Grapevine Airwaves 2013

November 3, 2013

Like Sticking Your Head In Warm Ambient Goo – Harlem Pt. 1

slow magic

Music Overview

  • Artists: ARNI², Þóranna Dögg Björnsdottir AKA Trouble, Kajak, Slow Magic
  • Venue:  harlem
  • Time:  Saturday
  • The Good:  Some wonderful ambient-based electronica on both sides of the spectrum. Slow Magic worked up some real fun energy
  • The Bad:  Kajak are enough to make you lose faith in the human race
  • Reviewed by: Bob Cluness
  • Photo: Alexander Matukhno


Fresh from their blistering set last night (where they apparently played nowt but banging hardcore techno), Árni Grétar and Árni Vector decided to take a different tack this evening by playing a mostly ambient style of music. Starting softly, they mixed in all manner of aural sources, from the birdsong of field recordings, the ghostly whispers of radio signals and the hum of modern machinery in the countryside. To all of this, the stretched cello drones of Veroníque Vaka Jacques added some tension and steel to the music. For a stiff-assed Brit like myself who was brought up on the electric eden ambient sounds of Aphex Twin and The Orb, this was seriously pushing my buttons.

At several moments, their music reminded me of a mix between YOU ARE LISTENING TO LOS ANGELES (A site that pairs haunting ambient music with radio dispatches from the Los Angeles Police Department), the post-rave output from Mordant Music, and the “singing wire” work of Scots composer Alan Lamb. It was definitely a soothing and immersive start to the evening’s events and was very much welcomed by all of us who were looking for something a little different than the usual fare.

Þóranna Dögg Björnsdottir AKA Trouble

When I reviewed ÞÓRANNA DÖGG BJÖRNSDÓTTIR at Airwaves a couple of years ago, I remarked on how the quality of her soundscapes was let down by the venue’s poor PA and everyone talking over her music. Tonight though, with a much more powerful soundsystem, there was no trouble of not being able to concentrate on her performance. Again playing a decidedly different set to her performance at the Yatra Arts showcase on Wednesday, the music was commanding and foreboding. Starting off like the opening soundtrack to the film Alien, complete with tumbling note samples from prepared instruments, it then mutated and morphed into a barrage of neo-industrial throbs and booms, and martial Shakespearean ranting  that resembled the likes of Lustmord and Ain Soph. It was truly dark and twisted stuff, And those who stayed to listen got a real workout for their brains and ears. I for one rather enjoyed it.


KAJAK sucked the sweat off a dead man’s balls. They were possibly one of the worst acts I’ve seen at Airwaves for quite a while, and for a person who has seen some truly execrable stuff in his time, that says something. But don’t take my word for it. All you had to do was look at the faces of the poor bar staff who, for the duration of Kajak’s set, looked truly aghast as if someone had taken a puppy and shot it in the face before their very eyes. Playing a horribly strangulated form of electro pop, their vocals were terrible and off key, singing bullshit bombastic lyrics such as “We are the kids that rule, always and forever.” Possibly the product of some unholy psy-ops project from Verzló, their songs and stage presence displayed bugger all groove, wit, or soul. Put it this way – they made RetRoBot sound good. That is all.


There is a legend that, thousands of years ago, on an earth-like planet in a star system far far away, the lifeless body of the last Decepticon Megatron crashed from the skies. Found by local tribesmen, they revered him as a fallen god and would wear multi-coloured masks based on his likeness. Over countless generations, these tribesmen managed to reverse engineer the technology hidden in Megatron’s body, creating such fantastical tools as the Ab-Le-Ton and the Launch-Pad that allowed them to make strange, bewitching music. Finally acquiring the ability of interstellar travel, they sent their young champion SLOW MAGIC to conquer the stars with his music weapons and blistering floor tribalistic rhythms.

Going from place to place and taking over our world one piece at a time, he found himself in Iceland last night, where he managed to work the crowd up into a righteous frenzy. It was especially interesting to see how this shaman used his instruments, such as throwing his hardware around like it was a hot brick, or when he changed the stretch of the floor tom during his songs to change the sound before leaping into the audience with it. Despite the actual electronic parts of the music being a little derivative (Standard Ibiza trance sounds, glo-fi fart synths etc), he managed to compensate for this by the sheer manic energy and love he was giving out to the audience, which was lapped up in return. Exactly what we needed at that moment in time. A job well done from the masked alien witch doctor.


About the Author

Bob Cluness
Bob Cluness
Did you know that Bob Cluness was raised by wolves in a Sanctuary in Finland? And that Billy Connolly is his real dad? That when he was 16, he invented the @ symbol? And that it was actually him who wrote the song "Svefn G- Englar," while on an absinthe binge in Selfoss? Actually neither does he. We keep having to re-programme his brain to ensure that he never finds out the horrible truth. To keep him sedated, we shove him in the corner of the Grapevine offices and feed him raw lamb and I Adapt CDs. We also give him a blog for him to write down his incessant babble. Don't approach him if spotted. Call the police if you do come across him on Laugavegur.


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *