Night began with Muted’s second coming out at this Airwaves to a undeservedly half-empty room, although it had to be expected with a tech-house night at eight o’clock in the dank side room of Faktorý.
There was a fledgling scene of gloomy instrumental hip-hop musicians last time I was in Iceland but it either died out or I lost touch with it. The music Muted occupies roughly that territory. He’s a young guy from Akureyri, new to the scene and sounds like he’s been listening a fair amount to the enormously influential Brainfeeder label. And Muted promises to do interesting stuff for that category except there’s something missing. Muted is not soulful enough to be FlyLo, not psych enough to be Gaslamp, not eclectic enough to be Daedelus and not gloomy enough to be the next Lorn. There are other influences as well, definitely some connection to the UK label Ghost Box (listen to Mute’s Muted World side-by-side with Living Furniture by Moon Wiring Club to see what I mean). These are great influences to have but right now he’s a stone wall with the mortar missing, the songs are not structured enough to deliver the intended emotional punch (particularly noticable in the last song). Also I kind of get the feeling he would work better with a singer or MC.
Oh and I don’t know who’s idea it was to put that Rio carnival style Smirnoff ad on a loop in the background but it looked ridiculous when juxtaposed with his style of music and really started to get on my nerves as the night went on.
I should probably mention the audience. It was clear that the hip and the handsome were gravitating to the upper floor during the first four acts. And what we were left with… I hesitate to call it the freaks and geeks room but you get the idea. Just in my immediate radius I had a group of fratty overenthusiastic American lads with backward caps and loosened ties getting down like it was some kind of Bro Mitzvah. And I can’t go without mentioning the bouncer doing extreme yoga squats in the middle of the room or the twitchy, middle-aged fella in the rain jacket that jerked around his small corner of the bar non-stop for 4 hours whether there was anything going on or not. That’s not all but, again, you get the idea.
I came down quite hard on Orange’s dubby side project last Wednesday (and not without reason) but I also mentioned how I like his Orange project a little better. Well, I lied…I like it a lot better. It was definitely more intense than I’ve heard him before and I hope I played some part in it by pissing him off with the last review. A bit of anger works well with his style.
There was no missing the resurgence of house music over the past two years. People spilled in from every genre to revive the late ’80s (not that it ever died) and in the first part of 2011 it seemed like there were traces of acid house or ravey Detroit techno in everything I heard, which dovetailed strangely with everything in electronic music getting extremely drugged out, weird and minimal. Orange does dubby, bass-heavy tech house, so hey, he may not be weird but two out of three ain’t bad. The room got a little more lively by the end of the set and Orange did his bit. But like much of what would follow it was no-nonsense, no-frills-no-kills 4×4 stomp which started to sound quite soupy in my head by the end of the night.
Better known to Icelanders as DJ Grétar, a mainstay of the Icelandic electronic scene, a well respected producer and one of the driving engines in the Icelandic club scene. A total professional but also someone I have struggled to understand. Not that there’s anything complicated about what he’s doing but then that’s kind of the problem. As I said, he’s been part of the scene for a long time and I feel that he’s succumbed to the fate of a lot of electronic musicians which is to get locked into a niche genre and flog that horse for the duration. The guy is quite innovative within his niche, he’s done some interesting things on the tiny ledge he now calls home but I don’t respond to it strongly. He’s doing an Icelandic variety of tech-house, not a million miles away from the stuff GusGus was doing on the two records before Arabian Horse from , except thoroughly instrumental, tougher, and with a heavier bass. Sean has been prolific this year, with recent singles Belgur and Drill on the Croatian(?) BM Slim label were absolute stand-outs out of that output.
Sean’s may not be the must current sound at the moment and not quite original enough to break out but it is a solidly built house and the crowd picked up by the end of it after a dip in the beginning.
And I like the name too, like Sean Paul, but with a little Mannheim flava.
Now there’s a guy I’ve been warming too. Came galomphing on dressed as a Red Coat (probably to squash the rebellion of that Continental Army with their loose ties and wacky tobacco). I was standing close to the speakers and Occy (that’s your new nickname – deal with it) was taking no prisoners. Me and the missus could feel our noses vibrating and I’m pretty sure I lost a couple of fillings around THUNK number 189. This was followed by more bubble and skank, some whorbling twumps, loved that song with the tweeeewewewe-frrrrfrrfr-thunk-tweeee-thunk-thunk-tweeee, not really swooshes but more a high pitched squeel. Pitched, rising squeels are the white boy’s vuvuzela
More GusGus references, (that GusGus cowbell from Believe makes a brief appearance in The Ones)
Occy makes hard French-style music for getting on in the bathroom to. His influences are writ large over his noggin (hell, the name of his first label was Communique). His brand of stadium techno is actually pretty close to being, well, stadium-ready. And the room was loving, surely a combination of a strong set and party-goers being ready to leave their pre-games.
I’ll admit that things got a little blurry around this part. More super deep techno house. Good use of vocal samples. Everyone pumping, everything good but I really can’t come up with anything else to say about it. Oh, it’s coming back to me, I think I also got into an argument with someone…I’m hazy on the details but there was some drama that cut into my listening time. Sorry Casa Nova. You deserve better but you know how these things go.
Did you know that Karl Benz built the world’s first motorcar in Mannheim in 1885?
Here’s it’s getting very confused. I had never heard of Kristian but was assured he was an up and coming DJ in the Copenhagen scene. But the crowd was thick, I don’t know what the guy looked like, the music was getting very samey but I think they bumped him off the night’s schedule. At least it seemed like it went straight from CasaNova to North Beach.
Bulbous, Balearic by way of Svalbard, deep Swedish tech house. Mechanical sheen on Chicago house foundation.
But if you’re sticking “beach” in your name, would it kill you to throw more tropical flavors in those mixes? Why does it have to be a beach in Mannheim?
Not to pick on North Beach but the night was all a little too cold and industrial for my tastes (I like cold and industrial too but I’m an all or nothing kind of guy so you better go full Gary Numan if you’re going there at all) I say let’s open our doors to anyone from South-America or Africa that is not Pablo Escobar or General Butt Naked and speed them through the immigration process so they can help defrost those mimsy Icelanders. Let’s install massive tanning lamps above 101 Reykjavík to acclimate them and in the process make the downtown hipsters indistinguishable from the suburban fist-pump crowd. Then we’ll all merge into a happy dancing soup like that scene in Matrix Reloaded, slamming ass wall-to-wall to dem bow until we all die from Level 5 skin cancer and trauma of the booty.
Why does it always have to be minimal German tech-house? Why can’t it be Kwaito or UK Funky!? Why does Erpur have to do all the work!? Why am I getting so worked up about this!!?
Anyway. No real complaints. They all did their bit. Snuck off to the upper floor a couple of times and kind of suspect that’s where the action was. All things considered my little nook and cranny did pretty well for themselves.