Since moving to Reykjavík from California, I have been feeling starved of awesome shows. Whereas where I come from, regardless of which direction your tastes lie, a weekend means having to pick and choose between shows to go to; here in Iceland we’re lucky if we get an exciting show every few months, and even then it might be on a Tuesday. But it’s among those things previously taken for granted that you earn a newfound appreciation for—like sun on a summer day, or a knoll that shelters from the wind. So imagine my excitement getting to see a show at NASA with two of my favourite bands, Caribou and special guest Sin Fang. I got my butt off the mountain I’ve been living on and went straight into town.
Sin Fang play secret house music
When a couple years ago Sindri Már Sigfússon started his new project, Sin Fang, in which he writes the songs, sings, and plays acoustic guitar, I wondered: what’s he doing? Doesn’t he already do that in Seabear? But now it’s of course perfectly clear—the Sin Fang (then still going by the name “Sin Fang Bous”) debut full-length ‘Clangour,’ released in 2009, prefigured the stylistic changes that Caribou would undergo with the release of last year’s ‘Swim,’ culminating in the two bands sharing the stage last night. Listen to ‘Clangour’ again. It’s secretly house music. Sure, it’s cool tinkly indie on top, but on the bottom it’s four-to-the-floor kick driving it from start to finish. And to great effect!
Sin Fang kicked off the show shortly after 22:00. NASA’s big hall was already filling up, as apparently every hip young twentysomething in Reykjavík was in attendance. Sin Fang performed a mix of songs from both ‘Clangour’ and their still-hot-off-the-press ‘Summer Echoes.’ Sindri is also currently working on recording songs for the third Sin Fang album.
Performances from either of Sindri’s bands are always good—always tight and well balanced. One wonders whether there could be a little more performance in their performance. But not enough to be disappointed.
They had one hiccup, with their closing song—apparently some confusion about the key of a song, or whether it was the right song at all. Whatever it was, for a couple awkward minutes it was like a car that just wouldn’t start. But when they got it going it was met with an enthusiastic cheer that could have been in response to hearing the first bars of a hot new hit or simply impulsive reassurance. I’m not sure. Either way, it went over well.
Shortly thereafter, Caribou took the stage, bathed in white light and exuding an English-speaking personability and friendliness that is unmistakably Canadian. Caribou is led by Dan Snaith, and if I didn’t know better I’d think his PhD was in the field of kick drum (I get one cheesy joke). He is joined live by three others, everybody with their own arsenal of instruments—of both the electronic and “organic” varieties.
Having released such an eclectic range of music—the bits of breakbeat in ‘Up In Flames’ (2003), the krautrock of ‘The Milk Of Human Kindness’ (2005), the Polaris-prize winning psychedelic sunshine pop of ‘Andorra’ (2009), and now the deep house of last year’s wildly popular ‘Swim’—it must be hard for Caribou to cater to fans who are presumably just as diverse. Last night they stuck mostly to songs from ‘Swim,’ with a ‘Swim’-feeling throughout. Still, they treated us older fans to a couple nuggets from Andorra, including the haunting ‘Melody Day.’
Electronic bands take note: That guy in your band who pretends to “play” the mixer—hide him in back. And I don’t mean the far end of the stage; I mean backstage. Caribou delivered electronic dance music with an intensity that only comes with performance. They were actually playing the music. With real instruments. With real intensity. With real musicianship (they were even controlling the lights with their feet). Dan Snaith moved fluidly between keyboard, guitar, a second drumkit and even a flute-o-phone.
They were tight and they didn’t let up. The set was building and building, destination ‘Odessa.’ When that weird hook of their dance hit finally broke, the crowd swooned with rapture. This was only to be out-done by the encore. I think consensus held that it was a great show.