Grapevine Airwaves 2013

November 3, 2013

Different Flavours Of Electronic

vök

Music Overview

VÖK

Vök is a young band, formed only earlier this year. Already within that short time they’ve managed to win the prestigious Icelandic battle of the bands, Músíktilraunir, after which they recorded and released an EP on Records Records.

Vök instantly recall previous Músíktilraunir winner, Samaris. In a way Samaris provide the framework, particularly in their setup and the way in which their beats are topped alternatingly by breathy vocals and ambient sax lines (taking the place of Samaris’ clarinet). Compared to Samaris, Vök’s The Knife influences are a bit more pronounced, particularly in the vocal affectations and much of the melodic sense. It would be unfair though to describe them as a The Knife or Samaris clone. Vök are decidedly not as dark. Guitar plays a prominent role in their sound, placing them a bit more in the realm of indie-electro. The smooth sax combined with MIDI-sounding beats–especially with their frequent use of sequenced 16th notes on the hi-hats–gives a sort of ’90s R’n’B flavor to the mix.

Vök recently added a second guitarist to the mix. The playing is delay-drenched, incessant, and aimless. It doesn’t work to counter-point or accent the compositions. So while it could work to set them apart, I think it just doesn’t work at all, at least as of yet.

There are a lot of disparate elements at play in Vök’s sound that often sound like they are fighting each other rather than complementing each other. Given that they’ve only been around for a few months it would be unreasonable to expect all these things to be worked out already. It often takes bands years before everything starts to click into place. It’s better for a young band to take risks and explore than to try to be perfect, so by all means let them mess around with the delay pedal. Vök have a lot going for them, though. They have some strong songs. The singer has strong character (even if it isn’t necessarily her own yet).  I look forward to following them as they find their own voice and hone their sound and dynamic.

BYRTA

A couple years ago I played at the same show as Guðrið Hansdóttir at Barbara. She was then a reserved singer-songwriter playing a tender acoustic guitar and singing in beautiful Faroese. So I was taken a bit by surprise when I saw her walk on stage, now reinvented as a pop star.

Much like Vök, we again have a group comprised of a singer, a guitarist, and a laptop DJ (none other than Rasmus of Bloodgroup), but that’s where the comparison ends.

Byrta‘s stage presence was amazing. They all wore white traditional robes, replete with tassels, and they bobbed, swayed, and danced with the music, making their performance quite a lively spectacle. Apparently their reputation precedes them. The venue quickly packed to the brim. Within the first few notes, every song received an ecstatic applause of recognition. After the first song a chorus of three white-robed and masked back-up singers entered the back of the stage, harmonizing and counter-pointing beautifully with the lead melodies. Their choreographed dance moves reminded me of The Temptations — smooth and showman-like.

The music was of course electronic-based, but with demonstrated live control. Much like Bloodgroup, Byrta’s synth sounds were moody and dark, but other than that Byrta is an entirely different monster. Their songs had pronouncedly groovier and more up-beat twists. One song even featured a clap-along breakdown and whoa-whoa chorus. This is maybe a stretch, but think The Knife crossed with Ace of Base.

Byrta was a pleasant surprise, as they are a quite spectacle that absolutely must be seen live.

KIPPI KANINUS

Apparently having interesting collaborations and an all-star backing band isn’t enough to draw a crowd. The room went from packed for Byrta to sparse for Kippi Kaninus. Kippi also performs with Amiina and Pétur Ben. His backing band features members of múm, The Sugarcubes and Þeyr, Mugison, and I won’t even try to list all the bands Maggi the drummer is in. Kippi is an experimental laptop musician, so understandably his music is not everybody’s cup of tea.

The set started with a cacophonous low rumble, which was then joined by a symphony of oscillators. The rhythm section provided peculiar and syncopated grooves that served to drive the songs, and were augmented by beats from the laptop. Ascending dark horn lines contrasted against Raymond Scott sequenced bleeps. The songs often had a relentless building intensity. With their jarring, ominous and bombastic tones, these songs would suit well as the score to a war film.

SUN GLITTERS

Sun Glitters is a one-man laptop DJ act. The name is fairly evocative of his sound. A wash of lo-fi pulsing pads and overdriven shimmering synths over throbbing bass and beats evoked how awesome and essentially terrifying the sun is. After a long day it was nice to sit down for a moment and space out to. People were dancing to it as well, and the room started to fill up a bit again.

CAPTAIN FUFANU

I’d seen Captain Fufanu the day before as well (see my review). I wish they’d gotten assigned a different reviewer this night, because I’d be super curious to hear somebody else’s take. This band is hard to place.

Since yesterday they’d added another member performing behind a table of electronics. I’m not sure if it was the sound system, the ambiance of the basement, or the added another member, but they kicked it up a notch in intensity. They delivered with a monomaniacal energy I associate with goth or post-punk bands such as Bauhaus or Joy Division, but a bit more quirk.



About the Author

Þórir Bogason
Þórir Bogason
Þórir grew up in California, but has lived in Reykjavík for most of the past four years. He is himself a hack musician who was not chosen to perform at this year's Iceland Airwaves festival. His band's latest album is called Cupid Makes a Fool of Me and can be purchased at any record shop in downtown Reykjavík and can be streamed here: http://justanothersnakecult.bandcamp.com/




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