Published August 5, 2005
There’s usually integrity to any release from 12 Tónar, Iceland’s independent record label that closely resembles America’s Nonesuch Records. The store and the local music scene always have a stake in one of their releases, and even the failures are compelling. And when 12 Tónar hits the right note, they can capture the local imagination. (Yes, they did that Mugison thing.)
The new jazz album, Vottur, by Flís, is so strong and immensely likeable, that it should creep into the local culture soon. A respectable three-piece including Davíð Þór Jónsson on piano, Valdimar Kolbeinn Sigurjónsson on bass, and Helgi Svarar Helgason on drums, the group here reinvents the Icelandic standards originally performed in the fifties by Haukur Morthens. The blend of moody ballad with classical touches and lyric jazz takes on the endearing gothic tone that Tim Burton might ask for were he to direct a movie of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The discovery here, which may have more magnitude than Mugison, is that music existed in Iceland before rock, and it may have been very very good. Kudos must go out to the recording engineers, and Mr. Sigurjónsson on bass. The tone of the lows throughout this album are extraordinary.