now that the place is finally beginning to buzz, the place starts filling up for the next act, Krummi. There seemed to be a fair amount of interest in what was going to happen from an artist who is slowly becoming the Icelandic version of Will Eisold (a man who also made his name in the US hardcore punk scene, but went on to pretty much piss off his old fanbase by playing synth music with his band Cold Cave). There was certainly no swaggering persona that you’d have expected from the old Krummi. Instead what we got was a man who was poised, but still emanated an almost glinting intensity. He played his best known track, Broken Clock, which got people’s heads nodding in agreement. But if everyone was expecting a set full of slightly melancholy synth pop, they were in for a shock as the rest of his set was filled with gnashing growls, cadmium synths and shimmering guitars. It was actually pure post rock of the medicinal kind. Despite the slowdown in tempo, I actually rather liked it. It was certainly good to see an artist stretching themselves into new areas and not suck at it. I don’t know about his maraca playing style though.
By now we’re at the stage in the evening’s proceedings where people really needed to get loose and party hard. But that’s not what we’re getting with Beatmakin Troopa. People say that he plays instrumental hip hop, but I’m not really getting the hip hop part of it personally. It’s wasn’t bad music to listen to as such. Lots of electronic downtempo beats, accompanied with a range sounds ranging from piano to steel drums. But you look around the bar and most people are milling around and chatting to each other. We need to be all UP UP UP! instead of swaying around gently.
With Yagya, people are looking to dance to his dub storm house, but it wasn’t until vocals started coming through his tracks that people were able to latch onto the music and hive off some of its energy. Yagya did make some good noises, but even at this stage of the game we all seemed to be on cruise control. My brother, at the sight of all this, decided to try to liven things up with his special brand or ravey dancing to get everyone going. He didn’t quite pull it off (he knocked several drinks over at one point), but a million points for effort!
At the end of Yagya’s set, there’s a nice woman standing next to me at the bar. She’s clutching Animalog, the latest album from our next artist, Bix. “Yeah man, Bix! He’s such a fucking great artist!” she enthuses to me.
And bloody hell, she wasn’t wrong! Straight from the off, his set pissed fire and crapped thunder as he threw out hardened electro B-beats with spectacularly queasy bass lines that made you feel you were on a ship during a particularly bad storm. It was all simple stuff, but surprisingly effective. He also got massive props for remembering that it does help to put on a show for the crows at times. Said show was provided by his ‘posse’, who leapt into the crowd with sinister looking animal marks (rabbit, pig, frog, eagle, etc) along with a guy sporting a video camera and a mandrill mask. It was a bit like Jacobs Ladder mixed with Animal Farm. I certainly hope no one was tripping balls to this as they would have had some rather nasty dreams later on. But who cares? The place in now finally pumping with people getting their sweaty thang on. CHOOON!
We eventually leave Faktorý near the stroke at 1am in higher spirits that we expected. Overall the night wasn’t not too bad an experience. There was plenty of good old fashioned fist pumping music, but there was also wildly differing energy levels that weren’t helped by the limitations of the venue.
First night, done. Bring it on!