This year’s line-up at ATP Iceland is definitely one of the best that the festival has had in the last few years, with top headlining acts such as Mogwai, Portishead, Interpol and the mighty Swans performing. But what of the other bands on the bill you need to watch? Well here’s my lowdown on some of the more interesting acts you should be checking out that weekend.
Slowdive, Friday at 22:30, Atlantic Studios
Back in the day (the early ’90s to be exact) the UK music press dubbed the bands that partied in London as “the scene that celebrates itself.” In this “scene” several bands such as Ride, My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse ended up defining the genre known as “shoegaze,” typified by an expansive sound of effects drenched guitars, glistening textures and reverberating vocals. The best of these bands were Slowdive, who released a brace of albums-1991’s ‘Just For A Day,’ 1993’s ‘Souvlaki’ and 1995’s ‘Pygmalion’-before splitting up shortly afterwards. Since then their music has gone through a thorough re-evaluation with ‘Souvlaki,’ (re-issued in 2005) now being considered a classic of that era. They got back together this year and have scheduled a number of shows, including ATP Iceland. Essential listening.
Forest Swords, Saturday at 17:30, Atlantic Studios
It’s probably fair to say that the Wirral peninsula in Merseyside is a bit of a cultural desert where not that much happens. So it’s all the more remarkable that the music of Matt Barnes aka FOREST SWORDS is as breathtaking as it is, exploring the area’s hidden geographical zones most people miss. Bursting on the scene in 2010 with ‘Dagger Paths’ and ‘Fjree Feather’ EPs, his music is drenched with the eerie stench of dub and although electronic in its creation, with beats and textures that recall ’90s trip hop, sounds as old as the hills. After taking a break, he created his debut alum, ‘Engravings,’ in 2013. It was informed by the Wirral countryside with its expansive, exposed coastlines and quiet country lanes. Spooky.
Pharmarkon, Saturday at 21:00, Andrews Theater
There’s going to be a large amount of skull crushing bass weight at ATP with the likes of Ben Frost and The Haxan Cloak performing. But for nerve shredding intensity and noise, then go and check out Margaret Chardiet aka PHARMAKON on Saturday. A New York Resident, she has been a growing name in the city’s noise/power electronic scene over the past few years with a small but impressive series of CDr and tape releases. In 2013 she made her debut album, ‘Abandon,’ on Sacred Bones records. The striking cover—a woman with a load of maggots on her lap—was a tater for music that was as unforgiving in its blackness as it was intriguing in its precision. Not for the faint hearted.
Sóley, Friday at 20:00, Atlantic Studios
Of all of Iceland’s musicians, SÓLEY is one that you should check out. Already well known as a member of Icelandic band Seabear and collaborating with Sin Fang, her 2010 EP, ‘Theater Island’ and her 2012 debut album ‘We Sink’ has seen her develop a growing fanbase with nearly 15 million YouTube views of her song “Pretty Face.” With soft, creeping piano and guitars mixed with dusty, crepuscular beats and ticks, it’s music that may at first seem cute and childlike, but with gothic atmospherics and track titles such as “Kill The Clown” and “We Will Put Her In Two Graves,” there is a dark, gloomy underbelly that occasionally bares its teeth.
HAM, Friday at 19:00, Andrews Theater
So people complained that 11 years passed in between Portishead making ‘Portishead’ and ‘Third.’ Pfft! That’s nothing in comparison to local rock behemoths HAM, who took TWENTY TWO years between their first studio album, ‘Buffalo Virgin,’ and 2011’s ‘Svik, harmur og dauði.’ And in that time they’ve gone from being cult weirdoes immortalised in the film ‘Sódóma Reykjavik,’ to one of Iceland’s most popular bands. It’s kind of hard to actually describe what it is about HAM’s music that leads many a drunken Icelander to call them “the best fucking band in the world,” but think of the words “leather,” “heavy,” “riffs,” and “taking the piss seriously,” and you go some way to describing their awesomeness.