Searching For the Next Big Local Thing
This may be the first year of Secret Solstice Festival in Iceland, but with over 150 performances spread over three sunny days and nights, boasting headliners that include Massive Attack, Disclosure and Schoolboy Q, the festival has already made a splendid case for becoming well and truly established within the Icelandic music landscape. But sorting through the local talent can be a difficult task so Mr. Wolf has compiled a list of some the local acts that we are most excited about.
In a remarkably short span of time, Samaris has managed to create a soundscape that is distinctively their own. Since the clarinet-led electronic three-piece debuted by winning Músíktilraunir (The Icelandic Music Experiments, a Battle of the Bands-like contest) in 2011, their subtle and minimal mixture of Jófríður Ákadóttir’s Fever Ray-like melodizing of century-old Icelandic poetry, Þórður Kári Steindórsson’s dark trip-hop and Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir’s stirring clarinet has resulted in two critically acclaimed LPs, the latest, Silkidrangar, released last month. Their atmospheric, and sometimes nightmarish, sound is a different exploration of dance music and it will be interesting to see how the midnight sun suits them.
Högni Egilsson is probably most famous for his work as a frontman of Hjaltalín but in recent years he has been all around the place, namely performing with Wolf favourites Gus Gus, composing music for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Heart of Robin Hood, and confusing downtown residents of Reykjavík with a composition for the carillon in the bell tower of the church Hallgrímskirkja. Recently he debuted his solo work under the moniker HE, which will become a full album release later in the year. His unique approach to composition will combine the emotive sounds of a 40-strong male choir, signature string and electro driven phrases coupled with his distinctive voice. His strong and personal stage presence should be a sight to behold.
The ever-so-popular reunion gig of the festival. Early indie rock idols Maus is another past winner of Músíktilraunir, who were held in a god-like status by the indie kids of early 00’s. After doing the traditional ‘make-it-big-abroad’ routine of Icelandic bands and support the likes of Blonde Redhead, Modest Mouse and Coldplay, they called it quits and disbanded 2004. Now, 10 years later, they have come back to do a few reunion shows, as is the way of underground heroes. This will only be their second concert so far but word on the street is that they are as tight as ever, and just seeing the fan base go through their own Bieber fever should be fun enough to watch.
Yet another former winner of Músiktilraunir, Mammút has been one of Iceland’s favourite indie-pop bands the past decade. Formed in 2004, then aged 13 and 14, Mammút has only grown by the years and last year they delivered their most solid record to date, Komdu til mín svarta systir, which was chosen as the best album of the year both by the biggest newspapers in Iceland and at the Icelandic Music Awards. Mammút is a great mix of radio friendly dream pop and indie rock with subtle bass lines and emotional female vocals, and as veterans in the scene, they are sure to deliver a rock solid live performance.
Árni Grétar, better known as Futuregrapher, is a veteran in the electronic music scene in Iceland and one of Iceland’s most noteworthy breakbeat musicians, even though his works travel a much wider scale and experiments with IDM, jungle and broken beats in general. In 2011 he founded the record label Möller Records along with Jóhann Ómarsson which has become a leading force in Icelandic Electronic, and he has also been one of the leading members of the local Weirdcore scene. After killing it on Sónar Reykjavík this year, Futuregrapher is one of the DJs to watch for at Solstice.
Iceland and Jamaica may be as far apart culturally as possible – they’re both islands, that’s it – but reggae music has had a solid footing in Iceland for a long time. From the reggae flirtations of 80s new wave band, to Hjálmar’s ‘wool-sweater reggae’ – a blend of Kingston reggae and Icelandic folk music traditions, and now Ojba Rasta. The eleven-piece (according to last count) has managed collectively to woo concert-goers with their lively performances and hit the Icelandic single charts with number-one singles. A brass driven reggae with hints of funk, soul and middle eastern music, and led by charismatic frontmen Teitur and Arnljótur, Ojba Rasta is sure to make for a good party at Solstice.
DJ Flugvél og Geimskip
Probably one of the most peculiar acts at the festival, DJ Flugvél og Geimskip (DJ Airplane and Spaceship) is the pseudonym of Steinunn Harðardóttir. Her music is a refreshing mix of playful, synth-driven space-music influenced by the likes of Suicide and Joe Meek, and high pitched vocals. The lyrics usually tell stories of cosmic wonders, scheming animals or fairytales gone wrong. Both on her album, but especially during live performances, her songs have this immensely positive and infectious happy vibe. Usually layered in light series and armed with an array of synthesizers, DJ Flugvél should provide good fun.
The rebellious lionesses Reykjavíkurdætur sprung to the scene last year as a feminist rap collective consisting only of women. Full of attitude and turning gendered hiphop stereotypes upside down, they have been an extremely fresh addition to the male-dominated hiphop scene in Iceland, and have quickly risen to prominence on a national scale. What’s so fresh about the group is not only how they restructure the gender roles in hiphop but also how they have opened up the seemingly closed and claustrophobic hiphop scene in Iceland. The collective seems to grow in numbers by each day and has led to offspring bands, in a similar way as other rap collectives such as Odd Future have done. Reykjavíkurdætur is a must-see experience, no matter what your opinions on hiphop music are. Empowerment in action.
Secret Solstice is near.... June 20-22 in Iceland secretsolstice.is
Words: Kristján Skúli Skúlason