Iceland’s music scene is a lot more diverse than many people imagine. It’s easy to understand why: the dreamy, spaced-out sounds of múm, Samaris and Sigur rós, the restless, emotional pop experiments of Björk and the slow-motion electronica of recent exports Gangly and aYia do paint a certain picture, especially when combined with the glaciers-and-volcanoes, ice-and-fire brand that Iceland has taken on in recent years. It often comes as a surprise to people to find out that Reykjavík has bands playing everything from reggae to black metal, rap and country music.
Case in point: the recent Weird Kids Party, held at everyone’s favourite downtown music venue Húrra. Four very different bands performed, none of them coming close to conforming to the Icelandic music template.
First up was Rex Pistols, the new project of Iceland-based Canadian Rex Beckett, who performed live for the first time since the end of her previous band Antimony in 2016. Rex took to the stage with heavy mascara running down her face, as if she’d been bawling in the dressing room just moments earlier. Her set consisted of a handful of synth-pop songs, bringing to mind the gothy pop of Depeche Mode, with some new wave elements. A cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” proved to be a highlight, the tempo taken way down to a languid stagger—Rex’s doleful, off-key vocals changed the track from a desperate, punky thrash to a numb and mournful ballad.
Spark and glitter
Three-piece UmerConsumer upped the pace with a set of post-rock-inflected indie rock. Frontman, guitarist and singer Ýmir Gíslason has an intriguing stage presence, his tall frame sometimes hanging from the mic, or staring goggle-eyed into the crowd, shifting between falsetto singing and rough, impassioned yelling. Their set was raw, but their potential clear.
Sacha Bernardson & The Mermaids dialled down the emo and ramped up the glitter, with Iceland-based Frenchman Sacha bounding onto the stage grinning in a blue jumpsuit. He was soon joined by The Mermaids, an all-girl choir who added depth and richness to Sacha’s skewed pop songs. There was a certain joyousness to this set—Sacha is a charming performer, at once serious, gleeful and self effacing. His songs wear their influences on their sleeve, from twinkling ‘Vespertine’-era Björk, to the artistic leanings of the Nordic indie scene, and the campy glamour of European electro-pop. It was colourful, positive and engaging, and met with rapturous applause.
The finale came courtesy of a strikingly confident solo set from Iceland-based Dane IDA | IDK, who fluctuated between sensuous techno and experimental sample-based electronica, interspersed with passages of lush falsetto vocals. Ida moved around the stage with a natural presence and grace, clearly relishing the performance. Her sense of enjoyment in expressing herself was contagious, and the music exciting, sparky, and teeming with promise.
These Weird Kids brought a welcome sense of creativity and artistry to the stage of Húrra, and proved that if you scratch the surface of music in Iceland, you’ll find hidden depths—and not just from the locals.