It’s the end… the Bitter End!
14:00 – Media Hotel – Bob Cluness (BC)
It’s 2pm and at the hotel, things are muffled and a little subdued. Last night, beer was brought back and there was a small party so several of the people are nursing their hangovers and have lost all sense of time and space.
And here is the view from our room…. Gorgeous, eh?
Despite the spartan surroundings, one good thing is that it seems that most of the artists are staying here as well! We are trying to secure autographs from Slowdive as we speak.
16:00 – Ásbrú – BC:
Well the afternoon so far has been relaxing and chilled if slightly wet. Kelfavik may be a place where hope goes to die, but their branch of KFC is excellent. But it’s so far away and if it wasn’t for the wonders of photographer Matt Eisman (who gave me a lift there), and a Polish white van driver (Who gave me a lift back), I don’t think I would have left the hotel.
But so far everyone is preparing themselves for this evening. the guy from TRI-ANGLE RECORDS (Who have Forest Swords and The Haxan Playing tonight), are a bunch of lovely people who once they finish their duties will be having it large tonight. AC/DC and Aphex Twin are playing in the communal lounge area. Good times!
In a slightly worrying turn of events though, I seem to have accidentally packed my passport with my belongings! I’ve got a suspicious feeling that i may wake up in Berlin on Monday…
17:00 – LH:
So far the acts at ATP have been so strong and clustered together it’s been difficult to separate myself from the music to type up a single word, so it’s definitely time for a recap of yesterday’s events. Following on from the inimitable Ben Frost Mammút, and Hebronix were Liars. The first thing noticed was the unwaveringly kooky stage presence of frontman Angus Andrew. His kinetic, ‘all-0ver-the-place’ persona was every bit an artistic move as the music on their latest album, ‘Mess’. It’s difficult to imagine this being the same band who were responsible for recording the sombre electro-acoustic textures of WIXIW. The band lunge into Mess’s lead track ‘Mask Maker’, their dense, sample-heavy soundscapes used throughout WIXIW replaced with a crowd-pumping sonic assault. The show made apparent Liars’ recent metamorphosis from moody indie-rock poster children to lovers and providers of brash-hard hitting dance music. Tracks like ‘Brats’ are ample material to get the crowds moving, as Andrews leaps about the stage maniacally, only a little bit less maniacally than the finlandia-toting Icelanders behind me. This loud slap-stick mess reaches its apex when the band play, you guessed it, ‘Mess’. Maybe it’s the finlandia, maybe it’s the desolate views of Keflavík driving people into any form of excitment, maybe it’s the upbeat ‘bleep-bloop’ of Liars’ clunky murmuring synthesiser electronica, but Liars are incredibly triumphant at making ATP seem like a FESTIVAL. It’s fun, it’s brash, it’s not all that smart, but it’s sure as hell a lot of fun.
In all honesty, it didn’t matter how Slowdive would have sounded, as long as the esteemed creators of ‘Souvlaki’ were standing onstage in front of me. They probably could have spat on their fans and still hold the key to my reverb saturated heart. Luckily, they didn’t. Luckily they kicked ass. Classics such as ‘Machine Gun’ drift by dreamily, almost kinda’ as if there wasn’t approximately 3 tons of audio-equipment spliced out in front of me and what appears to be thousands of indie-minded cool dads head-bobbing to my immediate left and right. In all honesty, however, the situation was very dreamy. It doesn’t really feel like so many years have passed by since Slowdive were composing their discography.
Next stop on the highly venerated classic bands ATP train, Portishead. Unsurprisingly, their relaxed trip-hop fits in brilliantly with the ATP Festival settings, and the even-more lax crowd. At this point, I’m placing the emphasis on ‘trip’. The atmospherics the British group manages to project from the instrumentation is astonishing, not least because of veneration that I’ve poured onto the act ever since discovering them. Seeing Portishead in a location such as Keflavík makes all the difference, and their music, always kooky, sometimes verging on bizarre, fits in with the climate surrounding Ásbrú perfectly.
18:30 – Atlantic Studios – LH:
Mid-way through Forest Swords and they’re mixing glitchy electronic beats with clanging ambient samples and angular guitar work. Fantastically done. Trippy visuals of everyday objects such as vintage jewellery seem to depict clanging metal samples.
Just five minutes from the last post, the live members Forest Swords are now engaging in a short fiery sonic assaults with one another. Positioned facing each other on polar opposite sides of the stage, this thing feels like the bass battle from Scott pilgrim. Impressive bass guitar interchanges with short, angular guitar solos, squawking electronics providing the song’s foundation; an arena for the two duellists to do battle in.
20:00 – Andrews Theatre – LH:
The whimsical and ever-pleasing Kria Brekkan finished at 17:50 after playing a selection of charming, oldtimey tracks for a full Andrews Theatre. Her distinctive voice lightened us up both when singing and when addressing the crowd. “So sweet!” cried one viewer, “she’s so cute!” another, “why does Gull taste like Polar Bear piss?” another.
20:00 – Ásbrú – RE:
Wandering the former military base. They’ve really cleaned it up – meaning the urban exploring thing is kind of dying out (at least until we find the secret underground waterboard chambers and ebola caché). Walking through the American school hallways straight out of My So Called Life on Icelandic soil still feels odd. I remember sneaking in to see True Lies when it premiered on the base, months before it hit the theaters in mainland Iceland. They also had the candy the Icelandic kids didn’t have access to because it hadn’t passed food and drug safety inspection.
Back in the day, going into the navy base was like going through a time portal into the future – at least for pop culture stuff. But it was like stepping into the middle ages in most other respects. You can still to this day see structures there going back to the WW2 occupation and the American Navy’s values haven’t progressed much sine those days either. Weird little area and slightly less depressing in the sunlight.
20:05 – Atlantic Studios – LH:
Next up, For A Minor Reflection. The band’s sound is pretty unrelenting, but seems to be failing to keep the crowd’s attention. It’s another development in the long-standing ‘nu-gaze’ trend, and whilst definitely not one of the worst acts throwing their reverse reverb around, they’re coming across as a slightly edgier version of U2’s bland arena rock.
21:00 – Andrews Theatre – VÞ:
Entering Andrews Theater from the warm evening sun outside not knowing quite what to expect (i.e. who was playing), I was a bit surprised to find Pharmakon. Margaret Chardiet propelled the crowd into a dense puddle of noise, from time to time ducking into the darkness beyond the stage to scream in greater proximity to the audience. If it’s possible to scream in a non-agressive way, she was doing it. It was witchy, loud, terrifying (in a non-agressive way), and she was owning it.
21:20 – Atlantic Studios – LH:
Currently halfway through Swedish indietronica/chillwave specialists I Break Horses. With rotating psychedelic visuals, old analog synths and breathy female vocals, they’re a bit of a mishmash of the 80s and 90s. Their sound is promising and interesting, with a firm emphasis on melody, but this is all stuff that’s been done before via dancier artists like Purity Ring. There’s been a couple of climactic, explosive moments in their songs, but it’s not enough to stop the impression of their songs blending together and sounding the same. To their credit, people are moving their feet, with their noisier and hazier older material reflecting well on an act with a lot of competition from similar acts in the festival.
21:30 – Atlantic Studios – RE:
#IBreakHorses #BlondeRedhead #TangerineDream #TheKnife #BatforLashes #Robyn #Swedishpeoplearereallygoodatpopmusic #butallkindasoundsthesame #vaguelyoccultimages #capesandcowls #swedishfurniturevoodoo #weatherisniceinMalmothistimeofyear #designgraduates #floorisgettingstickyatAtlantic
21:57 – Andrews Theatre – VÞ:
Björk alert. Foreigners are pointing.
22:45 – Atlantic Studios – VÞ:
I hate to say this because—like any hot-blooded, human-woman—I’m a sucker for puppy-eyed men with beautiful hair who play guitar, but Devendra Banhart is not pulling anything off tonight. I can literally hear conversations going on at the other end of the venue over his set. I realise he’s here without his band but where’s the mojo, Devendra? Where’s the magic? He seems a bit befuddled and I can’t concentrate on anything he’s doing. Having just come from Andrews Theatre where The Haxan Cloak nearly vibrated my eyeballs out of their sockets in a small and intimate setting, I can’t help but think a venue swap would have been in order here.
23:00 – Ásbrú area – RE:
Inside tip, there are real bathrooms in the Keilir movie theater.
00:35 – Atlantic Studios – VÞ:
This whole festival is really cashing in on some sweet, sweet late-90s/early 2000s nostalgia. As Interpol launch into Slow Hands I start having intense flash-backs to freshman year of high-school, when this kind of polished post-punk was the soundtrack to all my early heartbreak. The music of Interpol reminds me of myself when I was 14 in all sorts of ways, actually—emotionally shallow, horny, indulgent and dramatic but deep down intensely hopeful and romantic.
1:43 – AA (Anna Andersen):
Love this food truck. Classic Icelandic menu: hot dog, soda, chocolate milk (the kind that comes in a small carton with a straw), coffee, Prince Polo (the chocolate bar).
Anybody else find it delightful to see large bearded men sipping on kókómjólk? In the States, kókómjólk would belong in an elementary school lunch or a pee-wee soccer game snack. Like a juice box or a CapriSun (better known as Capri-Sonne over here). I like that Icelanders don’t outgrow juice boxes. Or kókómjólk.
03:50 – LH:
Wow. At 10 o’ clock, I headed over to the Andrews Theatre to see Haxan Cloak. Little could have prepared me for the sonic onslaught. Definitely prime time to pull out those earplugs. With a bass heavy enough to stop you respiring, Haxan Cloak was mesmerising, and completely and utterly soul destroying. Layers upon layers of ambient noises and found sounds make a performance that sounds like an aeroplane taking off. The results are incredible. An audience stunned into silence from the beginning is the endpoint, including Björk. If she’s looking for deep or freaky shit with which she can channel into work, she’s come to the right place. Easily one of the best picks at this festival.
Bus trips to ATP festival provided by Reykjavík Excursions.
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!