As the final night of the festival (unless you’re one of the lucky ones to be heading to see Sigur Rós) gets underway, we head to Harpa Norðurljós to hear some of Iceland’s finest music, and a touch of Canadian promise too.
Rökkurró‘s beautiful orchestral chamber pop music kick starts proceedings, or more accurately gently eases us out of our collective hang overs into a warm world of soft edges, delicate surfaces and blissful harmonies. Chartering the same ambient course as many of their contemporaries, the native five-piece are carried along on dreamy, hypnagogic waves with a constant pulling undercurrent of drama. Emboldened by the crowds reaction they twist in elements of prog-rock, crafting incredible crescendos and eerie silences. With so much production evident on their recorded output I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to translate live but, even though they’re set loses me a bit in the middle, with incredible sweeping strings, such an infectious energy and the ability to craft extremely dense textures they swiftly dispel any doubts.
By Lauren Down.
Next on stage is Canada’s The Barr Brothers, a four piece who hail from Montreal and who revel in adding inventive, experimental touches to soft and sumptuous folk songs. The set begins with vocalist and guitarist Brad Barr pulling a piece of cotton against a guitar string sending a scratchy, gliding tone emanating around the room. And cotton on guitar strings isn’t the only instrumentation intriguing us throughout this performance. As the set draws to an end, the band’s drummer Andrew Barr sets about playing what looks like a bicycle wheel with a bow, as his band mate Sarah Page plucks masterfully at her harp. Working their way through tracks from 2011’s self titled release, The Barr Brothers succeed in captivating their audience tonight, being met with a completely silent and anticipatory crowd at every moment, bar of course the rapturous applause between tracks. The instrumentation is inventive, the music is sublime, and it would appear that The Barr Brothers’ first trip to Iceland has won them a legion of loyal new fans.
Agent Fresco are an altogether different proposition to the band that has just left the stage, bringing a rock presence to what has so far been quite an ambient evening. The room is full to bursting as the Reykjavik four piece launch into their first track, with the audience clearly engaged by the band’s passionate performance and intense melodic nature. Having first performed at the festival three years ago, this show is treated as something of a homecoming, with the band choosing this moment to unveil new songs currently being readied for the band’s new album. And they’re very well received, retaining all of the power and passion of 2010’s ‘A Long Time Listening’. It’s the band’s single ‘Implosions’ that incites the strongest crowd reaction however, and the band leave the stage safe in the knowledge that their ‘hits’ are still hitting the spot, and that the crowd are excited about what’s to come from the band.
By Francine Gorman