For the first time in the history of this column, the Straumur editorial board went outside of Iceland to mine for material, and we did it just for you, dear reader. We travelled to Barcelona for the gigantic and well-respected Primavera Sound festival. We saw the French synthesizer perverts in Air, the crazy ecstatic confetti atom bomb of joy that some people call Tame Impala, and the infamous LCD Soundsystem reunion, which proved that it is not possible to die from an overdose of cowbell. Other highlights included Brian Wilson’s ‘Pet Sounds’, the freshest indie rock we’ve heard in a long time from Car Seat Headrest, and the macho antics of Pusha T (whose name is indeed his name).
But you come to us for Icelandic music and there were two very different Icelandic bands playing Primavera: alternative giants Sigur Rós and up-and-coming techno outfit Kiasmos. Sigur Rós played on the biggest stage in a time slot allocated to acts like Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem and PJ Harvey. It was the first concert of their tour, their first since 2013 and their first concert as a stripped-down trio since the departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson. But they showed no signs of hesitation and started with a new song, “Óveður,” and rocked their hearts and guts all over the 50,000-plus audience. They than proceeded to play “Starálfur,” an old favorite of ours from their breakout album ‘Ágætis Byrjun’, one they haven’t played in years, to much applause from the crowd. They had no string or brass section but that didn’t matter since the sound from the three-piece was massive as fuck and the lighting and visuals were bitchin’ on all counts.
We expected Sigur Rós to have a big fan base but the huge and enthusiastic audience at the Kiasmos concert surprised us. When they walked onto one of the three biggest stages at 1:30 on Friday night, there was a crowd of probably 25,000 people euphorically dancing to their pulsating techno with a neo-classical edge. It can get tiresome to watch techno guys hunched over laptops and controllers, but Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Ramsmussen’s energy and unbridled joy in doing what they do was more contagious than common cold. With every knob twist came a head nod or a dance move and the crowd seemed to know the build-up to many of their songs—you could hear cheers and whistles at the start of their singles. If Kiasmos keep on doing their thang like this, they could be Iceland’s hottest dance music export since Gus Gus. Primavera was an amazing festival on all fronts and we will definitely be back.