Art Museum – Thursday: Jenny Wilson introduced her track “Bitter” by quoting its lyric “I love to complain”; the songwriter shouldn’t have anything to complain about after her stellar set, tackling torch songs and dance tunes alike with her pop-cum-disco-via-lounge aesthetic until the crowd was practically eating out of her hands. Idiosyncratic doesn’t even begin to describe Wilson and her band’s hypnotic brand of otherworldly, orchestral musings; she is simply to be seen to be believed.
Gaukurinn – Thursday: In terms of sheer whiteknuckle terror, few bands could match the sarcophogal bleakness of the Icelandic death metal band Changer. Their songs were pure harrowing drops into the abyss, pairing jackhammer guitars with vocals that went from death growl to body-onfire screech. By their set’s end they’d successfully managed to clear the club, but their terrifying force was almost matchless.
J. Edward Keyes
Iðnó – Friday: Part of the magic of Airwaves is stumbling upon a gem you’ve never heard before, and Plants and Animals provided that in spades. The Canadian quintet delivered an astonishing set of shape-shifting post-rock punctuated by the stunning “New Kind of Love” which began as a hushed 3 part harmony and finished with a cathartic climax worthy of the Flaming Lips.
Lidó – Friday: Lay Low might not be able to blast the ice out of the older audience’s Diet Pepsi at will, but she is rightly known as the princess of Icelandic blues and with Benny Crespo’s Gang she’s an integral part of something best described as loud electro rock created by boys (and, of course, one girl) with their toys and a whole battery of satisfying cannon shots let off by a drummer who is either very angry or gloriously talented. It’s probably a combination of the two.
Ben H. Murray
Organ – Saturday: Saturday’s show was Strigaskór nr. 42’s first in nearly a decade and, unsurprisingly, they drew the biggest crowd. The attention was not unwarranted. Simply put, their songs are astonishing, full of clean lines and taut rhythms. They played with stunning precision, employing an economy of sound that recalled groups like Wire and Don Caballero. Notes came in tight, sharp bursts, more like Morse code than music. Even the few guitar solos were proudly minimalist, favouring single quivering tones over dizzying fretwork.
J. Edward Keyes
Nasa – Saturday: !!! have been on a roll for a while, turning out a very good album earlier this year and playing a string of buzzed-over live shows. Tonight, !!! offered all the best parts of being in a dance club ñ plus guitars ñ with a set that touched on indie-disco, stomping pseudo-techno, partyfunk, conga-laden funk, and Daft Punkian funk. All their percussion, keyboard and horn parts seemed perfectly placed, and !!! repeatedly whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The songs were jammy, but !!! are no wankers ñ the difference between them and say, Phish, is like the difference between Björk and Celine Dion.