I didn’t expect to see fourteen musicians on stage, a mind-boggling array of instruments and an audience ranging from rock royalty to little old ladies, but that’s what I got at Amiina’s album release concert at NASA earlier this month. Debuting songs from their second album ‘puzzle’ on home soil, the band played to an almost full house, sprinkled with more gods and goddess of the Icelandic music scene than sugar on a doughnut.
It was up to Sin Fang’s (they’ve dropped the Bous) eclectic musical stylings to warm up the gathering crowd. While frontman Sindri Már Sigfússon kept his presence low-key, his thoughtful lyrics and charmingly ramshackle electro-acoustic compositions seemed to rouse the audience. Signing off with the upbeat ‘Clangour And Flutes,’ it was time for Amiina to rock up and do their thing.
Almost instantaneously, the eerie electronic hum of the albums opening track ‘ásinn’ silenced the bustle, and within minutes the hypnotic beat and spine-tingling strains of the accordion seemed to grip the room. Aside from, funnily enough, fudging the timing on the intro to ‘what are we waiting for?’, the six-piece settled into their rhythm, absorbing themselves among the collision of drums, keyboards, violins, xylophones and saws. For the first twenty minutes, you could have heard a pin drop in each momentary pause before the audience broke into whoops and whistles.
Midway through the vibe changed, the audience came back to earth, shuffling about and breaking for a cigarette. The band took the opportunity and gathered themselves, Sin Fang and guests on stage and treated us to a beautiful performance of ‘in the sun’. It was a really special moment, and everyone seemed to love it. Between the lovey dovey couples swaying to the gentle violins on ‘thoka’, and the groups of friends giggling through the uplifting rhythms of ‘púsl’ it felt more like being in a cosy living room than a big club.
What’s so interesting about Amiina’s live performances is the sheer amount of instrumentation these ladies and gents manage to pack in on stage. They rotate seamlessly between roles; the keyboard player becomes the xylophonist, the violinist becomes the zither player and so on. The only one who had to keep his seat all night was the drummer, Magnús. When you see a live band create such a multitude of sounds across such a broad (and kinda bizarre) spectrum of instruments, it’s hard not to respect them for it, regardless of whether or not their music is your bag.
As they pulled people back into the ether with the much darker, more dramatic sound on ‘sicsak’, the progression Amiina have made between their two records seemed strikingly clear. Sure, the violin twiddles and melodic waves on Kurr were gorgeous, but they’re not half as affecting as their more recent efforts.
So justly confident are the band in their newer material that, for the encore, they rounded off proceedings with another rendition of ‘in the sun’, albeit on a smaller scale. They seemed really pleased with the overwhelming positive reaction from the crowd, and skipped off stage happy as pigs in the proverbial.