Harpa’s interiors are as grandiose as its beautiful façade would suggest. A small, bridged entrance gives way to high ceilings, epic stairwells and huge music halls but it still somehow feels very intimate, or perhaps that is just the efforts of tonight’s first band.
Harpa’s interiors are as grandiose as its beautiful façade would suggest. A small, bridged entrance gives way to high ceilings, epic stairwells and huge music halls but it still somehow feels very intimate, or perhaps that is just the efforts of tonight’s first band. Charlotte Brandi and Matze Pröllochs, aka Denmark’s Me and My Drummer, began life creating music for the theatre and you can really tell in the way they put their smooth synths and absolutely epic drum beats. The two piece’s eighties inspired sounds swell in the euphoric direction of disco, their slick grooves and stadium baiting hooks reminiscent of Austra but there is a new romantic’s aesthetic beneath everything, a forlorn heartbreak that keeps songs like ‘Don’t Be So Hot’ grounded. There are Niki & The Dove elements here but their evocative pop music does veer into slightly dry territory at times, relying on their live chemistry to carry the audience through to the other side.
Keeping within the eighties theme, Kiriyama Family are up next. Not actually a family, the native electro-pop five piece’s offerings have a seriously cliched air about them but any passé lyrical elements are covered expertly by intelligent arrangements, swinging rhythms and an irresistible keys. Soft lo-fi elements combine with bold gestures, surging beats and the bittersweet narratives to create something truly unique and the crowd knows it, shimmying to the down tempo late night party pop vibes. If “swooning” was a genre this would be it.
If Me and My Drummer were the tentative beginnings of a relationship and Kiriyama Family were the warmth of enduring love then Reykjavík’s Apparat Organ Quartet would be the bitter break-up. Their sweeping nostalgia inducing sounds are built on a dense network of drums machines, chiming synths and hazy reverb but the four-piece’s output always descends into a frantic mesh of prog ambience – beautiful and harsh all at once. Having been going since 1999 they are without a doubt legends in their own right, their show tonight flickering from brash Daft Punk floor fillers to slightly eerie Kraftwerk inspired electronics.
Half Moon Run offer just the respite we need with their blissful, bluegrass folk pop. Hailing from Montreal, Devon Portielje, Conner Molander and Dylan Phillips craft spellbinding, richly textured harmonies and there’s not an eighties synth sound in sight. The room is packed, everyone clapping along to the carefree moments and holding their breath when the organ rises with a stoic poignancy, their fretting vocal harmonies and cyclic, head-bop inducing beats tensing the very walls of the room. There is a subtlety to their soft indie pop which stops it from over reaching into that year 2000 acoustic indie band bracket, thankfullly.
Iceland via Finnish group Hjálmar & Jimi Tenor bring out the reggae vibes in full force, tuning out the blusterous climate and filling Harpa with a summery haze. Now roots and reggae are really not my thing but these guys clearly have something, their carefully constructed grooves have a real Sun Ra element to them, combining the spontaneous parts of jazz, some killer saxophone and bluessy soul into their so called lopapeysu-reggae. Definitely not something I would listen to, and certainly not at midnight on a Friday but looking around the room I can admit that I’m probably the only one not getting lost in their swinging rhythms.
The room was quite empty at this point then something changed. Hoards of people poured from the bar into vast room, their dancing sweating bodies filling every inch of it in anticipation of FM Belfast. Delivering the best set of the evening, the electro-pop five-piece transform Harpa into a rave and what their slightly kaleidoscopic electro pop lacks in depth it makes up for in euphoria. Pure distilled euphoria seen through a serious ’90s lens. In fact everything they do seems indebted to 90s, mixing the Balearic elements of St. Etienne with unmistakable R&B keys to create something that harks back to the glory days of Eurovision, hell in an alternate universe these guys could even win.