Grapevine Airwaves 2011

October 14, 2011

“Í upphafi var orðið og orðið var hja…”

Crowd at Fríkirkjan, Thursday, by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Music Overview

  • Artists: Kira Kira, Dustin O'Halloran, Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • Venue:  Fríkirkjan
  • Time:  Thursday
  • The Good:  A woman falls in love.
  • The Bad:  Photogs-turned-paparazzi.
  • Reviewed by: a.rawlings
  • Photo: Crowd at Fríkirkjan, Thursday, by Magnús Elvar Jónsson.

A man walks. A man walks in. A church. A man walks into a church. Peeled and scraped iconography clings to an arch.

“Í upphafi var orðið og orðið var hja…”

A man walks in and sits down. Many bodies sit around him. And some bodies stand under an arch and make the most beautiful words in a language not linguistic but sonorous.

Kira Kira stands under an arch with gentlest voice and several bodies. She nods and sways in a mass of arrhythm that rises around her as a boat’s creaking hull. The church sets sail in the huddle, ricochet, and chirp of digits. In Kira Kira’s “Hammer”: clink and brick. The creak and lurch of hull. Notes not quite notes. Fríkirkjan set adrift into the toil and tip of Faxaflói. Float, float away. As her songs progress along the reef: a pulse. Bass a rush past basalt. Melody protracted. Terrifying infinite of minutiae.

Kira Kira’s wild underwater west whirls alive in Welcome High Frequency Spirits United from new album Feather Magnetic (created with Hearts of Gold). Here, she conjures an Atlantis of séance and alterity. One continuous bass note propels with its pitch and pulsation. And hyperdrift: dirty flit into the 4/4 that’s been begging to accompany the bass. Some distant, harboured hint of Portishead, Jorane, Jeff Buckley. Some tint or tryst. A body wants to be pushed to the floor in this bass, simultaneously suspended by strings. And then Áki Ásgeirsson and the clean persistence of trumpet. A man craves for these Airwaves moments, lulled and edged into interconnectivity until full-body blast of yes near set’s end. Truly mature. Truly righteous.

Run aground, the music halts and a man stands. He stands as other bodies stretch and stand around him. A man is us. We sit down.

Dustin O’Halloran on piano and a quartet of three violins and one cello perform the forlorn swan’s migration. In this way, O’Halloran builds music with serious uplift, the needed conversational tonic for today’s overwhelm of overconnectivity. The quintet performs with virtuosic and precise ease.

As an old friend, O’Halloran’s piano tells a story we know but don’t want to know. Songs proceed as we’d anticipate — solemn as they course up and down scales, with satisfying though sad resolutions. The heart builds a necessary narrative of abstract uplift into the solemnity. We could say heartache as easily as habitat degradation. How we focus on our difficult now, with eyes full of shine and compassion. Songs as maps, stories, prophecies. The meditative drift of precision in repetition.

On O’Halloran’s forearm a direction: true. We wish for a fireplace as O’Halloran edges toward the hard light of transcendence.

In the church, all are wed in our interconnected listen. We become a woman. A woman stretches, shifts her body. Other bodies stand and sit before her.

And then Hauschka! Hauschka prepared, with speed! Where O’Halloran lead us on a more anticipated path into our troubled, narrated existences, Hauschka startles with estranged familiarity through a dialogue of click, hammer, tap and cloaked melody. Rattle of antique phonograph rendered in detail unlike any piano you’ve heard before.

Hauschka exchanges warm smiles with percussionist Samuli Kosminen throughout their concert.

Hauschka all body. Samuli an expert with the unexpected. Hauschka’s frenetic, frenzied hands on keys. Samuli’s electro-kalimba aha! Their tight movement changes. Echo. Emphatic chord-play. Echo. Driven, euphoric, detailed, urban, utopic, efficient, complex. Echo. Who knew piano and drum could do so much?

A wave of serious awesome takes over the end of Hauschka’s set. Ping-pong balls leap from Hauschka’s piano body, set to bounce on strings with each key contact. Samuli improvises bang and clink on drums as ping-pong balls leap their joyous game. Photogs-turned-paparazzi crowd the grand piano, pissing off attendees. And still the duo sprints through their set to gift the audience jouissance.

The music is a more humanizing language than any bodies speak — bodies with their lovely, clumsy tongues and folds and air. A woman falls in love. A woman is a man. Standing, ó!

Jóhann Jóhanssson, one-handed, two-handed: firm on keys. On a bed of plugged-in percussionist thunder, the string quartet climbs long ropes of pitch. Warm piano blends with heated string and cool, juxtaposed chime. 7-piece brass section with finite sound joins at set’s end.

Heavy fragility. Fragile depth. Heavenly. The evening’s culmination provides uplift, solemnity, atmosphere, transcendence to deliver the sublime. At the end, music attempts word — good words — to tell about the stars in Jóhann’s world as a man falls in love. Standing, ó!

A man walks out. Out of the church and into the blissful, difficult now. Ó, men!

About the Author

a.rawlings is a poet, arts educator, and interdisciplinary artist who has published and performed work in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her first book, Wide slumber for lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 2006) received an Alcuin Award for Design. In 2009 and 2010, rawlings was the recipient of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, enabling her to develop and present new work in Belgium, Canada, and Iceland. Most recently, she was selected the 2012 Queensland Poet-in-Residence; during her tenure, she spent three months in Australia developing an interdisciplinary project that combines poetry, acoustic ecology, and counter-mapping. She loves in Reykjavík.


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