Bob Cluness’ Seven Bands To Catch At Airwaves 2012!
Even though it was probably the most inexplicable decision of their careers when the editorial team at the Grapevine made me music manager for the paper, they apparently gave me this title because they think I have some idea of what I’m talking about—and of course I DO know what I’m talking about, so there (Note – I’m the one on the left. the lovely Louder is the Goth Chipmunk on the right)!!
So when they called me over and asked me to provide a list of seven bands that you should take the time out to see at this year’s Airwaves, I rolled up my sleeves, applied my critical faculty ear muffs, and dived into the morass so you don’t have to—unless you don’t share my great taste in music.
Right, I’m going to tackle the 800lb nihilistic hippy in the room because no one else will. People coming to Airwaves will, if asked, say that they’re going to see Sigur Rós, Of Monsters And Men, Retro Stefson, etc, etc. But ask most Icelandic musicians and local gig-goers what they want to see and they’ll simply say, “Swans!” And it’s hard not to see why. Even though ol’ Michael Gira is nearing doting age, the fact that he brought Swans back from hiatus in 2010 and produced possibly the two best albums in his career speaks volumes. Take this year’s release, ‘The Seer’—it’s hope and despair of cosmic dimensions with the likes of Ben Frost, Jarboe and Karen O on board—pure molten granite. Glaciers, elves and waterfalls? Pfft! Swans pisses on your pitiful ideas of happiness and joy.
The metal night at Café Amsterdam this year is almost completely local-led. This is a good thing because the local talent this year is damn near perfect. But keep an eye out for Angist. Led by the imperious duo of Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir and Gyða Hrund Þorvaldsdóttir, their take on death metal is especially cold and pitiless, with a refreshing lack of cock metal penis extension moves. Since they’ve settled with new drummer Tumi Snær Gíslason, their performances have improved exponentially to the point where they’re taking on the big cheeses at their own game. Expect some serious tearing of flesh and krushing of hopes.
The Germans may have invented krautrock, but the Finns are the ones taking it to the next level and aligning it to their own arctic sense of space and time. A four-piece with members who hail from such alumni as Joensuu1685, Zebra and Snake & Äänijännite, they make sounds that are big, textured and very, very majestic. If you don’t believe me, check out their track “Munich 1972,” a sweeping valley of a song that invokes the twin spirits of Popol Vuh and ‘Köln’ era Kraftwerk.
Apparat Organ Quartet
The doom riders of the synth apocalypse are riding back to Airwaves! What is worth noting about these guys is that they never seem to have a bum gig, which is even more surprising considering the age and condition some of their vintage synths are in. Even if it’s the first time you see them, you will be throwing triangle shaped gang signs with your hands every four minutes as you find yourself jumping along to their DIY Kraftwerk futurism.
The sound of pop’s future today, Purity Ring have found their own voice of tightly wound hip hop beats, glowing sparse synths, chopped’n’screwed voices, and the dark complex lyrics of vocalist Megan James. They take the future-pop fetishism of Lady Gaga and Rihanna and make them warm and human. A definite must for those who have been feeding off the life forces of Grimes and Holy Other this year.
After his much lauded performances at last year’s Airwaves, one of Iceland’s true electronic survivors returns for some more punishment. His journey has been a long one. From making tiny beat sounds while barely out of his milk teeth, he was a sought after remixer and New York exile for many years until returning to the motherland with his current album, ‘Animalög,’ complete with stacked bass squelches and tungsten EBM beats. It’s all actually rather annoying as he makes it look and sound so easy. Let’s hope he brings along his anthropomorphic animal dance crew, “The Dr Moreau Allstars,” again this year.
Sometimes you want your indie rock and roll hard, frayed, and incredibly raw. These guys definitely do indie rock, with synths and laptops, but there are no tight drainpipe jeans, foppy asymmetrical haircuts, or limp wristed do-wops with these guys. The guitar noises they make can curdle your soy latte from 50 metres away, while they discard the idea of vocals so no singing about their girl leaving them or not getting an iPad for Christmas. It’s hard and relentless the way only Saytan know how to do it.