Published January 2, 2018
Once a year, we at Grapevine honour the best and brightest of the Icelandic music scene by giving out awards to some of the artists who light up our lives on the little subarctic island. The first—Album Of The Year—goes to Högni for his debut solo album, ‘Two Trains.’ You’re invited to join us for some drinks, laughs, and super special live performances from some of the winners, including Högni, at Húrra on January 5th.
Högni Egilsson is known internationally for his work with bands like Hjaltalín and GusGus. He’s even better known in Iceland for his work in other industries such as composing for film and theatre, and even for teaching methods of creativity to computer science students at the University of Iceland. But you may know Högni as the creator of Grapevine’s Album of the Year—his debut solo album, ‘Two Trains.’
It’s a complex, epic album in its symphonic swells, but Högni has a simple way of describing its creation. “Initially it was about progress,” he explains. “It started with a reflection—or maybe an allegory—for some sort of metamorphosis. It’s sort of about raising your conscious awareness towards something of a bigger picture, not a micro-story.” The album took six years to complete, so in a sense there was no choice for Högni but to look at the big picture.
A new dawn
Högni thinks of the album as a history lesson in a larger sense. The album takes its name from the two trains that were used in Iceland to help build Reykjavík’s harbor in the early 20th century. Högni paints a pciture of the allegory: “We’re at the dawn of a new century, a new millennium. At this time a century ago there was a big, big transformation in society. The whole 20th century broke out from old systems of power—consumerism and all those things were born. In 2011 when I started working on this, those ideas were floating around me. Something was happening.”
He’s not wrong—a lot has happened in the world since 2011. “We’re in a super interesting hinge of history right now, in a technical aspect and just in life,” he says. “We’re almost on the verge of inhabiting another planet. Then there are all these things like AI and all that shit. How are we going to deal with all these scary matters that are threatening our existence?”
Högni’s favorite track on the album is “Óveðurský” (“Tempest” in English) which describes a coming storm. “It’s about the fear of change,” he says. “For every transformation to occur there is always some aspect that is threatening.”
Due to Högni’s openness about his bipolar disorder, it’s easy to assume that that ‘Two Trains’ is a simple metaphor for the illness. However, the record itself is so multifaceted that it challenges such a straightforward analysis, opening up many dichotomies whilst simultaneously moving beyond them. “I was fascinated by the dichotomy of the inner versus the outer—the technical, objective aspects versus the emotional, subjective aspects of life,” says Högni. “The subjective world, versus the world that we see. Even what we listen to in music is a witness to the invisibility of life—how these frequencies that we hear lure us into a world we want to be in.”
He describes this binary as the “the eternal struggle that art deals with,” and sees progress being made in this arena. He concludes, thought-provokingly, “The indescribable magic of art and performance is a real motor for life and imagination. The future and progress and all these things are intertwined. That’s how technology and society intertwines and binds together through these things in a magical, mysterious way to create this big picture we call life.”
Come and celebrate the Grapevine Music Awards with us at Húrra on January 5th 2018, and see Högni perform live. Entry is free, and beer will be provided by our friends at Víking. Read an in-depth feature on Högni here.