Davíð Roach is a vital figure in Icelandic music culture. For many years he and his friend Óli Dóri have specialised in music coverage as Straumur. Through their website and regular column for the Grapevine (see page 28), they’ve reported on new music since 2006. Davíð also works as a DJ and as a copywriter for PIPAR\TBWA. We asked the music enthusiast about his five favourite albums.
‘Music Has The Right To Children’ by Boards of Canada
You could call it ambient trip-hop or intellectual fuckwave, but the music just hovers around you and defies your pathetic categorisation. It’s both functional and inspiring, organic and mechanic, innocent yet eerie, beautiful with an ugly dark side lurking beneath its surface. Parts of it had been done before by the likes of Warp labelmates Aphex Twin and Autechre but the elements had never come together quite like this before. Fractured micro hip-hop beats, analogue synthesizers, snippets of scrambled vocals and child laughter, tape hiss and the unconventional but beautiful melodies. Every sound is like it’s worn out, like the copy of ‘Willow’ I had on VHS when I was a child. This album has the right to mankind. It will follow me and haunt for the rest of my life.
‘The Low End Theory’ by A Tribe Called Quest
When I first heard the title of the band I knew it was cool and knew I would like it. The title of this album is also spot on. It’s an exercise in the low end, also known as bass, and a masterpiece in bare-bones jazzy minimalism. There aren’t any other rappers in the history of the genre that have had the rapport Q-Tip and Phife Dawg have on this album, Q-Tip’s voice like butter draped in velvet and Phife Dawg’s raspy sandpaper sound polishing its soft edges.
’Discovery’ by Daft Punk
The two albums above this one are, like Daft Punk’s first album ‘Homework’, quite minimal. But sometimes more is more, as proven by the maximalist work of art that is ‘Discovery’. The album covers a lot of ground: from the glossy disco of “Crescendolls,” the uberfrench filter house anthem “One More Time,” the vocoder freakouts of “Harder Better Faster Stronger,” the cosmic retrofuturistic vibe in “Voyager,” to the three-part nintendo rock odyssey of “Aerodynamic.” It’s a celebratory tour de force display of unfiltered love for the music that the duo grew up with, and there’s palpable joy in every second of it.
‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ by David Bowie
If I was trying to impress an art school chick I would say my favourite Bowie album was ‘Low’. I love that album, but to be brutally honest, ‘Ziggy’ is where my heart is at. The sheer songwriting craft, the balls in Mick Ronson’s glam guitar sound, the theatrical ambition and orchestral epicality, the scope of it all is just mesmerizing. It bends genres and genders along the way while setting fire to bundles of conventions that came before.
‘Is This It?’ by The Strokes
I didn’t listen to this album until a full year after it came out and I missed their concert in Iceland. I knew they were sort of rich and pretty and my projection of them was that of a boy band of the indie rock scene. But when I listened to it, it truly made me feel like I was cool (nothing could’ve been further from the truth). The raw sound, Julian Casablancas’s devil-may-care vocal delivery and the vast swagger of it all flowed through me when I listened to it and still echoes today. The album oozes so much effortless cool that you could bottle it and sell as hair gel.
Disclaimer: Choosing only five albums is Guantanamo Bay-ian torture for the music lover. I cheat by including this way-too-short shortlist:
Serge Gainsbourg – ‘Historie de Melody Nelson’
Wu-Tang Clan – ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’
Lou Reed – ‘Transformer’
Air – ‘Moon Safari’
Portishead – ‘Dummy’