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Stereo Freeze 10.06

October 6, 2009

The following is the first part of a report from the Réttir, also called the Reykjavík Round-Up, a four-day (first-time) music happening that took place in Reykjavík from September 23rd to the 26th.

Naming this event after the traditional autumnal sheep-gatherings that take place in Iceland, the promoters seemed wary of calling the Réttir a music festival in the usual sense. The four-night program featured over a hundred bands, mostly local, playing at various venues, and it was running in conjunction with the annual Reykjavík International Film Festival and You Are in Control, a music, arts and media festival, both of which are quite prestigious events themselves. As an introduction to the scene here, the Round-Up worked well, as all of the local groups that local folks recommend (and some others that few knew) were playing, and I, having next to no knowledge of many of these groups, was in a perfect position to soak it in and see what’s what.

It was one of those deals where you could buy tickets to certain shows, or buy a bracelet and hit everything. Being that the bands were quite spread out, and the bracelet was a good price, there was little in the way of decision. I do have to say though, that I find these sort of lots-of-bands-playing-short-sets festival things a bit tiring, and running around from show to show to catch bands isn’t the best way to absorb what’s going on. That being said, I had a course plotted out which I actually managed to see through. Most of it was good, some of it not, and all in all it was good preparation for the Iceland Airwaves festival, which will involve more of the same running around. Here then, this time and next, will be some remarks on the bands I saw.

*

The first show I went to was one I’d been looking forward to, featuring Norwegian singer/songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg at a classy café called Rosenberg. I arrived to see opener Lára Rúnarsdóttir, a young singer/songwriter who’s been making a name for herself in the Icelandic scene over the past couple of years. Couldn’t think of much during her set that would set her apart from any number of other pop singer/songwriter acts anywhere else, really, but the songs were bright and there was nothing much to complain about. Not a great review, I know, but this type of thing can come down simply to geography sometimes. There are lots of people doing pretty much the same thing everywhere, and you basically just have to pick the ones you’re going with, you know? Later in the evening, Hanne Hukkelberg played her first show in Reykjavík to an appreciative crowd, and it was fantastic. She’s touring around a bit this fall in support of her third album, Blood From a Stone. Her previous records were based a bit more in plinky sounds and avant approach, but this new one is more rockin’, with lots of riffy guitar and big choruses. She’s retained the quirkiness that’s been her trademark of sorts thus far, but has worked it into a great pop album on this new release, rather than the other way around. She played with a small band and a laptop, and got an impressive sound for the small room. It was a great performance, and it set the bar high for the rest of the shows.

Unfortunately missed the same night: Blood Group, one of the popular local electro outfits, and Jungle Fiction, an apparently excellent local electro combo comprised of three guys who aren’t even old enough to be in the bars they play at. Their recorded stuff sounds like the kind of thing capable of bringing about rapture in sweaty discos on the right nights.

*

The next night, it was off to Sódóma, one of the city’s foremost music venues, to catch some of the local names that I’d been hearing about. Early in the evening, Sudden Weather Change played to a crowd of fans. This band is exploring the North American post-rock/hardcore legacy, taking cues from a number of bands and coming up with their own version of the kit. They sounded good, but, I realised while watching and listening, that I’ve been spoiled by the very best of this kind of music, and that it takes way too much to impress me now. That’s not to sell this group short, however, some of their stuff sounds pretty good, and they’re working with an interesting mix of big and pretty, yelpy and noisy. In the end, I only heard a couple of songs that night, and it wasn’t enough to completely get what they were doing. Looking forward to hearing more of them though.

Later on in the evening I caught a packed performance by one of the better-known Icelandic artists of recent years, Mugison. He’s good at what he does, but I’ve never found his bluesy rock interesting at all. They’d probably run me out of town here for saying that. Anyway, last up before I decided to call it a night was Reykjavík!, who I wanted to like for the name alone, but, just couldn’t get into. Things were off to an alright start by this point, but much of the best stuff was still to come, so, that’s it for now, but check in next time for more groups and the final two days of the Round-Up.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2009 10:45 pm

    Sudden Weather Change remind me a little of a poor man’s Modest Mouse. Is that way off?

    A lot of the other stuff just sounds super weird in my Canadian ears.

    • passerine songs permalink*
      October 8, 2009 1:21 pm

      Poor man’s Modest Mouse, possibly. Admittedly, though, I’ve only heard a handful of Modest Mouse songs.

      And yeah, a lot of the stuff going on here seems weird at first. I think it’s because there aren’t the same industry restrictions and standards here, so there’s little in the way of convention or expectation, both for artists and listeners. Like, people do stuff here that nobody in North America really would, and bands that would be just indie or whatever elsewhere can have a bigger crowd here.

Trackbacks

  1. Stereo Freeze 10.21 « Gunshy
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