Harpa’s architecture is all the more fascinating in the dark—approaching it at night feels almost surreal, a sensation that persisted when I stepped into Kaldalón Hall for the stopover series concert on April 17. The blue and green dimmed LED lights and the high black walls added to an already cosy and special atmosphere.
The idea behind this series of concerts at Harpa is to catch an international band on their journey between Europe and the States and have them play a couple of gigs in Iceland; one small ‘introductory’ show at KEX Hostel and one feature one at Harpa. When I arrived, the crowd—mainly consisting of young, hip Icelanders—had already taken a seat and was patiently awaiting the first act of the night, kimono.
The sympathetic Icelandic-Canadian trio, which is in the process of celebrating its tenth birthday, really knows what it is doing. Their inventive guitar-heavy music was a welcome change to the boring indie tunes one hears ad infinitum in this town. At first, the singer’s voice reminded me of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, just to completely change in a matter of minutes. All this to say that their experimental, proggy-influenced tunes were quite versatile, with a lot of attention paid to detail. Their rhythmic changes and upbeat numbers prepared the audience for what was about to come.
I’m not sure if people around me were as impressed as I was, but apart from the guitarist of This Will Destroy You, who rhythmically nodded, the reactions were close to non-existent. Then again, people couldn’t really show much enthusiasm, docilely sitting down in rows, more contemplating the music than actively taking part in the performance. kimono would thus have benefitted from a different setting—so as to actually be able to move our hips. Or arms. Or anything, really.
After a short break, This Will Destroy You took the stage. First of all: Wow! The sound was mind-blowing. The band said that it was the best place they have ever played in terms of sound. This is undoubtedly due to Kaldalón’s structure: the walls are fitted with small wooden lamellas, which can be adapted to the type of sound the venue happens to host that night.
Hailing from San Marcos, Texas, This Will Destroy You have been around since 2005, and contrary to kimono, the quartet were somewhat uncharismatic. The band gradually lulled the audience in with its enchanting guitar melodies, which slowly build up and find their climax in roaring, loud and brutal delays, reverbs and distortions. It’s nostalgia spelled out in music. And it was beautiful. It really was: the music, the sound, and the atmosphere; you felt like you were about to be destroyed, in the best possible way.
But somehow something was missing. Is it that This Will Destroy You is not breaking any new ground with its songs? Is it lack of passion? Is it that gloomy doomy post-rock just becomes plain repetitive after about half an hour? In any case, it would have been nice to see some more innovation in their sound.
Although at some point it appeared to be just a relatively tiresome repetition, their 90-minute set was undoubtedly well played and it was a nice mix of songs from the ‘Young Mountain’ EP, their first eponymous studio album, and their newer, slightly darker sounding LP ‘Tunnel Blanket.’
Check www.harpa.is for tickets and upcoming acts.